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Full text of "Dorchester"

Boston 




Henry Adams, the nineteenth cen- 
tury philosopher, said that the history 
of America is not the history of the 
few, but the history of the many. The 
people of Boston's neighborhoods have 
accepted the challenge of Adam's 
statement to produce "people's his- 
tories" of their own communities. 
Hundreds of Bostonians formed com- 
mittees in each of fifteen neighborhoods 
of the city, volunteering their time over 
the past year and a half to research 
in libraries, search for photographs, 
produce questionnaires, transcribe 
tapes, assist in writing and editing, and 
most important, act as interviewers 
and subjects of "oral history" research. 
These booklets are not traditional 
textbook histories, and we have not at- 
tempted to cull a statistical sample. 
We have simply talked with our 
neighbors, people who remember, 
sometimes with fondness, sometimes 
with regret, but always with wisdom. 
For each of us has his or her own 
story to tell, and these stories are vital 
to the development of our neighbor- 
hoods and our city. 

© 1976, The Boston 200 Corporation 
Boston 200 is the city's official program 
to observe the Bicentennial of the 
American Revolution from April igy^ 
through December 1976. 

Kevin H. White, Mayor 
Katharine D. Kane, 

President, The Boston 200 Corporation 
I Beacon Street 
Boston, Massachusetts 02108 

617-338-1775 



DO RCHES TER 



A 

.xTa. CH E c KE RBO A R D of small towns housing one- 
third of all Boston residents makes Dorchester a diverse 
city within a city, a "neighborhood of neighborhoods." 
One visitor described his first impression of the com- 
munity as "rows and rows of triple-deckers, thousands 
of them . . ." But shop at an Uphams Corner "Grocer- 
ia," visit a Field's Corner pub or swim at Savin Hill 
Beach and the image quickly fades. By a local politi- 
cian's count, there are "at least twenty" distinct sec- 
tions to Dorchester, each with its own identity and 
each part of a complex urban environment. 

The vibrant city landscape has not completely ob- 
literated the skeleton of the original wilderness. Dor- 
chester's seven rocky hills, lush gardens, powerful river 
and sheltered harbor give us some idea of what the 
first English colonists saw when they stepped onto 
Savin Hill Beach on a June day in 1630, a few weeks 
before their countrymen settled on the other side of the 
harbor in Boston. 

Local legend has it that Chickatawbut, chief of the 
Neponsets, greeted the new arrivals in English, offering 
them fish and a handshake of friendship. Whether or 
not the story is true, the natives could have learned 
English from passing fur-traders or from Englishman 

FRONT cover: Farming in Mattapan, late igth century 
INSIDE cover: Advertisement, c. 1880 



David Thompson, a trader who lived and fished on a 
small island just off the mainland. The Indians prob- 
ably spoke a few words of French as well, since French 
trappers had hunted in the area as far back as the late 
sixteenth century. 

Chickatawbut's tribe, who gave their name, Mas- 
sachusetts, to the entire province, did not feel the Eng- 
lishman's need for ownership. They were happy to 
share their land, and amiably allowed the newcomers 
to build homes in the area. They even signed their 
marks to papers which would, by English law, eventu- 
ally deprive them of their ancestral hunting grounds 
and cornfields. 

By Chickatawbut's death in 1633, the first group of 
English Puritans had begun to shape their settlement 
to suit them. Dorchester took on the appearance of an 
enlarged Devonshire village, as land was parceled out, 
cattle-fields set aside, and a fort and a meetinghouse 
built. 

The earnest Puritans who set about building log 
houses in the colonial wilderness had waited many 
years to come to North America. The Nonconformists, 
as the Puritans were known in England, had been hav- 
ing difficulties since the English government outlawed 

I 




JLOTUUn^ 



Part of Smith's Map of New England from Mercator's Atlas, 1625 



Puritanism in 1593. The group living around Dorches- 
ter, England organized themselves into a church fel- 
lowship led by the Anglican minister John White, the 
"Patriarch of Dorchester." Reverend White dreamed 
of a Puritan commonwealth in America where Dorset 
fishermen and traders could set up a spiritual haven 
"that they might worship God according to the light of 
their own conscience." Although the idealistic priest 
never left England, or the Anglican church, he realized 
his hopes as he watched his parishioners set sail on the 
"Mary and John" for their adventure in the New 
World. 

The people who made up the Dorchester Company 
were of a different stamp from the professional explor- 
ers and migrant trappers of early days. Roger Clap, a 
member of the company, tells us in his Memoirs: 

"Many of the people were trading men, and at 
first designed Dorchester for a place of trade, and ac- 
cordingly built a fort upon a hill called Rock Hill ..." 

The Nonconformists sought the security they had 
so sorely longed for in England, so the first thing they 
did was to build a fort. By 1639 they had guns set up at 
the present Savin Hill, and ammunition stored at their 
new meetinghouse. 

The early Dorchesterites built their community 
around parcels of land defined by the seven hills of the 
bay area and the valleys around them. In dividing the 
wilderness land, they set the characteristic pattern for 
Dorchester's future. The area grew as a collection of 
small "villages" each with characteristics of its own, 
acting as a unit in matters of common social and eco- 
nomic interests. 

The first section of Dorchester to be cultivated by 
the colonists lay along the path between the palisaded 
fort at Rock (or Savin) Hill and the first church, not 
far from its present site on Meeting House Hill. The 
English cut logs from nearby woods and gathered 
thatch from local salt marshes for their farmhouses. Be- 
cause the settlers were afraid of harassment by Indians, 
they made a rule that all homes were to be built within 



a half-mile of the meetinghouse. They built their 
homes along a road which followed the line of today's 
Pleasant Street and Savin Hill Avenue on a piece of 
level land known as Allen's Plain. The peninsula on 
the south side of the bay (now South Boston) was a 
convenient place for keeping cows, and smaller ani- 
mals grazed near the present site of Columbia Point 
and the University of Massachusetts, on the "calf pas- 
ture." 

The late Mr. Richard Bonney, who knew probably 
more about early Dorchester than anyone else, described the net- 
work of seventeenth century roads that set the scene for later 
settlement: 

"One early road covered the route of Pond Street 
and Crescent Avenue to the Cow Pasture. From the 
"Five Corners" at the end of Pond Street, a land ran 
towards the Neck (Boston Street). Jones' Hill was cir- 
cled by a road running from the meetinghouse along 
Cottage, Humphrey, and Dudley Streets to the center 
of Old Roxbury at Eliot Square. 

"When Israel Stoughton set up his grist mill at the 
falls of the Neponset in 1633, necessary to build a 

road across the Great Lots. This left Hancock Street at 
the foot of Meeting House Hill, and followed Winter 
and Adams Streets to the Lower Mills. It became an 
important route from Boston to the Plymouth colony 
and was known as the Lower Road. In 1654 the Colo- 
ny ordered the construction of a better road, and a re- 
markably straight highway, over a right of way four 
rods wide, was laid out from Roxbury to Braintree, 
crossing the Neponset on a new bridge at the Lower 
Mills. This followed the present Warren and Washing- 
ton Streets. In 1661 , River Street from the Lower Mills 
along the Neponset to Dedham was constructed. But 
the oldest road of all was an Indian trail, running from 
the upper falls of the Neponset (Mattapan) to salt wa- 
ter, partly perpetuated in Norfolk Street." 

As the community set up this network of roads, new 



3 



settlers came in droves to add to the population of the 
successful new province. Three thousand people came 
in 1636 alone. With more Englishmen arriving in the 
Dorchester Bay area, the few remaining Indians 
moved farther south, signing over almost all of their 
native lands. The white settlers in 1656 set up the first 
"reservation" in the colonies, at Ponkapoag, and the 
Neponsets eked out an existence as their numbers 
dwindled. The Indians continued to make seasonal vis- 
its to the falls at Lower Mills until the mid-i8oos, when 
the last of the tribe had died or been assimilated. 

The nineteenth century orator Edward Everett re- 
ported that in his boyhood the "last of the Ponka- 
poags," a very old man, still appeared each summer at 
Lower Mills, "to fish and wail upon the tribal burial 
mound." 

With Indian lands legally appropriated, Dorches- 
ter grew into a prosperous provincial town during the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but not without 
a few crises to weather. In 1675, Wassasamon, one of 
the few Dorchester Indians who had survived the colo- 
nists' incursions, was killed as the result of a British le- 
gal dispute. This was one of the events which directly 
instigated "King Phillip's War," a last gasp of Indian 
outrage against the colonial takeover of their lands. 
The war seriously depleted the population of Dorches- 
ter, causing some townspeople to become refugees in 
nearby Boston, and producing famine. In a move curi- 
ously prescient of things to come, friends in Dublin 
sent the colonists shiploads of provisions — food, clothes, 
and money. Dorchester would eventually repay their 
kindness, during the horrors of the nineteenth century 
Irish famine. 

By the time of the American Revolution, Dorches- 
ter had become an agglomeration of small rural com- 
munities connected by a network of coach roads lead- 
ing from one mill settlement to another. While multi- 
plying in population, it shrank geographically. The 
original Dorchester had stretched from the Boston bor- 
der almost to the Rhode Island line. As more and more 



Englishmen arrived in Massachusetts, daughter towns 
formed themselves out of the "Southern Grants" of 
Dorchester. Canton, Foxboro, Wrenthem, Milton, 
Stoughton and Sharon all grew into independent com- 
munities, as fertile lands and the industrial power of 
the Neponset River waterfalls brought prosperity to 
the entire area. 

By the mid-eighteenth century, farmers and mill- 
owners were enjoying the good life their ancestors had 
set out to find. But colonial politics threatened their 
hard-won prosperity. The burden of British taxes was 
bringing colonists to the breaking point. In 1 765, the 
members of the Dorchester town meeting instructed 
their representative: 

"to use the utmost of his endeavors, with the 
Great and General Court, to obtain the repeal of 
the late parliamentary act (always earnestly assert- 
ing our rights as free-born Englishmen), and his 
best skill in preventing the use of stamped paper in 
this government." 

As Revolution came closer, a number of Dorchester 
men became involved with the Sons of Liberty, an un- 
derground political organization active in next-door 
Boston. The Sons often met in Dorchester to plan strat- 
egy and to regroup forces after their Boston activities. 
In one such gathering, after a 1 769 protest, over 300 of 
the Sons dined at Robinson's Tavern in Dorchester. 
They washed down their dinner of barbecued pig with 
45 toasts, each one more colorful than the last, ending 
with a call for "strong halters, firm blocks and sharp 
axes to all such as deserve either." Despite such intense 
toasting, John Adams reports in his diary that, amaz- 
ingly, "not one person was intoxicated or near it." 

Dorchester's hills were vital to the colonial defense 
of Boston, as they protected the harbor and provided a 
look-out. In 1 776, General George Washington devised 
a plan to move cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in New 
York to the highest of these hills, Dorchester Heights, 



4 



Rural Dorchester from Mount Bowdoin, c. i8§o 



in a part of Dorchester now South Boston. The fortifi- 
cation caught the British ships in the harbor by sur- 
prise, so much so that they left Boston. The event was 
a crucial turning point in the Revolution, and an occa- 
sion for the yearly March 1 7 th Evacuation Day cele- 
brations. 

Although Dorchester was home to a few Loyalists, 
the majority of town meeting members seem to have 
been Patriots. Dorchester, in some ways, set a model 
for the new American government. The community 
experimented with democracy by establishing a town 
meeting system, with votes for all free church mem- 
bers, and set up America's first tax-supported "public" 
school, open to all boys in the district. The Revolution 
did not really change the lifestyle of Dorchester. After 
the war, farmers continued their planting, and mill 
owners expanded their industries. 



Dorchester's industrial life began early, as her en- 
terprising citizens took a look at their new environ- 
ment, and decided to use the power of the Neponset 
River's waterfalls for a profit. By the beginning of the 
"Industrial Revolution," Dorchester was a milltown 
and an important manufacturing center. At one time, 
Dorchester contained the country's only powder mill, 
chocolate mill, cracker-maker, pottery works, and 
playing card factory. It was also home to cotton, wool- 
en, and paper mills, as well as the first copper works in 
America (established by Paul Revere), and several 
stone quarries. 

By the 1830s Dorchester had put itself firmly on the 
industrial map. Mill wheels turned, trading ships and 
whalers plied the harbor and fishermen brought in her- 
ring and cod. One wealthy citizen even tried to culti- 
vate oyster beds with imported Maryland oysters. Al- 



5 



Swan House designed by 



though that business failed, neighborhood youngsters 
managed to pick up a few oysters every summer until 
the end of the nineteenth century. Heyward's Gazet- 
teer described Dorchester in the 1830s as 

"An agricultural and manufactory town of over 
3500 inhabitants, large farms covering broad acres, 
and factories (Thomas Crohane's being the first in 
that part of the country to manufacture playing 
cards) cotton, chocolate and starch mills." 

Until the mid-nineteenth century, Dorchester was 
a self-sufficient Yankee community, commercing with 
Boston, yet not dependent on the larger town. It had 
relinquished its former pasture-land (now South Bos- 
ton) after a fervent fight, but it still included Hyde 
Park. 

The coming of the railroad marked the beginning 
of the end of Dorchester's independence. In 1856, the 



6 




Bulfinch {painting on brick) 



Old Colony railroad established its first line from Bos- 
ton and Dorchester was on its way to becoming a met- 
ropolitan suburb. Railroad tracks were rapidly built 
over Dorchester marsh-land and the area became eas- 
ily accessible to Bostonians. 

By this time, thousands of immigrants, a large por- 
tion of them Irish, were filling up Boston and citizens 
of older families began to look farther from the city for 
relief from overcrowding. They were people who had 
bought South End townhouses or Yankee families who 
had made their money on immigrant labor. They felt 
displaced and sought escape. 

The emerging middle class who were building 
homes in Dorchester wanted, not a suburb as we know 
it, but a re-creation of their city home, with a little 
more green, more space and opportunity for elegance, 
to share with people "of their own kind". There was an 
economic discrimination to nineteenth century Dor- 
chester. Unless someone was already living there be- 



fore the development of the "garden suburbs" he had 
to be a "man of means" in order to buy there. This 
economic segregation guaranteed virtual isolation 
from immigrant society, at least until the end of the 
century. 

But Dorchester was not to remain a haven from ur- 
ban problems for long. A few immigrants and sons of 
immigrants amassed enough money to move out of the 
central city. They saw the living space and con- 
venient transportation of Dorchester and began to buy 
homes in the new suburb. The newer ethnic groups 
felt their prospects for power lay with Boston, where 
their cousins were beginning to take over politically 
from the old Yankee establishment. Real estate entre- 
preneurs also thought that union with Boston would 
raise the value of their investments. Although old Dor- 
chester families shouted loudly against the move, the 
town of Dorchester voted to annex itself to the City of 
Boston in i86g. Father Daniel Dunn, pastor of 
St. Margaret's Parish, wrote about Annexation Day: 

"Springlike weather, with green lawns and 
emerging buds, was the atmosphere at that mid- 
night hour when the first Sunday of 1870 met the 
first Monday. At that stroke of midnight, the 239- 
year-old Town of Dorchester became the new 
Ward Sixteen of the City of Boston. 

"A majority of the voters of both the City of Bos- 
ton and the Town of Dorchester who had gone to 
the polls on the previous June 22nd were in favor of 
the annexation. The vote tally in Dorchester was 
928 in favor, with 726 opposed. 

"This annexation terminated most of the duties of 
Selectmen James H. Upham, William Pope, and 
William Henry Swan. But they had a week of 
grace. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, mayor of Boston, in 
his address to the City Council, spoke of the union. 

"He charged the council, Tn welcoming this new 
addition to our city, we must endeavor to see that 



all the rights, reasonable demands, and just privi- 
leges of the inhabitants of the Sixteenth Ward are 
fairly considered and attended to.' 

"The mayor remarked that Dorchester was 'dis- 
tinguished for the delightfulness of its views.' 

"Bringing particular joy to the approximately 
1 1 ,000 new citizens of Boston, were the words of his 
forceful wish, 'let the Cochituate water flow to such 
places where it is required and absolutely needed.' 
The pure water of Lake Cochituate had been piped 
to the homes of Boston residents since 1848. Now 
the homes of Dorchester would be tied in with the 
city water supply. 

"Pleasure in being a Ward Sixteen citizen was 
shown by the owner of the J. H. Upham Company, 
who had the new title painted on his grocery de- 
livery wagons. They had come up in the world!" 

After annexation, Dorchester multiplied in popu- 
lation as new trolley and subway lines made even the 
more distant sections an easy commute from the city. 
Pastures, farms and open lands filled with elegant 
mansions, two-family homes, and beginning in the 
1 880s, "triple-deckers," Dorchester's particular con- 
tribution to American architecture. The latter, with 
its comfortable living space and economical upkeep, 
suited itself to the new lifestyle of Dorchester. 

The second generation Americans, who were mov- 
ing into Dorchester's two-family and three-family 
homes at the beginning of the century, were mostly 
Irish. They would almost entirely displace the older 
Yankee families, and would themselves be followed by 
a succession of ethnic groups — Polish, Jewish, Lithua- 
nians, Italians, French-Canadians, and after World 
War II, Afro- Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, 
Haitians and Cape Verdeans. Many things have hap- 
pened in all of the many communities that are Dor- 
chester, in the last 80 years, but the pattern of small, 
closely-knit neighborhoods established 300 years ago 
continues to characterize the district. 



7 



View of Dorchester with Washington Street in foreground, c. igoo 



Long-time residents of a few of Dorchester's "vil- 
lages" talk about their lives and their environment, 
how the stage was set for community life in Dorchester 
from the 1890s to mid twentieth century. 

Edward Everett Square, Jones Hill 
& Uphams Corner 

Some of the earliest homes in Dorchester were 
built in the district around Edward Everett Square, 
originally known as "Five Corners." This same area 
was later the first home of the "three-decker," and is 



now a dividing line between the meat-packing/indus- 
trial area of Dorchester and two- and three-family res- 
idences. 

A hundred years ago, Jones Hill was home to some 
of the most elegant of Boston's upper class. Today it is 
an ethnically-mixed area where Spanish is often heard 
in the local groceries and young professionals are mov- 
ing into the lovely old homes. Uphams Corner's loca- 
tion at the junction of five streetcar lines made it Dor- 
chester's marketplace. The world's first supermarket, 
known simply as "The Store," was founded here. 

DouglasShandTuccizj- a young professional historian 



8 



whose specialty is Victorian Dorchester. His most recent book. 
The Second Settlement, 1 875-1 925, is a history of Jones 
Hill. A member of one of the few Yankee families remaining on 
the hill, he was educated in private schools and graduated from 
Harvard University. With an air of "'noblesse oblige," he re- 
grets the exodus of the "professional class" he feels Dorchester 
needs for leadership, and with an arch glance tells of his part in 
the Dorchester secessionist movement of the early yos. He gives 
us the perspective of a Yankee historian in the carefully-modu- 
lated resonance of an elite Victorian gentleman: 

"The Hill was named after Thomas Jones, who, by 
way of letters patented in 1635, was given most of the 
land where the garden and the Stoughton estates used 
to be. The foundations of his house are still standing. 
The hill sort of slumbered along for 200 years just as a 
pleasant large farming community, with olive groves 
and cherry orchards, until the 1870s. When Dorchester 
was annexed to the city, owners of large estates saw a 
magnificient opportunity to make a vast amount of 
money in a real estate speculation. 

"What the estate owners usually did was to enclose 
their own houses in very small lots and build similar 
houses along the streets which they laid out in their es- 
tates. They tried to control the income level and social 
class of people that came in. The result is that the 
townhouses on the hill today are very close together 
and lined up right on the street. 

"There were enormous class differences during the 
building fever. Most of the people coming to Dorches- 
ter after annexation were newly rich. And they were 
very anxious, if they were to build a fine big house for 
themselves with an elegant front porch and beautiful 
drawing rooms and all the rest, that they should not 
have next door to them some sort of worker's cottage. 
It was not a racial question, but one of income and 
socio-economic class. 

"I see enormous evidence of profound Irish-Cath- 
olic, Protestant-Anglo-Saxon cooperation, with very 
little racial animosity in the whole period. What con- 
ditioned their attitudes toward each other was the kind 



of neighbor you were. For instance, the most flamboy- 
ant Irish Catholic in Honey Fitz's entourage located 
on Cushing Avenue in the late '80s and a whole flock 
of Yankees of great wealth and importance built on 
either side of him. In 1914, a man named O'Neill 
bought the largest and most famous house on Cushing 
Avenue. No e.xodus of Yankees for ten or fifteen years 
thereafter. But O'Neill had a big shiny motorcar; he 
had a chauffeur; he had servants; he was a very proper 
kind of Victorian. And it was those things that seemed 
to matter to people in those days. They were insecure 
about their economic class. And they wanted to be re- 
inforced by everyone around them. 

"The only major change which occurred with any 
trauma was the introduction of three-deckers. There 
was much prejudice against them because they were 
considered tenements. After World War I, in the ser- 
vant-less age, prosperous Yankees and Irish started 
moving towards West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain be- 
cause Jones Hill was getting congested with three- 
deckers. The people who moved in were mostly middle 
class, and although they made even single houses into 
three and four family houses, they still looked nice. 
They were still painted and the lawns still done. The 
result is that the neighborhood survived, down to 
World War II with some degree of prosperity. 

"But on Jones Hill, there was a significant migra- 
tion after World War II. Jamaica Plain and West Rox- 
bury seemed to exert great pull on professional people. 
What little remnant there was of the professional class 
after World War II saw the enormous push of blacks 
from Roxbury, and without telling anybody about it, 
the professionals decided to move someplace in the 
suburbs. They fled away surreptitiously in the night, 
and thus placed the community in the position it's in 
today, where you don't have the kind of leadership 
class to work toward an integrated neighborhood. It 
was because of the racial change my uncle moved after 
World War II. I remember him saying to my grand- 
mother that the blacks are headed this way and some- 



9 



day the property is going to be worth nothing. And 
that kind of terrible economic logic drove many people 
out of the area. 

"Dorchester's biggest problem today is the general 
opinion that nobody lives here unless they have to. 
Hope lies in concerning the city again with its neigh- 
borhoods, with home ownership." 

Along with Yankee and Irish families moving into the mansions 
on Gushing Avenue, the growing Dorchester suburb of the 
i8gos attracted families of more moderate meatu. John 
Gadigan was five years old when his family moved from the 
South End to St. Margaret's parish. He has lived in the same 
neighborhood for 82 years. Cadigan started work with the Bos- 
ton Herald as a teenager, and retired in igys as the oldest em- 
ployee at the Herald- Traveler. He is a strong, muscular man 
whose face reddens with indignation as he describes the igig 
Boston Police Strike, whose chin lifts with pride as he talks of 
the accomplishments of his sons, and whose eyes dance roguishly 
as he relates boyhood pranks. 

"Both my parents were born in this country. They 
were of Irish descent and grew up in the South End 
section of Boston. My grandmother and grandfather on 
on my mother's side lived on Genessee Street, present- 
ly the site of the Herald American. My grandmother 
ran a boarding house there. When the 'greenhorns' 
would come from Ireland, somebody over there would 
say, 'Go and see Meg Whooley.' So they'd go to her. 
The area was pretty much Irish. But in the i8gos the 
character of the place was changing. The Irish were 
moving out and the Jews were moving in. Dorchester 
was a growing suburb then, and this was largely an 
Irish neighborhood. There was no reason for our com- 
ing here other than this general movement. 

"We first lived on Bellflower Street. In fact, I lived 
where the 1966 fire started. Whether that's considered 
Dorchester or South Boston has always been a moot 
point to me. According to Dorchesterites, Mt. Vernon 
Street was generally accepted as the boundary line be- 
tween Dorchester and South Boston. But Washburn 



Street was the end of our parish line. * It was the 
boundary line and to me was a legitimate reason for 
being included in Dorchester. Unhappily for us kids 
who went to school here, it was never considered South 
Boston by the South Boston people. Unhappily I say, 
because the Seventeenth of March has been a big day 
for South Boston always. For years it was never hon- 
ored by the school department, but after considerable 
digging, they decided to give us half a holiday. In the 
old days the holiday was complete in South Boston, 
but only in the Roger Clap School. In the Russell 
School we only got half a holiday. 

"I went to the Roger Clap School. I was in the 
kindergarten there with the most wonderful teacher. 
Well, they kicked us out of there. They made an ele- 
mentary school out of it and built the Russell School 
for what they term junior high now. I wasn't too keen 
about going to school. I got promoted but I was never 
at the top of the class, I'll tell you that. I really didn't 
appreciate the value of an education until I graduated 
from grammar school. 

"I had an uncle who was working at the Herald 
and on a summer vacation he'd get a job riding on the 
wagons, distributing advertising. I started there to 
work for the Herald. Once I got out of school, about 
1904, 1905, that was my first job. I was 16 years old, 
and had completed grammar school. My extent of high 
school was night school, two years at South Boston 
High. But there were other kids in the neighborhood 
and one of these, Henry Donovan, is still a friend to- 
day. Donovan stayed in school and graduated from 
English High in 1906. I'm an ex officio member of the 
Glass of 1906. I was with Donovan all the time and he 
brought me to the meetings. Then the guys decided 
that if I'd come to all those meetings over twenty- five 
years, well, what the hell — we'll make him a member. 
So I'm a member of the Glass of 1906. 

"The Clap School, once the Clap estate, is located 
on Harvest Street. That was all their estate from Bos- 
ton Street down to where Howell Street is now. You 



10 



*The boundary between St. Margaret's parish, Dor- 
chester, and St. Augustine's, South Boston. 




Uphani's Grocery Store, c. iSj^ 



talk about enjoyment! Well, as a kid down there, there 
was Daddy Clap's orchard. Everybody knew Daddy 
Clap's orchard. Pears were their specialties — the Clap 
pears are nationally famous. They used to have a night 
watchman there, and he had a vicious dog. And as a 
kid, of course, you didn't like him because he used to 
interfere with us once in a while, and the boys got hun- 
gry at nighttime. They had a cat wire over the fence at 
Boston Street. Three strands of cat wire. It was pretty 
tough to get over that. But there was a fellow who was 
in the furniture moving business on Dorset Street, 
which is right in the same neighborhood. It was rather 
an easy matter to borrow one of those thick old quilts 



they used wrapping up furniture. We'd go and snitch a 
quilt, and get over the barbed wire and into the or- 
chard for the apples and the pears. 

"The pears were delicious. One guy went up the 
tree to shake it and drop them down. Shake the 
branches or force it down so the other guys could grab 
them. It was a three or four man job and then you had 
to have a lookout to watch out for this guy, the watch- 
man, because he had a wild dog. And he'd just loose 
that dog — and, boy, that dog — if you didn't make that 
fence, and get up over there, you were a gone goose. 
But anyway, those were delicious pears. Delicious 
things. 



1 1 



"I can well remember the land behind Daddy 
Clap's was all salt water. There was a Russell Boiler 
Works there, and a brass foundry and a place where 
they made dummies for the stores. In the rear of these 
buildings was part of the South Bay, where we used to 
go swimming in a pool about 25 feet deep. We used to 
go swimming in our birthday clothes. We would go 
there when the tide was out. 

"As kids for amusement we used to walk — only my 
boys don't believe it. We'd start to walk, generally on a 
Saturday or Sunday, preferably on a Sunday, most 
every Sunday. We'd walk out Dorchester Avenue from 
Mt. Vernon right to the Milton line, out to Pierce 
Square, the Walter Baker Company; then we'd walk 
River Street. River Street brings you into Mattapan 
Square and then we'd walk down Blue Hill Avenue to 
Columbia Road. We used to do it almost every week, a 
ritual. Particularly in the fall, it was wonderful. You 
walk through, kicking the leaves; that's savage amuse- 
ment. 

"Then we had in the wintertime, a nice toboggan 
slide out there in Franklin Field. I had a toboggan out 
there for four or five years. 

"These other two guys, Donovan and Joe Cum- 
mings, we always went places together. The girls didn't 
interest us. We were three guys and we went wherever 
we wanted. Donovan — he was the first to stray away. 
He met some girl and he fell for her. She lived in Rox- 
bury. I'd sometimes meet him after, or I'd walk with 
them. So he married this girl. He went to Washington 
as a stenographer and I'll never forget it. It was like 
taking my right arm. I used to eat in the guy's house 
more than in my house. The first year he was there I 
went down to see him. He was in a rooming house 
there, and that's where I met my wife. I fell hook, line 
and sinker. Then I realized — I married an angel. Fin- 
est woman there ever was. 

"When I first started with the Herald, I worked in 
an apprenticeship with the union. I'm a union man. 




Early in his career, the vaudeville star Fred Allen 
often appeared at the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner 



12 



one hundred percent. We had one of the best — the In- 
ternational Typographical Union. 

"I was a policeman at the time of the Boston Police 
Strike. I was working at the Herald and I just got the 
notion to take the examination. My father worked in 
the courthouse and it more or less inclined me that 
way. I was a cop. It was a job and it was a pretty good 
job. I am very proud of the fact that I was a policeman. 
I was a union man and I had to go out. I had only been 
a cop for about six months, in station i6. I was perfect- 
ly satisfied. The union gave full power to an executive 
committee to negotiate. So the executive committee 
really called the strike, and the strike was on. 

"It happened September 9, 191 9. It had been 
building up and the police were making certain de- 
mands that they get free uniforms and get paid extra 
for detail work. Coolidge was governor at the time. 
The National Guard was called out. There are people 
who thought Coolidge was a hero up on Beacon Hill. 
You know, waving the flag, 'Down with the unions,' 
down with the dictators, Coolidge forever, and all of 
this but Mayor Peters was right in wanting the state 
militia to be put in there and there were other police- 
men available. They had 400 men who didn't belong 
to the union, plus a couple of hundred superior officers 
in uniform plus 1 500 men recruited by Deputy Super- 
intendent Pierce who had been recruiting men for six 
months before the strike date. But no — they said, keep 
them off, now let the goons do a little job, and this is 
what makes a hell of a hero out of Coolidge. Peters 
pleaded with Coolidge on that very day to put militia 
on the street that night but Coolidge said no and the 
result was chaos. 

"We were requested to turn in our badges, so that's 
what we had to do; they were the property of the city. 
Seven, eight hundred men were out of a job — not only 
that, but they were blackballed. This Chamber of 
Commerce clique put on the pressure and got the law 
passed that we couldn't be allowed civil service, or to 



serve on any jury. No striking cops — myself included — 
were called for jury after that, even to this day. 

"I went back to the Herald and they put me on as a 
sub and I continued to work, and eventually got me a 
regular job, so I ended up the oldest man in the 
Herald. 

"We were going to talk about the church. I remem- 
ber all the pastors of St. Margaret's. The first one was 
Msgr. William A. Ryan. Frank Clap who was a Protes- 
tant gentleman, a member of the Odd Fellows, met 
Father Ryan, and rented him a house to live in. I lived 
in the house where the first Mass was said, 27 Clap 
Place. It's now Mayhew Street. I came into the parish 
a year or so later. In those days, Catholics and Protes- 
tants didn't always get along together very smoothly, 
but Mr. Clap was a nice gentleman and Father Ryan 
was a fine man. Mr. Clap was good to him; he didn't 
charge him anything for the use of the Atheneum 
Building (an Odd Fellows Hall) for Sunday Mass, un- 
til he got the wooden building built at Harvest and 
Boston Street. In '99 they laid the cornerstone at Dor- 
chester Avenue and Columbia Road and built the 
present brick church. 

"In the time of Edward Murphy, the church was 
all done over and rebuilt. We needed a lot of money to 
rebuild it. Msgr. Christopher O'Neill took charge of 
renovations and we had raffles that became known as 
'St. Margaret's Motor Mart.' 

"We became famous for peddling automobiles. We 
had a little coupe and at Columbia Road and Dorches- 
ter Avenue we did a whale of a business selling chances 
to passersby. We had only one automobile then, and 
gradually increased it to seven. When we came to get 
the seven, it was a tough time because of the shortages. 
But the Reverend had an ace in the hole. He used to 
play golf with Alvin T. Fuller, Mr. Cadillac himself 
Fuller said. When do you want the cars, Father? And 
he said such a date in July. You'll get them. Fuller 
promised. We rented Braves field one night in July. 



13 



Uphams 



The cars were delivered to the field that day and we 
held the show that night. I can remember that night 
we put in the bank $48,000 out in Brighton. 

"I've always lived in St. Margaret's parish. We 
lived on Edison Green, and then moved and my father 
bought a house on top of the hill on Buttonwood 
Street. When I got married, I lived down on Morely 
Street, for a number of years, then moved to a house on 
Rosecliff Street and that's about thirty-five years ago. 
After that I moved to my present abode, down on St. 
Margaret's Road. I guess the only reason is — what's 
the use of moving if you like what you have and you're 
here?" 



14 



•, c. igw 



Meeting House Hill, Field's Corner 
& Savin Hill 

"This is the heart of Dorchester,'' attests a young resident of 
Field's Corner — and with good reason. The valley that includes 
Field's Corner and the hills rising from it formed the site of the 
early Puritan church, fort and school. Today the area is home 
to members of all the city's major ethnic groups and to a variety 
of industries and businesses. In the face of urban change, the 
strong churches of the area have helped maintain stability. 

The Rev. James K. Allen, the wiry young pastor of 
the First Parish Church, is like all clergy, a familiar figure in 
his community. He is involved in many activities concerning the 
people of his neighborhood. Here he tells the history of his 
Church, for which "Meeting House Hill" is named: 



"Dorchester begins with the First Parish Church. 
It was organized by a group of dissenters in a hospital 
in Plymouth, England. Our country started with peo- 
ple like them. It was the time of the Cavalier move- 
ment in England when the young men let their hair 
grow long and started to use profane language on the 
streets, and when public morality dropped to a very 
low level. A new group arose against this, called Puri- 
tans, giving rise to a new ethic and a new way of look- 
ing at life. These people met with ministerial leaders 
and started meetings. It was the preaching of the Rev. 
John White that gave rise to what we call the Massa- 
chusetts Bay Colony. The first of his followers in Eng- 
land to reach these shores was the Salem group. Sec- 
ond was the Dorchester group. Since Dorchester is now 
part of Boston, this is the oldest parish in Boston, .1630. 

"In 163 1, they built their first Meeting House, 
which was also used for storage of valuables and pow- 
der. That served them for six years. It was a beginning 
form of protest coupled with vision; they came here to 
found what they called 'God's Plantation in the Wil- 
derness.' Out of a hostile wilderness, they built what 
we have today, with their determination. 

"In 1639 a school was opened — the first 'free' tax- 
supported school in America. It was for boys only. 
They built the school to give boys the ability to read 
the scriptures, because the scriptures held the key to 
eternal life. Now you can't read the scriptures in the 
school because it is against the Constitution, which is 
plainly ridiculous from the standpoint of our begin- 
ning- 

"This is the sixth building of the First Parish 
Church. There was one destroyed by fire in i8g6, 
which had replaced others. One of these stood on the 
James K. Allen Park across the street from the present 
structure; that one was destroyed by a hurricane they 
called 'The Great Wind.' The present church is the 
most ornate colonial church in America. It's a Colonial 
style called Christopher Wren. It was built in 1896 of 
Georgia Pine so hard you can hardly drive a nail into 



it. The pipe organ was built by men who called them- 
selves 'organ scientists.' They came to work riding bi- 
cycles, wearing spats and high silk hats, and carrying 
cases. It's one of the finest organs in America. The pul- 
pit came from the Old West Church. It's high because 
in the idea of the Puritans the minister spoke for God, 
and they lifted him up. Eight feet up. 

"I moved to Dorchester in 1954 and found it very 
different from the Sage Brush Ranch in Idaho where I 
was born. My first recollection was of the homes of blue 
collar workers. The people of this area cared about 
their homes. It still is the thing that makes a good com- 
munity — people caring for their homes and their chil- 
dren. The church life of the community is vital and 
vigorous with St. Peter's and First Parish. We would 
have diflSculty if anything happened to either church. 
Our congregation was moving to the suburbs but par- 
ishioners decided to strengthen one another by buying 
homes in Dorchester or moving nearer the church. The 
inspiration for the life of the people in this community 
is carried on by the church." 

Many families have lived for generations in the Meeting House 
Hill area. John Ward moved here as a young boy almost 
seventy years ago. When he joined the police force in igig, he 
was assigned to Station 11 in Fields Corner and bought one of 
the new homes being built on his beat. Now a handsome 86, 
Ward still works full time and keeps himself in good shape. He 
enjoys long walks, chats with friends and singing old songs: 
"I moved to Dorchester in 1907 from Quincy and 
went to the Mary Hemenway School in the sixth 
grade. I graduated in 1910. I lived down on Freeport 
Street which is down opposite the Gas House. It was 
then known as Commercial Point. They used to make 
gas down there. There's a big barn, and they used to 
have about 40 mules carting all the coal. They would 
make gas out of coal. After getting the gas out of the 
coal, they would dump the residue for fill next to the 
Gas House. 

"The house I lived in was torn down and they ran a 



15 




Meeting House Hill 
showing First Parish Church 
and Lyceum Hall 



Dorchester^ Mass. (Meet.n 



road through it — Morrissey Boulevard. In those days 
there were very few automobiles; all the business was 
done in horse-drawn vehicles. I remember the farmers 
driving herds of cattle up from Quincy and the farms 
south of Boston to the Abattoir in Brighton where they 
used to slaughter the steers for meat. I moved from 
Freeport Street down to Glover's Corner. Between 
Freeport Street and Glover's Corner were such busi- 
nesses as O'Connell's Lumber Yard; then there was 
Doherty's Coal Yard. It was run by Dan Doherty, and 
he used to go over to East Boston and hire the green- 
horns off the boat for very little pay. He had a tene- 
ment house next to his coal yard and they used to call it 
'Doherty's Hotel.' The Irish men that lived there made 
up this parody to the tune of 'The Wearing of the 
Green': 



Oh, I always did live happy, 

And I always did live well 

In a boarding house on Freeport Street 

Named Doherty's Hotel 

With a wash tub on the table 
And a crowbar on the wall 
And a windy brogue to let out smoke 
In Doherty's Hotel. 

"Then there was the McGovern Coal Company 
down on Geneva Avenue. It's interesting to know how 
the McGoverns got their money to go in the coal busi- 
ness. Well, when old Mr. McGovern and his brother 
came over from the old country, they went out west to 
get their fortune. They were panning gold and when 
they had enough, they started home on horseback. On 



i6 




John Ward as a rookie policeman, January igso 



the way home they got chased by Indians and they had 
sacks of gold across their saddles. Mr. McGovern's 
brother got shot by an arrow, an Indian arrow. Well, 
he couldn't do anything to save him crossing the river, 
so he reached over and he got his brother's gold, and 
put it on his saddle, and he came home here and 
started in the coal business. 



"I remember other businesses in the area. The 
quarry up at the corner of Geneva Avenue and Olney 
Street was owned by a contractor who used to quarry 
stone to make foundations for new houses. It was pud- 
ding-stone he quarried. 

"Then there was a man who lived on Linden 
Street. He used to peddle vegetables and he had cows. 
I remember him driving cows up on Mount Ida. That 
was before it was known as Ronan Park. He and I used 
to drive the cows up to Mount Ida to graze. They 
would be up there grazing all day. I remember looking 
down the West Side of Mount Ida and there were no 
three deckers down there. It was all farms. 

"Former Mayor Hibbard lived up on top of Mount 
Ida in a very beautiful residence. Many Yankee people 
lived here. They had Irish immigrants as maids. There 
was a little room in the top of each house for the maid. 
They used to put the maid in the attic to sleep. These 
Irish living-in girls and the Irish working men helped 
build St. Peter's Church with their nickels, dimes, half 
dollars and dollars. Father Ronan used to go round to 
the back door of all the houses and talk to the living-in 
girls and they're the ones that really started St. Peter's 
Church. 

"When I was a young man after I went to work, we 
used to go to all the Saturday night dances down 
Bloomfield Hall, on Geneva Avenue. They used to 
have sunlight dances on holiday afternoons like 
Thanksgiving afternoon and Christmas and New 
Year's and Washington's birthday. 

"When I was on the police force I used to patrol 
this road (Puritan Avenue), and I always liked this 
house because it had a lot of fruit trees. And it had an 
extra house lot and there was a lot of room for my 
children to play. I bought this house in 1924. I had 
fifteen fruit trees here, but they're all gone now. 

"As a patrolman, I was down at Station 1 1 for 25 
years. Every Christmas we used to run parties for the 
poor children and get them down to the station and 



Street near Field's Corner, c. i8go 



fill up their bellies with goodies and give them warm 
clothes. That was during the Depression." 

The children w/io ^'filled their bellies'" at Station ii's Christ- 
mas parties were victims of hard times, economic depression. 
But the biggest ejfect felt by the policemen themselves was a 
fifteen percent cut in wages. Civil service provided protection 



from financial disaster. The patrolman's daughter, Ruth 
Ward Brown, begins her reminiscences where her father 
leaves off: 

"I was not touched by the Depression at all, be- 
cause my father was in the Police Department. I never 
even heard the word mentioned until I got married. 
My mother was a thrifty, frugal woman who knew how 



i8 



to make ends meet. She gave us hand-me-downs and 
could make over our clothes. 

"I had a very happy childhood. When I was grow- 
ing up on Puritan Avenue, it was a country setting to 
me. We had paved streets, but cobblestone gutters. Up 
at the end of the street there was a farm with a green- 
house. Everybody used to go there to get geraniums 
and flowers for Mother's Day. In the house next door 
to me there was another greenhouse. People were more 
interested in horticulture. There was a fish pond across 
the street. That's filled in with land now, where two 
newer houses have been built. We had about the same 
number of houses on the street. Mostly single houses 
and two two-family houses. At the foot of the street, 
there's one three-decker. 

"There were several big old trees on the street. Our 
whole property was lined with various kinds of trees. In 
fact, I think we were the only family in the neighbor- 
hood that had a tulip tree. It blew on top of the 
house during the hurricane of 1938. That was the first 
hurricane I ever heard of, except I heard my grand- 
mother speak of 'The Big Wind' back at the turn of 
the century. I remember that my mother and father 
were in California at the time, on a convention with 
the American Legion and my grandmother was mind- 
ing us. The little house on our extra lot blew down; our 
fences blew down; that huge tulip tree, higher than the 
house, blew on top of the house. All the sidewalks were 
uprooted and turned over by these huge trees lying 
criss-cross across the street, or falling on houses. 

"Cats were flying through the air; shingles were 
blowing off houses; bricks were flying off chimneys; my 
cousin was up to visit us that day, and on the way 
home, trees were falling in front of her and behind her. 
When she went by St. Peter's Church, the huge cross 
on top of the Church blew off and splintered on the 
sidewalk. People were going up trying to get little 
pieces of the cross for souvenirs. 

"Over in the extra lot, my sister and brother, who 
were older than me, used to build miniature golf 



courses. They got old tomato soup cans and sunk them 
into the ground, and made little traps and a whole lit- 
tle landscape. 

"In those days, they didn't have Little League or 
organized groups. The boys would go up into Olney 
Woods, where they'd have their own baseball and foot- 
ball teams. In the era of the big bands, the boys in this 
neighborhood, instead of going in too much for sports, 
went in for music. My brother can play every instru- 
ment and specializes in clarinet and saxaphone. When 
he was going up to the Christopher Gibson and Pat- 
rick T. Campbell schools, he used to sign his papers as 
'Benny Goodman' because that was his idol. His 
friend, who was a drummer, used to sign 'Gene 
Krupa.' Of course that would get the teachers crazy! 
But he won several scholarships through the public 
school system. He's an orchestra leader now. 

"When I got married in 1948, I just moved across 
the street." 

Mrs. Brown's husband, Don Brown, joins the conversa- 
tion. Mr. Brown is a tall, professional photographer with 
sharply-defined features and a resonant voice — he laughs as he 
tells of his Mayflower ancestry and describes the neighborhood 
as it was when he first came to it: 

"How we got this house is an interesting story. We 
had invited the lady that owned the house to our wed- 
ding. She died before the wedding, but before she died, 
she spoke to her cousin, the lawyer, and asked that 
Ruth get first chance at buying the house. So we 
bought the house and most of the furnishings in a pack- 
age deal. 

"In 1948 this was a stable neighborhood, predom- 
inantly Irish Catholic. Now a lot of people are moving 
to the suburbs. I've seen these houses sold two, three, 
and some four times in the number of years I've been 
here. Some have been improved, others have gone 
down. We've gone through block-busting. These have 
been dramatic changes. I have the feeling it's leveling 
off, though. 



19 



NOTICE. 




The Citizens of Dor- 
chester are hereby respectfully informed 
that hy calling at the 

HARRISON SQUARB, 

they can find a general assortment of 
Crroceries, consisting in part of 

BESTFllLY FlOE CIDIC£ TMS. mi, OH. &C. 

DAIRY BUTTER AND FRUIT OF ALL KINDS, 

and a complete assortment of FAJVCY GROCERI 

Also, Crockery, Glass, Stone aod Earthen 

all of which will be offered at low prices for cash 
motto being large sates and small profit^. The Si 

-^icri^r .tenders his acl^nowiedgments to his custom, 
rorHrelT libjer^ patr^ne^ in times past, uulTFespectiu 
splicits a continuance, of the same, assoring them that 
pains shall be spared on his part to give them. the fre§h- 

' fest goods the iliarket affords, as be, is daily replenfsh'inf 
his^tocji* Ovods^eli^ered to any part of the towik, fk<ee 
•f fixpeiise. 

. ' N. B. Fishing and Pic-^ic Parties, suoplied aa ostud^ 

ISAAC FIELD. . . 

flarr«w Square, Dorchester, April l,t, 1852. J 



sh,^H| 

t n¥j 



"People who have moved in are of different ethnic 
groups. We have a colored population and some Span- 
ish-speaking, both Puerto Rican and Cuban. We have 
an Indian family. This is probably one of the most 
well-integrated neighborhoods one can find. There's 
bound to be a few little problems, but I think this street 
has done very well. If a real emergency arises, the new 
people are the first to help. In fact, about a year ago we 
had a fire in our house in the middle of the night, and 
the first ones to help us were our new neighbors — a 
black family and a white family who moved here re- 
cently, whom I didn't even know. They couldn't help 
us enough." 

At the same time as the young officer Ward was entering the 
police force and getting settled on Meeting House Hill, an- 
other young family was moving into Savin Hill, with a ij- 
year-old son. Savin Hill's harbor and waterfront made it a va- 
cation area for city people in the nineteenth century. A famous 
hotel. Cutler's, was built in the iSjos, and wealthy Bostonians 
would come for the summer, often on the advice of their doctors. 
As railroads arrived, some of these families built year-round 
homes here, gradually transforming the old ^Fox Point' into an 
elegant suburb. But a touch of the wilderness atmosphere lived 
on into the twentieth century. John Madden, now an ac- 
tive community leader, remembers the adventure of growing up 
on the edge of Dorchester Bay: 

"I was born in Roxbury in 1908. My parents lived 
in Roxbury until 1925, when we moved to Dorchester. 
My parents bought a house on Sidney Street. In 1930 
they sold and moved out to the Neponset area. I got 
married in 1933 and came back. I've lived here ever 
since. 

"The general characteristics of this neighborhood 
have never changed. We did have a fellow that lived on 
Crescent Avenue who had about twenty cows that he 
used to range. He had a pasture down in back of his 
home which would end up on the back of Sidney 
Street. He used to bring the cows up through Sidney 
Street to the park at Savin Hill, and any vacant lot 



along the way that there was anything to feed on, 
they'd have the cows feed. The atmosphere was subur- 
ban to the degree that there were orchards. A lot of 
people had various types of trees — pear, apple, cherry. 
But the residential section was the way it is now with 
few exceptions. The things that have changed dramat- 
ically is that we didn't have rapid transit or the Ex- 
pressway or Morrissey Boulevard. All that was a marsh 
that ran from the railroad tracks way out to the gas 
house. 

"When I was a kid, most of my time was spent out 
in that marsh. I guess every kid in the neighborhood 
found the marsh a big attraction for various reasons. 
But primarily because of a squatter. What his real 
name was I don't know but we all called him Captain 
Brown. He lived in an old houseboat put up on dry 
land and he took care of boats for anybody. 

"That was a fascinating place to visit, because he 
had every type of boat. He had an airplane which at 
the time was the most unusual thing you'd ever want 
to see. It was a frame simply covered with canvas and 
a motor. I don't think I've known of it ever to fly. 
Whatever might be floating Captain Brown would 
scrounge and bring back. So it was not only a place to 
store boats and to have your boats fixed but to sit 
around and talk with this old guy. It was an interesting 
place to visit. 

"I had a small rowboat; I was co-owner with a 
couple of other neighborhood kids. We'd go out during 
the day; we had this marsh with various tributaries to 
explore. 

"Every day you found something different that you 
never realized was there before. Down in back of the 
foundry at Mt. Vernon Street and Morrissey Boule- 
vard, where the Boston Globe parking lot is now, we 
had an area where we played baseball and football. It 
was called the 'Rubber Ground.' Whatever the compo- 
sition of the material that was in there, a lot of it was 
the cinders from the railroad. The ground had a kmd 
of resilience to it, so that nobody could ever get hurt 



21 




Sailing in Dorchester Bay, igoy 



Repairing boats at 
Savin Hill Yacht Club 




there. Whatever game you'd play, it would have a rub- 
bery-like effect, so we used to call it the 'Rubber 
Ground.' 

"And, of course, like for most kids, the dump was a 
fascinating place. As I recall, they would compress the 
ground, and in the winter-time the snow would get on 
it. We used to take barrel staves and make skis out of 
them. I was skiing there one day and I fell. A sharp 
piece of glass was underneath the snow and cut me 
down the side of myself My mother called our family 



doctor who lived on Hancock Street. He had been our 
doctor in Roxbury and he too moved to Dorchester. 

"This doctor's name was Doctor Mansfield. He was 
the type of family doctor you never hear of today. He 
knew every one of us — knew everything that was wrong 
with anybody. And if you called him no matter what 
time of the day or night and regardless of the fact that 
he had no car or any type of transportation except 
walking, he'd get to you. And I don't know, he re- 
tained his health. He never put on an ounce. He was a 



23 



From a Savin Hill family 



tall guy, but he was very thin. A marvelous man, real- 
ly. Wonderful disposition. Great guy. 

"I went to work for Edison. In the beginning I had 
a job that was known as a 'street lamp trimmer' which 
was the same as being a lamplighter. I was working 
and making $23 a week during the depression and all 
around me I saw men with families who couldn't get a 
job and were out on WPA work projects. Job security. 
I think a lot of people in this community were looking 
for job security. The depression was the catalyst that 
forced them into that position. Very many of the peo- 
ple in this community work for utilities, or on the po- 
lice or fire or work for the city or state. They're all 
looking for the same thing — stability. I think that most 
of the reasons people like myself and other s went into 
these kinds of jobs was because we were looking for sta- 
bihty. 

"As for civic organizations, many began to form 
immediately after World War I. They ran until the de- 
pression, and the depression kind of killed everyone's 
incentive. 



24 




<um, turn of the century 

"There was an organization here back in 1908 
called the Savin Hill Civic Improvement Association 
that went along until about 1925 or then. It kind of 
died. It came back in about 1928 — the depression 
killed it. There was no more organization. The people 
of Savin Hill came to me and said, You know, we've 
got to have one. I said. Fine, let's get an organization 
together. We put an organization together and it only 
lasted a year. Most of the people were also in Columbia 
Civic, which they felt had a better future. The Savin 
Hill group got together and said. Let's combine with 
Columbia Civic. That's how we became Columbia- 
Savin Hill Civic Association. 

"Around 1959 or i960, there was a man that 
worked for Dorchester House. He was a minister; his 
name was Brown. He was a marvelous individual as far 
as getting people to work with various elements in the 
community. We had a problem here with an old wood- 
en schoolhouse that was torn down and made a vacant 
lot. This fellow Brown came down and told us that we 
ought to organize and encourage the city to get some- 



thing done. As a result we got the Ryan playground. 
He did the same in other communities. Then about 
1 96 1 he suggested the idea that we should have not 
only individual community organizations but an over- 
all organization and thus DUNA (Dorchester United 
Neighborhood Association) was formed. 

"People can't expect to live in an urban society 
with all the problems that you have with the various 
bureaucracies — how are you going to face these as in- 
dividuals? YouVe got to have some community group 
together to speak for you and know the ways things get 
done." 

Lower Mills, Codman Hill, & Cedar Grove 

"But as to the Irish Americans, they would sweep the 
entire world." 

A native of Kiltartan Parish, 
Co. Galway, 1909 



The perspective of Irishmen in County Galway, 
across "the Big Pond," paralleled that of Yankees liv- 
ing at the Southern tip of Dorchester at the turn of the 
century, as Irish immigrants moved out from the cen- 
ter city. 

The Rev. Daniel Dunn, pastor of St. Margaret's Par- 
ish, was a member of one of the first Irish families to arrive in 
Lower Mills. He tells what life was like for a young boy in a 
changing community §0 years ago: 

"My father's family — my father, my mother, two 
small children — myself and my sister at the time — and 
another couple, an Irish American couple who bought 
the house two doors away at the same time when they 
were both sold at auction, were the first Irish-Ameri- 
cans and Catholics on the street. There was actually a 
protest meeting held at the time which was reported by 
a younger member of one of the families in whose home 
the protest meeting was held. She said to my mother, 



25 



'Mrs. Dunn, when you were going to move here, all the 
neighbors came to my house and they had a meeting. 
And, they said it was bad enough that you were Irish 
and you were Catholic, but your husband is a police- 
man and Mr. Moore is a mailman. So we're not only 
going to have Irish and Catholic here, but it's going to 
be Uniform Alley.' This was the thinking. It did not 
take long, evidently, before they lost their fears be- 
cause we found that they were friendly. The stereo- 
typed, stage-character 'Irishman' was all that some of 
them had known about Irish people. They found, very 
shortly, that having a police officer living in the dis- 
trict, before the days of police radio, before the days of 
a regular patrol in that end of that town meant addi- 
tional security. 

"I lived in a neighborhood that was not very popu- 
lated with children. Most of the people seemed to have 
been of retirement age. We rode a bicycle to go down 
to Tenean Beach to go swimming. We would have to 
go up as far as what we called 'Pat's Hill' to find 
enough boys for a football game between two teams. 

"Pat's Hill was the name of a great hill, which is 
now Standard Street and Freeland Street. It was called 
Pat's Hill because that was where Pat Fallon's cows 
used to graze. It was a very high hill, and it was un- 
paved perhaps until 1920 or so, as many of the other 
streets in Dorchester were unpaved. And very few side- 
walks were paved until perhaps about 19 14, just before 
the first World War. In the spring, these unpaved side- 
walks were very muddy. And if you lived on a paved 
street with an unpaved sidewalk, you walked on the 
street, or else you could lose your rubbers in the mud. 
Many a child going to school in the springtime wearing 
rubbers would lose one, or perhaps two, on the way 
home. 

"We sometimes would go hiking. A group of high 
school boys would take a walk from the Lower Mills 
over to Central Avenue, Milton, all the way to Milton 
High School, then back Brook Road and come down 



over Milton hill. Just to socialize and talk, as they 
walked along, minding their business as they went 
their way. 

"One of the ambitions, publicly expressed in the 
schoolyard, but perhaps kept secret from their folks, 
was the ambition of many eighth grade boys, to get out 
of school and go to work on the furniture wagon driv- 
ing Telless' mules. Telless had one team of mules and 
several of horses. The newest driver was always started 
on the mules and often was sitting in a couple of weeks 
on crutches. But everybody hoped they could conquer 
the mules, and perhaps get out of school, by going to 
work for Telless. 

"During the First World War, at the end of the car- 
line at the car barn in Lower Mills Village we would 
see sailors in their uniforms getting off the cars. The 
children would frequently ask questions and perhaps 
most often ask if he had a harmonica and if he would 
play a tune. At that time, harmonicas became quite 
popular — the mouth organ — the sailors were aboard 
ship and they had time, and they would learn from 
some of their buddies. 

"One source of interest of the boys and the girls 
would be to go down to Vose's Grove on the days when 
we heard there was a coal barge coming in. One could 
hear the great whistles of the tugboats coming up the 
Neponset River, bringing the coal barges to Godfrey's 
Wharf on the Milton side of the Neponset River. Hav- 
ing heard the whistle of the tugs, we knew that a barge 
was coming in, or, if there had been one unloading, 
that it was going out. So, by going down Medway 
Street and crossing the bridge over what is now the 
M BTA tracks, we could stand and watch the maneu- 
vering of the tugs. 

"Nearly every year, in my recollections from the 
time that I was in elementary school, up into high 
school, it seemed that there was an annual drowning — 
a fatality, somewhere in the Neponset River, between 
Neponset and Mattapan. And despite all the warnings, 



26 




Walter Baker's Mill, Miiton, Dorchester, Mass. 




Baker'' s chocolate mill, c. igio 



it was not until the fatality would happen each year 
that some of the warning against going out on the ice in 
the river would be taken seriously. 

"In the winter on a no school day, the no school for 
Milton would be sounded on the whistle of Walter Bak- 
er's Chocolate Mill. But in Dorchester you had to go to 
the nearest firehouse to find out that there was no 
school. The nearest firehouse to where we used to live 
was up on River Street, which was past either of the 



schools that we had ever attended. Even elementary 
school. So it was necessary for us to walk up, past the 
school we attended, and go down to look at the front of 
the firehouse where they had a sign that said 'No 
school,' because of the snow. And then you had to walk 
back through the snow and to your home. 

"One of the interesting activities at our Gilbert 
Stuart School was the appearance periodically of 
'Grandfather Swan.' His full name was Walter Swan. 



27 




He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, 
who still had his uniform, and he would tell us tales of 
his work while he was in the campaign with the Army 
of the North during the Civil War. He was there at the 
invitation of the schoolmaster. 

"From the time I was in the early eighth grade, I be- 
lieve, I was delivering newspapers in the morning. It 



was necessary to meet the 5:15 car at the Lower Mills 
to get your newspapers, to make the route that took 
you all the way down through Cedar Grove, and then, 
afternoons, I used to work around the stores. In 191 9 I 
went to work for O'Keeffe Grocery Company after 
school. Hours were, at that time, in the store, from 7:30 
a.m. to 6:15 p.m., if you worked all day. On Saturday, 



28 



you worked from 7:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. straight 
through, with time out for lunch. I went to work when 
I was old enough to get a working certificate at four- 
teen, so I could pay my tuition at Boston College High 
School. At B.C. High we were expected to study three 
hours a night, so that didn't leave any spare time. 

"Because of the people who came into the store — 
the young Irish brides, asking for whatever groceries 
they wanted and talking about the raisins and the cur- 
rants or asking whether or not certain canned vegeta- 
bles were the same as the fresh vegetables — -I realized 
there were a lot of young Irish people moving in. 

"There was a constant growth in St. Gregory's con- 
gregation during that period. They were constantly 
building. They added a school — which must have 
opened in about i g 1 6 or 1 9 1 7. I was an altarboy at the 
first Mass when the children of the first and second 
grades were brought to St. Gregory's school for the 
opening. I have very clear recollections of being wel- 
comed back one day by the very interested teachers in 
our public schools to find out how many had showed 
up for the opening of the Catholic school. Ordinarily 
when we came back from serving a funeral they would 
just say, "alright, you may go back to your class." For 
that day, we were like some foreign diplomats who 
were being asked questions." 

But not all of the new people coming into Southern Dorchester 
were Irish. A little over a decade after World War /, a young 
Italian couple moved to newly-developing Cedar Grove. Phil 
Petrocelli talks about his first years in the new St. Bren- 
dan's Parish: 

"We both lived in St. Margaret's parish. We got 
married in St. Margaret's — came out here, in '30, to 
Gallivan Boulevard. I told a woman I worked with we 
were going to get married, and she said, 'Well, there's a 
house near me.' So we came out, and we hired it just by 
going out and looking at it. When we first came here, 
Gallivan Boulevard had been recently made. It was or- 
iginally Codman Street. On the left hand side of Galli- 



van Boulevard, there was a swamp. In the thirties they 
built homes there. Before that it was all just one big 
swamp. This is all built up since. 

"When Rose and I were married, I thought the on- 
ly Italian out here was me. It was unusual for Italian 
and Irish people to marry each other then. The Irish 
didn't like the Italian, the Italian didn't like the Irish. 
It was just what you might call clannishness. Now, in 
the church bulletin, you will very often see an Irish 
name and an Italian name together for a marriage. 
Our children now, one married a Scotch Belgian. My 
oldest boy married a French English girl. And another 
married a Lithuanian. This is the way our family is — 
it's commonplace now. 

"When I first came here, I went to a couple of 
meetings of the Cedar Grove Civic Improvement As- 
sociation. I didn't seem to get anywhere. Everything I 
got up just didn't seem to be wanted around here. My 
name was Italian. I sensed it. As a matter of fact I had 
to jam down in the corner to make sure I was going to 
stay here. I had to threaten to beat a couple of guys. 
This was 1930. 

"The fortunate thing was that the community was 
Catholic. St. Brendan's was completed in '33. 

"The church started down here where Jordan Den- 
nis is — that was the Granite Avenue garage. Saturday 
nights, or Sunday morning early, we'd take all the cars 
out — leave them in the yard — lay down the canvas or 
not; if the thing were dry, set the chairs out, and in the 
corner, a little platform with a hand organ. At the 
front of the garage was a big purple curtain and you 
could pull it apart, and that would be the altar. This 
was prior to the building of the church. That's when I 
first became an usher. After Mass, we'd close it up. 
They'd put back the trucks. Then we built this church. 
Oh, was it cold at the dedication. We had the Harvard 
College Glee Club, a violinist, and the builder, and I 
think it cost us around $100,000. And eventually we 
got the school." 

"/< was stories that brought us here,^'' an Irish immigrant tells 



29 



us, ''stories of how good life was." Stories of enterprise, of suc- 
cess, and prosperity. There were funny stories, too. Walter 
McLean is a distinguished gentleman, a Harvard graduate 
of historical expertise who taught at Dorchester High School 
for many years. He spends much of his time walking all over 
Dorchester to visit friends, playing piano music or swapping 
memories. He will spin tale after tale, keeping a perfectly 
straight face, until the gullible listener realizes his leg is being 
pulled. One of his favorite stories concerns an enterprise of his 
father's, the manufacture of "Finn AIcCool's Great Irish 
Liniment." 

"The story of Finn McCool's Great Irish Liniment 
will give you quite a laugh. It's not so much a figment 
of the imagination as it is a bunch of stories that are 
prominent, let us say, because people take things on 
faith — particularly if they are of Irish extraction. 

"In 1892 or thereabouts, two ex-Navy men and my 
father were associated with Engine Company 9^8, 
which was on Salem Street in the North End. Of 
course in the Navy one had, at some time another, ail- 
ments — bruises, breaks, and so forth. Somewhere out of 
the clear sky a mixture of ingredients was put together 
in such a fashion that when rubbed on a bruise or a 
sprain or even the jaw gave relief to the person who 
was suffering from pain. Remembering this, these men 
decided that they would make their own liniment. 

"Around i8go there were a good many cock fights 
occuring in places just outside of Boston, even though 
it was against the law. In order to give the roosters un- 
usual strength, they were fed one of the ingredients 
from the egg. That left the other ingredient available. 
There was so much of that ingredient left that a wise 
thought occurred to those two ex-Navy men: why not 
combine that ingredient with two other elements to 
make their liniment. So, it was invented. 

"The liniment was made in the basement of old 
Engine ^8^s station on Salem Street. A label was de- 
vised which read: 'Finn McCool's Great Irish Lini- 
ment. Good for man or beast. Useful for chilblains, 
neuralgia, teethaches, and so forth.' They chose the 



name 'Finn McCool' because, in old legends, he was 
supposedly the strongest man in Ireland — and that lin- 
iment was very powerful. The labels also carried the 
signature, 'Brian O'Rourke, Proprietor.' This was my 
father's pseudonym, not, of course, his real name. And 
the address given was the address of my father before 
he got married. 

"Well, folks do try things out, and as soon as one 
told an Irishman that Finn McCool's Great Irish Lin- 
iment was available and that some of it had been 
smuggled in by Cunard liners, that made the picture 
even better. It was sold for 25 cents a bottle. And with 
the faith of the Irish, there were a good many people 
who believed it could cure anything. 

"Of course, good stories began to be told about the 
great liniment. One of the very best stories was told by 
a character named Lee Dennis Harrington. Dennis 
bought some of the liniment, and when his wife saw it 
was Finn McCool's she used the contents herself. Har- 
rington had pains in his legs from arthritis or rheuma- 
tism, but when he went to rub the leg with that lini- 
ment he discovered that the bottle was empty. So he 
went to the Engine house and said he had squeezed 
the bottle, had removed the label from the bottle, and 
had put the label on his leg. From that day on, he 
never had a pain from arthritis. 

"A story was told of a Mr. Russell, who had lost one 
leg in the Boer War and had a wooden stump which 
was kept on his leg by a leather strap. Mr. Russell was 
unfortunately bothered by splinters as he rubbed his 
wooden leg. He was advised to use some of the lini- 
ment. It so polished his wooden leg that he never suf- 
fered from splinters thereafter. 

"Another individual — I'm not certain whether he's 
Irish, or Yankee, or perhaps Jewish — but the man at 
any rate was the owner of a hardware store. Now he, 
too, had heard of the liniment. One day he discovered 
that the hinges on the door of his business establish- 
ment were creaking. 'By heavens,' he said, 'I'll use 
some of this since they claim that it can do anything.' 



30 




And to be sure, the liniment did a swell job in remov- 
ing the squeak from the hinges. 

"So you can see the value of Finn McCool's lini- 
ment. People of varied backgrounds used it in all kinds 
of ways with fine results." 

Neponset, Pope's Hill & Port Norfolk 

The romance and fortunes that were the New Eng- 
land whaling industry were part and parcel of life on 
the nineteenth century Dorchester waterfront. Head- 
quarters for seafaring Dorchester was "Commercial 
Point", now known by its Indian name, "Tenean." By 
the 1 830s, the fishing industry of the town was in its 
heyday. Whalers on cod fishing boats pulled into a 
"modern wharf", fish flakes were fashioned for cod 
drying, coopers built their barrels, and a store opened 



to sell sailors' outfits. In 1 833 alone, seventy four vessels 
unloaded at Neponset Village. 

While Dorchester fishing business declined quickly 
after the 1840s, the memory of the seaport echoed in 
the twentieth century in Lawley's Shipyards, where 
many famous yachts of "America's Cup" fame were 
built. The old harbor became important again during 
World War II, as Navy personnel moved in to build 
ships for the war. The section of Neponset bordering 
the ocean is called "Port Norfolk", a small seaport vil- 
lage physically isolated from the rest of Dorchester by 
Morrissey Boulevard. 

Mary Maloney and Josephine Jepsen are close 
friends who have lived in Port Norfolk all their lives. Both 
women have enjoyed bringing up their children in the intimate 
neighborhood they themselves grew up in, and both are actively 



31 



.S7. A/uis CTO Band, igjo's 



involved in community affairs. Mrs. Moloney tells how her 
family came to live in Port Norfolk: 

"I was born on Walnut Street. My parents came 
here in 1918. My mother and father had hved in Fram- 
ingham and my father was seeking work. They were 
newly married. He came out to work at the Foundry. 
They bought the home of my mother's cousins, who 
had been living there since the i8oos. My mother's 
cousins' parents had come from Ireland and settled 
there. I was quite fascinated as a child that my moth- 
er's cousins told us of there being Indians living down 
by Tenean in the wooded area that no longer exists. 
There were Indians there when she was a child. A 
small group living down by the water. 

"My mother's cousins were lovely people. She was 
a seamstress and sewed for many of the people who 
lived in the area. They all had very large and very 
lovely and well-cared for homes. It was a very good 
place to live." 

Mrs. Jepsen joins the conversation: 

"My father worked at the A.T. Stearns lumber 
company which was on Water Street. That's why they 
settled in Dorchester. So he would be close to work, 
within walking distance." 



"My parents came from Ireland. They were mar- 
ried at the old St. Ann's Church on Minot Street where 
I was baptized. That's long gone now. When they 
made the first boulevard they called it Old Colony 
Parkway. Then the second boulevard was completed 
and then they changed it to Morrissey Boulevard. So 
Mears Street was taken away. It was taken away and I 
came to Walnut Street in 1920. I went to St. Ann's 
school. I was married in Walnut Street, and I still live 
there. 

"I can remember growing up. What sticks out in 
my mind, as compared to today, is our access to the 
waterfront. We could walk down just by my house 
and spend the day swimming in the Neponset River, 
which was clean at the time. Now, industry has com- 
pletely blocked any free waterway along the Neponset 
River. There is a piece at O.G. Kelley's now. Perhaps 
someone would see fit to give it back to us as a park or a 
recreation area." 
Both ladies trade reminiscences: 

"During the summer, of course, our favorite pas- 
time was going down to the river to swim. We had our 
own raft. It was like having your own private swim- 
ming area. Then in winter months they would flood 



32 



Garvey Park for ice skating. As we grew older, they 
had the Winter Gardens Skating Rink. That was a nice 
place to go. They had skating in winter and dancing 
during the summer." 

"What made it a good neighborhood was that peo- 
ple got along well with one another. Perhaps it was be- 
cause it was a stable neighborhood. There weren't peo- 
ple moving in and out; it was people who had lived 
here for many, many years." 

"The neighbors were close and helped one another. 
World War II, though, seemed to bring a change in the 
neighborhood. Up until that point Lawley's was ship- 
building, yacht building. In past years, they built the 
Yankee and some of those beautiful ships that sailed in 
the races to Bermuda. But with the coming of World 
War II the government came in. They brought in 
workers to build LCI's — they're landing crafts. They 
worked twenty four hours a day. This brought tran- 
sients — people who worked during the war years and 
went away. Some stayed — like our neighbors up the 
street, very lovely people. At that point, a good many 
of the neighbors moved away." 

"Other than the strangers coming and going dur- 
ing the war, you recognized people going to their daily 
work at Steam's or Lawley's. It was a matter of who 
you knew in the neighborhood." 

"Now, I think that everyone mingles with the rest 
of the community and goes to the schools for their ac- 
tivities. Children do, and senior citizens. 

"There is new hope in strengthening the spirit of 
community here. Many families have lived in Pope's 
Hill, Neponset, and Port Norfolk through several gen- 
eratings. Hopefully, today's turbulence will only 
strengthen their long-term trust in the true spirit of 
neighborhood, as it has in the past." 

The earliest days of Dorchester's history saw a 
number of prominent women. For example, Sarah 
Wentworth Apthorp who wrote one of the first Amer- 
ican novels, The Power of Sympathy. Victorian Dor- 



chester brought the suburban ladies' garden clubs and 
cultural societies, as well as more political endeavors. 
Dorchester women were prominent in the Abolitionist 
Movement, forming the Dorchester Female Anti-Slav- 
ery Society in 1835. And Dorchester was not without 
its feminist activists. The best-known was Lucy Stone 
of Pope's Hill, a suffragette who was the first American 
woman to retain her maiden name after marriage, a 
courageous act for a Victorian lady. Her daughter, 
Alice Stone Blackwell, writes of her: 

"Lucy's mother, when informed of the sex of the 
new baby, said, 'Oh, dear! I am sorry it is a girl. A 
woman's life is so hard!' 

"The little girl early became indignant at the way 
she saw her mother and other women treated by 
their husbands and by the laws; and she made up 
her mind that those laws must be changed. 

"As an adult, she travelled over a large part of the 
United States. In most of the towns where she lec- 
tured no woman had ever spoken in public before, 
and curiosity attracted immense audiences. The 
speaker was a great surprise to them. The general 
idea of a woman's rights advocate, on the part of 
those who had never seen one, was a tall, gaunt, an- 
gular woman, with aggressive manners, a mascu- 
line air, and a strident voice, scolding at the men. 
Instead, they found a tiny woman with quiet unas- 
suming manners, a winning presence, and the 
sweetest voice ever possessed by a public speaker. 
This voice became celebrated. It was so musical 
and delicious that persons, who had once heard her 
lecture, hearing her utter a few words, years after- 
ward, on a railroad car or in a stage coach, where 
it was too dark to recognize faces, would at once ex- 
claim unhesitatingly: 'That is Lucy Stone!'" 

In everyday life, Mrs. Stone was determinedly normal. The 
Neponset she lived in was almost an ideal village, probably very 
similar to the a'a)) Henrietta Russell remembers it. 



33 



Home of the famous suffragette, Lucy Stone, on Pope's Hill 



Mrs. Russell, a gentle but determined Ifldy in her seventies, has 
held many offices in community organizations, and a few years 
ago was named to the Mayor's Commission on the Elderly. In 
her mellifluous voice, she talks of the JVeponset she remembers: 
"I was born in Scotland. My father and mother 



and I came to West Roxbury and I went to school 
there until I was fourteen. My father was a monument 
mason, a stonecarver. He did many of the monuments 
that are in the Public Garden. In fact, he did the Ro- 
man eagle that's on the front of St. Anne's church. As 



34 



years went on, it was more machine work; it wasn't 
hand work. So he got a job in the Fore River shipyard. 
He decided that it was too long a ride to go from West 
Roxbury over here to Fore River, so he looked around 
and bought this home. I grew up here, went to Dor- 
chester High which was a very good high school. At 
that time it was a coed school. 

"From high school I went into the John Hancock. 
I worked there for five years until I met this nice young 
man. We used to have bonfires down at Garvey play- 
ground on the Fourth of July. Everybody in the neigh- 
borhood went to them. I met him there — I was intro- 
duced by a good friend of mine. In fact, we're very 
good friends still. We went together for five years, and 
got married. When I got married, my father built a 
home in back and I moved into this house. Fve been 
here ever since. Fve raised three sons and one daugh- 
ter, and have ten grandchildren and a great-grand- 
child. 

"This neighborhood really hasn't changed too 
much because most of the people who live here have 
owned their own homes and stayed here. But in back, 
where the First National is now, and Morrissey Boule- 
vard, we used to have large fields. There used to be a 
ball field the kids played in. In fact, we used to go 
skating, because the water used to come up from the 
Neponset River. And in the wintertime, all the families 
used to coast down Pope's Hill. One of the families had 
a double runner. We'd start at the top, and we'd go all 
the way down. At the time, there were trains down 
there. Pope's Hill Station. We'd go all the way down to 
Pope's Hill Station with the double runner. I can re- 
m'ember one time I had the minister on it. We got near 
the bottom and the runners came oflT. He went flying ! 

"My husband and I were both Scottish Protestants. 
There were quite a few Irish Catholics in the neighbor- 
hood. We got along fine. In fact, I was a representative 
down at St. Ann's when Bishop Stokes came and they 
had a communion breakfast. A friend asked me if I 



would go down and participate and I certainly did." 

Julia Wright and Mary Duchaney are sisters who 
have lived in Neponset since igog. They were best friends as 
children. After high-school graduation, each of them went to 
work for the telephone company. They married near the same 
time and moved to the same street on Pope's Hill. They talk to- 
gether of their memories of St. Arm's Parish: 

"We used to call McCone Street the League of Na- 
tions because there were all kinds. There were Italians, 
Swedish, Polish, French people. All kinds. There were 
three Protestant churches in Neponset. On one of the 
Protestant Churches, at the corner of Oakland and 
Walnut, was the town clock. The fire house was right 
across; the firemen used to take care of that clock and 
wind it. Everybody in town would listen for the town 
clock to strike. It was certainly something to remember 
in Neponset. 

"The neighborhood was not all Irish, but a good 
proportion. Before the turn of the century, Neponset 
was settled by all Yankees. We were here in 1909 and 
there were lovely estates, all those beautiful homes peo- 
ple had made — they had maids and everything. After 
they died, the Irish came in. We remember the seven- 
teenth of March years ago. Matthew Cummings was 
the national president of the Hibernians. On the seven- 
teenth of March he'd have a great big event. They'd 
have Irish singers and prominent speakers — John 
McCormack, James Michael Curley, Judge Fenton. Of 
course, with Irish ancestry. That was one of the high- 
lights of the town. Mr. Cummings put Neponset on the 
map for the time being." 

"You'd have some wonderful occasions. They'd 
have dances. St. Ann's would have a reunion once a 
year which meant a get-together for all the parishion- 
ers. And some that left the parish would come back for 
the reunion." 

"Some wonderful occasions. It was really almost a 
country town — Neponset years ago." 



35 



Ashmont, Shawmut & Codman Square 

Charles Paget was the custodian of Wainwright Park in 
Codman Square for over thirty years. The park became his per- 
sonal demesne. He took an intimate interest in making sure the 
grass and fence were kept in proper order, and had a fatherly 
concern for several generations of neighborhood children. Mr. 
Paget saw many a boy and girl through childhood crises, al- 
ways ready to bandage a scratch, fix a broken shoe-lace, mediate 
a dispute, or laugh at the same riddle told by the twentieth 
child. 

Although handicapped by the after-effects of a childhood 
bout with polio, ^''Charlie,''' up until his death about a week 
after this interview, never missed a day of work, taking only 
Saturday afternoons and Sundays for himself. The children 
who used the park were genuinely his children. Charlie chatted 
with a couple of old friends about the days when he grew up: 

"I've lived in this section, Shawmut, all but the 
first five years of my life. I was born in the Savin Hill 
section of Dorchester, and we moved up here to Shaw- 
mut when I was five years old. I lived first on Welles 
Avenue and then on Argyle Street, which is around the 
corner, and at my present address on Moultrie Street. 
When we moved here there was a lot of vacant land. 
Meadow with trees on it. I remember Mr. Gallup used 
to have a cow down on Welles Avenue. My father used 
to tell a story about that. Woke up one night, he could 
hear this mumbling going on — it was the summertime, 
the windows were open — so he went to the front of the 
house to look across the street. There were these two 
fellows standing over there, leaning over the makeshift 
fence that was around the field, you know, and they'd 
had a little too much to drink. 'What's that over there,' 
one of them said. 'That's a cow, that's a mooly cow.' So 
the cow comes ambling over, you know, and he pats 
the cow on the nose and says, 'Nice mooly cow, nice 
mooly, nice mooly cow.' And my father say^ when he 
found that was all it was, he didn't worry anymore, he 
went back to bed again. But that was Mr. Gallup's 
cow. Mr. Gallup owned a livery stable over on Barnes 



Street. It's now called Banton Street. He also had 
small stable of trotting horses. He used to take his trot 
ting horses out. He belonged to the Dorchester Gentle- 
men's Driving Club. That was a group of men with 
trotting horses and they used to race them up in Frank- 
lin Field every Saturday afternoon. Mr. Gallup used to 
race a horse named Ashmont. 

"This was a middle-class neighborhood when we 
came. There was a sprinkling of Irish. Of course I can 
still remember the days when they elected Republican 
representatives out here — a Democrat didn't stand a 
chance. Which is quite different from the way it is now. 
The Democrats, I think, were transplants from South 
Boston and other parts of the city. They drifted out 
here for a better life — and also, I think, because of 
schools and good transportation. 

"There was a steam railroad coming out through 
here where the transit is now. You could get the train 
at South Station and ride out there, though we didn't 
do that as a rule because you could get on the trolley 
car for a dime. But the trolley car stopped at practical- 
ly every street-corner so you almost had to bring your 
lunch to go to town. 

"And then a man who lived near St. Matthew's 
Church came up with the idea to electrify the Shaw- 
mut Branch of the steam trains and put the line 
through Dorchester. It was quite a bonanza because it 
led to a good deal of development of this section. The 
only bad feature of it was it did kill business on Dor- 
chester Avenue where the trolley car had run." 
He remembers the streetcars most vividly on one particular 
day — November ii, igi8 . . . 

"I remember the streetcars, the old trolley cars, go- 
ing up Dorchester Avenue with milk cans tied to the 
backs, the car clanking along the street. At that time I 
was going to Whittier School, in the first grade, and the 
First World War ended. I can remember being a little 
bewildered as to why they brought us all out into the 
schoolyard about eleven o'clock in the morning and 
gave us all American flags to march around with. Of 



36 



Mayor John F. Fitzgerald {"Honey Fitz") receiving the Prize Cup 

course the next day was a holiday, Armistice Day — we 
didn't reahze the impact of the war. 
He recalls other "big days" as a child . . . 

"I can remember the day they got the hippopota- 
mus for the Franklin Park Zoo. Everyone in Dorches- 
ter went over to get a look at the new hippopotamus. 
And then we had the Tercentenary in Dorchester in 



a race sponsored by the Dorchester Gentlemen's Driving Club, igii 

1930. I remember the big parade they had. The Lord 
Mayor of Dorchester, England was over here. They 
gave him quite a time. And the school cadets marched 
in the parade. 

Jack McCreadv, a friend of Charlie Paget' s, has been a 
resident of Ashmont Hill all his life. The hill developed as a 



37 



^ 10 Carrulli Street 



"garden suburb" in the late nineteenth century, an elegant home 
for wealthy Bostonians. One of its most famous residents was 
Mayor John {"Honey Fitz") Fitzgerald. It has recently un- 
dergone a "renaissance," becoming a fashionable address 
again, this time for young urbanites interested in maintaining 
beautiful Victorian homes in a convenient section of the city. 
"It has been a very pleasant place to live. We 



weren't crowded and as congested as you would be in 
some other areas of the city. We had a bit of what you 
might call suburban living — sunshine, open areas. 
Even Codman Square was a country village kind of 
area. Yet we were convenient to the city. I think that 
really made the area. Until we hit our present prob- 
lems — and these are common not only to Dorchester 



38 



but to the entire city. It isn't quite as dominant in this 
area, luckily, and we hope we can keep these tensions 
down. 

"Economically, this is not quite the area it was 
when I was a youngster, but I would say it's basically 
the same, no great changes. Ashmont Hill has pre- 
served its character better than most areas in Dorches- 
ter in comparison to what it was forty or fifty years ago. 
The houses are still standing and this attracts a certain 
type of people who appreciate the old architecture. It 
did hit a slight slump during the depression, when no- 
body had any money, but there's now a regeneration 
of pride in our buildings and our homes. People are re- 
pairing and maintaining them. I think the people sud- 
denly have become really proud of their homes here 
and want to spread the good word about Dorchester 
and save Dorchester." 



An area close to Ashmont Hill, physically and spiritually is 
Wellesley Park, with its gaslight lamps and attractive park 
area. Caroline DeVoe remembers it as an ideal neigh- 
borhood. 

"I've lived in Dorchester all my life, and I like the 
community very much. I first lived on the other side of 
Field's Corner, and moved here to Wellesley Park in 
1 93 1 . I remember it was — today we would use the 
word 'integrated.' There were Jewish people in the 
neighborhood and Protestants and Catholics. I was 
connected with the Episcopal Church up on Columbia 
Road. I had girl friends who were Congregationalists 
and Baptists and everything else and I did go to their 
churches and they'd go to mine with me for activities 
and we thought nothing of it, because everybody was 
one. 

"My girl friends and I liked to walk. In the eve- 



39 



nings we'd go walking down to Lower Mills, or up to 
the Codman woods, up on Codman Hill. Things 
weren't as complicated as they are today. 

"My friends and I were in church together. I was 
very active in the church. We very rarely went out two 
together. It was a group — six of us — three fellows and 
three girls— all of us were working. My brother and I — 
he'd always have his friends in and I'd have mine — my 
home was always an open place; and I followed 
through with my own family. I married in 1946 and 
my husband and I bought this house. We found this 
neighborhood the best there was for raising a family. 
My children would rarely go to Town Field or any 
place because they had their own friends within the 
neighborhood. One of the good points is because we 
had no feeling of Protestant or Catholic. Of course I 
was a Protestant until I married. I eventually became 
Catholic and there was no fear. Nobody ever thought 
anything about it. If I had it to do over again, as a 
young woman preparing to raise a family, I would de- 
finitely like to move into this neighborhood." 

Mt. Bowdoin & Franklin Field 

Frederick Law Olmstead, probably the greatest 
American landscape architect, designed Franklin Field 
as "The Pendant of the Emerald Necklace," a beauty 
and recreation spot for the enjoyment of city residents. 
And the field plays a dominant role in the memory of 
the residents of Mattapan, Mt. Bowdoin and the area 
adjacent to it. Mattapan, still technically a section of 
Dorchester, was originally called "Upper Mills," a 
counterpart to "Lower Mills," where Samuel Baker 
made his chocolate. The Franklin Field — Mt. Bowdoin 
— Mattapan area was considered "the country," and 
River Street was "a naturally beautiful country road." 
The district did not begin to develop significantly 
until the turn of the century. 

Older residents remember the area as a "cosmopol- 



itan sort of place," with a few Yankee families, some 
Irish and a mixture of other nationalities. As the cen- 
tury progressed, Jewish people began to move out of 
the North and West Ends, and the district became a 
pulsating center of Jewish life in Boston. The area 
boasted many synagogues and kosher shops; Yiddish 
was commonly heard on the street. In the 1950s, most 
of the area's Jews began to move further out to the sub- 
urbs, as black people moved in from neighboring Rox- 
bury, so that today the district is predominantly com- 
posed of native and immigrant blacks. 

WiLLARD Delue is a y§-y ear-old gentleman who worked 
as a reporter for the Boston Globe for many years. In the igsos 
he wrote a series of historical articles which are still of value to 
researchers. Mr. DeLue, an articulate and kind man with de- 
termined posture, tells his memories of growing up on Seaver 
Street. 

"Sometime in the spring or early summer of 1897 
my family moved from West Roxbury to a five-bed- 
room half-house (you'd call it a duplex today) which 
is still in that part of Seaver Street between Columbia 
Road and Erie Street. I was then seven years old; and I 
was to spend the next 25 years there and in other 
houses within the triangular section of West Dorchester 
bounded by Washington Street from Grove Hall to 
Codman Square, Talbot Avenue to Franklin Field, 
and then back to Grove Hall — an area that 25 years 
earlier had been almost entirely farmlands and other 
open spaces. While building was going in most of the 
once open spaces, there remained a touch of rural at- 
mosphere where the Greenwoods still occupied their 
attractive old farmhouse on what was left of their once- 
extensive lands fronting on Harvard Street, between 
the railroad tracks and Glenway Street. The Sarah 
Greenwood School is on part of that plot. 

"This was actually a return to Dorchester, for I had 
been born here, in a three-decker in Gouldville Ter- 
race, which runs off" Brook Avenue. The Terrace, 
which I'm told is now a devasted area without any res- 



40 




Sheep feeding in 
idents, is a very short one, yet long enough to cross the 
old Roxbury town line. I just happened to be born on 
the Dorchester part of it. In a short time we had moved 
to Dacia Street, near Quincy, and then the family took 
off for West Roxbury — leaving behind in Dorchester 
and in adjacent sections of Roxbury, some very old 
friends, who, like themselves, had come out from the 
densely populated South Cove section of the inner city. 



Franklin I'm I, 



"I suppose our return had been prompted in part 
by a desire to get back closer to those old friends; but 
there also must have been the appeal of Dorchester's 
excellent streetcar and steam-railroad transportation 
facilities, which made downtown Boston speedily ac- 
cessible. 

"And then there had been the trend. Everybody 
seemed to be coming this way, and had been before 



41 



Dorchester became a part of Boston in 1870. That's 
probably why my parents had come in the first place. 
It was a real migration, perhaps dominated by families 
oflrish and Catholic origins. And, as we now know, it 
was the first of three migrations that were successively 
to change the character of our part of the old Yankee 
Protestant town. 

"Dorchester landowners and their, developers 
played a major role in stimulating this population 
boom. Good transportation was a theme they all talked 
and wrote about. Typical is a booklet issued in 1880 by 
the Dorchester Land Company, which owned about 
all the high land between present Quincy and Hamil- 
ton Streets and from Columbia Road back to Bowdoin 
Street. The book tells about the horsecars in Bowdoin 
Street, every 30 minutes and just a five-cent fare to 
Boston; steam trains from Bird Street Station — six in- 
bound morning trains, up to nine o'clock, and seven 
outbound trains from 2:30 in the afternoon to 7:30. 
And there were other trains through the day. You 
could get 14 tickets for a dollar, or a three-month sea- 
son ticket for Si 2.00 to get you into or out of Boston. 

"Well, that same steam railroad came out from 
Bird Street to the Mt. Bowdoin Station, which was 
right below the bridge on the corner of Washington 
and Erie Streets, and so just a few steps from Seaver 
Street. The tracks went on for a half mile or so to the 
Harvard Street Station. Later, when I was going to 
work, the rush-hour trains were far more frequent than 
those of 1880. And they were long trains — six or more 
cars, packed to the limit with plenty of standees aboard 
them. The railroad stations are gone without trace. 
And, if there are any trains on those tracks, they are 
freights hauled by diesels; and so the people who live 
along there miss the night-sounds I remember so well 
— the mournful whistles of the steam locomotives, and 
the laborious puffing as they came up the slope to Mt. 
Bowdoin Station. 

"The Seaver Street of my boyhood was pretty well 
built up and had been for some years. Built up with the 



homes of well, I guess, middle-class families. Some 
were probably very upper middle class, and some 
down in the lower middle class, where we probably 
rated, although we did have a maid, that is to say a 
servant girl. I don't mention that as a status symbol, 
though perhaps it was. But I think our having a maid 
had something to do with our return to Dorchester. I 
know my mother had trouble keeping a maid in West 
Roxbury. They were marooned there; too far in the 
sticks, a long way from friends. 

"While there were no signs of opulence in our part 
of Seaver Street, there was plenty of opulence just 
around the corner. Up at Columbia Road and Wash- 
ington Street were the estates of four distinguished 
Dorchester families — one on each corner — the Wilders, 
Adamses, Morses, and Athertons. The Boston mer- 
chants and bankers who founded them were gone, but 
their families were still there in the old homes, which, 
though I didn't realize it, were symbols of a Dorchester 
era that was just about gone. 

"Our area of Seaver Street and its immediate 
neighborhood was a pretty cosmopolitan sort of place. 
The people were mostly Yankees. The Irish were ever- 
ywhere but they were never overwhelmingly domi- 
nant. There were Dutch, German, Scots, Armenian, 
French among the boys and girls I played with. There 
was also a mixture at the little shopping center up at 
the corner of Washington and Erie Streets, close to the 
Mount Bowdoin Station. There was the R.E. Nolan 
grocer or market man, who served some of the com- 
fortably fixed families of the area. I can remember his 
wooden delivery boxes with 'REN' on them. Nearby 
was grocery man Dave Klein. I worked for him on Sat- 
urdays at one time. Dave used to walk around his place 
singing 'My mother and father were Irish, and I am 
Irish too/and we keep the pig in the parlor/and he is 
Irish, too.' 

"Up at Washington and Erie was the barber shop 
of Gus Haake. Then there was the newsdealer and the 
candy shop man named Bean. I'm not sure of the 



42 



name, but I delivered papers for him, up among the 
rich people on Mt. Bowdoin, and sometime waited on 
customers at the candy counter, and was permitted to 
sample the goods. And there was a Chinese laundry 
man, for whom I used to do errands, including getting 
pork chops over at Klein's. So you see it was quite a 
mixed community. 

"Seaver Street was pretty well built up when we 
arrived at it. Yet the whole area wasn't. It still was a 
great place for kids to grow up in. We had a field beside 
our house — 'our' field we called it, because it was 
owned by the owner of our house. And it had a big ap- 
ple tree in it close to the sidewalk. Greening apples, I 
remember that. And then, just a few steps down the 
street was a huge cherry tree, in Phillip McMahon's 
yard, and then across the street, with the other trees in 
it, was a broad field. And all the trees, except the cher- 
ry tree, were beautifully climbable. 

"The big field across the way led to broader spaces, 
and to some other friends. The broader spaces were 
once a part of the famous Oakland Garden amusement 
park, operated by a horse-car company. It was, I 
guess, something like the later Norumbega Park in Au- 
burndale. It had a zoo of some sort; a zoological gar- 
den, as they called it. And one of the park's notable 
features was a large, artificial lake in which floated a 
good size full-rigged ship. On its deck, at one period, a 
light opera company staged performances of Gilbert 
and Sullivan's Pinafore. 

"Oakland Garden occupied all the land between 
Columbia Road and Blue Hill Avenue at the north 
and Erie Street at the south, and then from Seaver 
Street over to Michigan Avenue. The park had gone 
out of business just a few years before we came to Sea- 
ver Street; the only trace of it was a high board fence 
that ran along behind some of the Seaver Street houses. 
Well, when the Oakland Garden closed, the developers 
stepped in and Walcott Street had been laid out and 
almost every lot in it had been built on by the time we 
got there. But Hewins Street, between us and Walcott 



Street, was still in the making. A few houses had been 
built at the head of it — up by Columbia Road — but the 
rest, where the ground was a little low, was just an 
empty road on top of an embankment. The bank made 
a perfect place for digging holes as fireplaces and for 
roasting potatoes. The beautifully burnt skins and half 
raw insides, we thought delicious. 

"Over across there, on Walcott Street, were more 
of our friends. Aubrey Lyons, a son of Leopold Lyons, 
a member of the Boston Globe staff specializing in 
news of the Jewish community. He was, I think, one of 
the founders of B'nai B'rith, and a close relative of the 
very distinguished Boston clothier and former Con- 
gressman, Leopold Morse. 

"The streets were a perfectly safe place to play in 
those days when there were no speeding automobiles 
around. So little traffic of any kind, for that matter, 
that long before a soap box derby was heard of we had 
our equivalent. And where? Right on the Columbia 
Road hill! We'd start up towards Franklin Park, roll 
down the slope and past Seaver Street, with nothing at 
all to hinder, though Columbia Road had recently 
been made a wide boulevard. No danger from traffic — 
just a few horse-drawn vehicles, and, of course, there 
were bicycles. 

"I suppose that period might have been a peak in 
the popularity of cycling. I know that I had a bicycle. 
I'm told it was the smallest size made; and my mother 
had one. She and a few of the other women had their 
bicycle club, and used to go off occasionally on short 
runs. I remember how my mother looked in her bicy- 
cling skirt. She made it herself, I think. It was well 
above the ankles (quite shocking) and had rows and 
rows of stitching around the bottom of it. 

"There was one automobile around — the first auto- 
mobile I ever saw and the first one I ever heard. It be- 
longed to Billy Ourish — who owned a bicycle shop at 
Grove Hall. And I think it was a two-cylinder Cadil- 
lac. Anyway, it was noisy. You could hear it coming as 
Ourish rode along Washington Street, either to or from 



43 




Tobogamiing 

on Schoolmaster's Hill, 

Franklin Park, igsj 



his home, which was near Fenelon Street — you know, 
bang, bang, bang — and we'd run up Glenarm Street to 
get a look at it. In a few years, Ourish's bicycle shop 
became an automobile repair and sales place. 

"As we got a little older, some of us developed an 
interest in theatricals. The St. Martyn's Guild affairs 
must have generated some of it; but the more immedi- 
ate cause was discovery that our friend Myron Clark's 
father had been on the stage. 

"Before Clark turned to painting as a life-work, he 
had been a member of a famous light-opera company, 
the Bostonians. So, when we boys gathered at Myron's 
house, his father often talked to us about the stage, and 
I remember him singing a snatch of song from an opera 
called 'Maritana,' or something like that. 

"About all of us had been to the theatre. I know I 
had, several times. So now we decided to have our own 
theatre — -in Myron's cellar. Our productions were lim- 
ited to a few imitations, which failed to interest our 
audience, consisting of Myron's sister Helen, usually 
called 'the Tyke.' Both are still around. 



"Then we turned to making a miniature theatre. It 
was a good one — sturdy, built with care, with prosceni- 
um arch, movable wings, and a backdrop of Mt. Vesu- 
vius, all made by us but painted by Myron's father. 
Later we moved it over to the cellar of one of our 
friends in Wolcott or Hewins Street, installed battery- 
powered electric lights, and, before a large audience, 
put on a sensational spectacle, the Eruption of Vesuvius, 
with flashing lightning, ominous thunder, and a grand 
finale of fire blazing from the mountain-top — powder 
from a few firecrackers, I guess — and then darkness. 
When the lights came on, our trick scenery had been 
released, and the buildings were in ruins. 

"All these, of course, were in summer. Come win- 
ter, if we had plenty of snow, there'd be our running up 
Glenarm Street to see the street-railway snowplows go 
past, sending up clouds and curls of snow because they 
cleared not only the car-tracks but also the street be- 
side them. That, I think, was part of the arrangement 
made when they were permitted to lay the tracks. 

"As for the lesser streets, there was never a snow- 



44 

II 



plow; the city plowed the sidewalks, but never the 
streets. It was up to horses to break up the drifts. The 
pungs they hauled were great for getting rides on — 
hitching rides — 'going punging,' we'd say. You'd grab 
the low pung body and then get one foot on to the run- 
ners. Or you sometimes could sit on a little shelf that 
ran along outside the pung. 

"There was tobogganing up in Franklin Park. No 
toboggan chutes at first, but there were good slopes on 
the hills all around the golf course valley. And then a 
chute was put up at Schoolmaster's Hill and another 
on a side hill. I remember that a couple of us boys 
made our own toboggan from thin boxwood, with half 
a cheese box for a front. We got into a chute with it, 
got stuck about half way down with a heavy real to- 
boggan speeding towards our tail, and barely got our 
so-called toboggan out without causing a wreck. We 
were not invited to return to the chutes. 

"A good part of the field would be flooded for skat- 
ing and when you had had enough skating, and were 
in the money, you could cross Talbot Avenue to Hen- 
dries for a snack. 

"Hendries' — Hendries' Hall — was a real Dorches- 
ter institution. The Hendries brothers started making 
ice cream way back in the dark ages near the corner of 
Talbot Avenue and Nightingale Street, and they had 
prospered. 

"By the time I knew the place the Hendries had 
built a handsome structure with a hall on the second 
floor that became one of the most popular spots in Bos- 
ton for dances, wedding parties, or other social gather- 
ings. At one period, there was a sort of veranda cafe, so 
you could sit out and watch the activity on the field. 

"Hendries' Hall — and it really was a beautiful one 
was not the only place for social gatherings. There was 
and is Whitton Hall (which the older people knew as 
Whiten Hall) in the Dorchester Women's Club near 
Codman Square. There was Lithgow Hall, upstairs in 
the brick building, now boarded up, at the corner of 
Talbot Avenue and Washington Street. About a mile 



away, close to what was known as the Four Corners — 
where Washington, Bowdoin, and Harvard Streets 
come together — ^just beyond that was Norfolk Hall, a 
lofty building which disappeared in recent years. 
There were two big halls in it, one above the other. 
The lower or second hall, which had been the movie 
theatre, was at a later period the regular meeting place 
of Shawmut Council, Knights of Columbus, to which 
I belonged. The upper hall was used on certain nights 
by the Odd Fellows, who, as I recall, owned the build- 
ing. 

"One night when both organizations were meeting, 
the K of C had scheduled an initiation of new mem- 
bers. One of our prospective brothers, unacquainted 
with the place, walked up to the third floor, and an- 
nounced that he was there to be initiated. As the Odd 
Fellows also were holding an initiation that night, and 
expected strangers, they gave our man a hearty wel- 
come. The initiation ceremony was well under way 
and the prospective K of C was close to becoming an 
Odd Fellow, when he decided that something was 
wrong, and spoke to the man standing next to him. 
Well, I understand there was consternation all round. 
Our man finally came to the right place, pledged not 
to tell anything he had seen or heard upstairs. 

"Then there were the bungalow parties. I can't 
place the bungalow-party era exactly, but it must have 
begun somewhere around 1910, perhaps a little earlier. 
The bungalows were, as their name implies, small, 
one-story buildings, designed especially for intimate 
group parties. For dancing they provided recorded 
music, and sometimes a mechanical piano; and, for re- 
freshments, commonly arranged to have big punch- 
bowls of frappe — not a modern 'frappe' but merely 
lightly frozen sherbet. 

"There was a Fitzderick Bungalow in a lightly 
wooded but not remote spot just off Norfolk Street; the 
Jaquiminot, perched on the slope of Jones Hill, above 
Hancock Street; and DeLue's Bungalow, close to the 
Neponset, just off River Street, Mattapan. The Bunga- 



45 



low Parties were necessarily small ones — just groups of 
friends and acquaintances, who came almost invaria- 
bly as couples. But the couples didn't dance together 
the whole evening, as I understand couples so often do 
in these times. There was always a general mixing. 
When the bungalow era ended I don't know, but it 
must be remembered with pleasure by many persons 
still around. 

"Those early days in Seaver Street ended for me — 
though the friendships and associations continued — in 
1904, when we moved to West Park Street. Great 
changes have come. But I think if I went back there 
and stood at the Erie Street corner where the little shop 
of the five-cent pies still stands (whether occupied or 
not, I don't know) — I'm sure I could find, in a small 
vacant lot across the street, a beaten path leading in to 
the back, and then along the side, of what was once 
Murtagh's neighborhood store. The store faced Elling- 
ton Street, which was Elmo Street when I knew it. 

■'I was in Murty's, as we called it, when a girl came 
in with a bag of lemons. She wanted to return them. 
'What's wrong?' asked whoever was tending store that 
day. 'My mother says they're too sour,' the girl said. 

"Across fiom Murtagh's was a great open space — 
perhaps not as large as I imagine it to have been, but 
large enough to carry the annual Night before the 
Fourth community bonfire, without endangering any 
of the neighboring houses. 

"On the far side of the field was Fowler Street, run- 
ning off Greenwood, and then, along a way, was York 
Street, in which my family lived when I was married in 
191 7. I had set up my own establishment in Kenberma 
Road, ex-Coffee Court. 

"The York Street house was a two-family afTair. 
Soon after my marriage, the Snows, who lived upstairs, 
moved away from Dorchester, and a new family 
moved in — and before long my mother was bragging 
about how well she was able to cook Jewish dishes. The 
woman upstairs had taught her. 

"By that time. Temple Beth-El was in Fowler 

46 



Street; and in another dozen years the Seaver Street 
that I had known was almost solidly Jewish territory. 
Almost. Because though by 1930 there were Moretskys 
and Reubens in our old house, there were also Crow- 
leys and O'Connors around, and Annie McMahon 
still was in the house w'th the big cherry tree." 

"Well, so much for Seaver Street and its neighbors, 
for similar changes had been going on all around it. Up 
Harvard Street way, by 1930 Loring's Drug Store had 
become Trachtenberg's, as also had Harring & Teele's 
at Harvard and Washington. Burke's had moved to 
Braintree; and the length of Harvard Street down to 
Franklin Field had become dominantly Jewish. Con- 
gregation Adath Bnai Israel had appeared in Gleason 
Street, where the long-established Harvard Congrega- 
tional Church had succumbed to the new pressures. 
Congregation Chai Odum was in Nightingale Street, 
Anshi Lebovitch in Glenway, and Linas Hazedec in 
Michigan Avenue, along with pioneer Temple Beth El 
in Fowler. 

"In Jewish-lined Esmond Street — from which the 
Barrys and Joyces and almost all the old neighbors had 
moved to Brookline and Newton and other foreign 
places — St. Leo's stood firm, because other parts of its 
parish had experienced less change, and the church 
building itself was small and relatively economical to 
maintain. 

"And so things stood until the third of the migra- 
tions — the black migration — began rolling into this 
West Dor chester area. Today there are new churches 
around — new names. Perhaps there's a Jewish congre- 
gation among them. 

"Little St. Mark's Church in Columbia Road near 
Seaver, still Episcopal, is solidly black. Occasionally 
one of its old white members drops in for a service. 
St. Leo's is 95 percent black, its congregation rep- 
resenting six or eight different countries and five differ- 
ent languages. And since 45 percent of its people are of 
Haitian origins, St. Leo's has been formally designated 



Capt. Lemuel Clap 
House, c. i86g 




a Haitian Center; and, of its three Sunday masses, one 
is in French." 

The Dorchester that most of the people in these 
pages have described is an urban area that has been 
through many changes in this century — changes in 
physical development, industries, transportation, hous- 
ing, and social changes — in ethnic groups, family life, 
religion, leisure. At the time Mr. Ward of Meeting- 
House Hill was young, for example, farmers drove bul- 
locks through Dorchester to the Brighton Cattle Mar- 
ket. Father Dunn's family was one of the first Irish 
families to move into Yankee Lower Mills. And most of 
the people in these interviews would have defined the 
part of Dorchester they came from by the Catholic par- 
ish they lived in. 

Dorchester has never been a smug, static suburb. 
The process of change that has characterized the area 
throughout the century continues to the present. Since 
the 1950s, the period the reminiscences bring us to, 
Dorchester has again been moved by the winds of 
change. Since World War H, the population has 
changed from predominantly white, of various ethnic 
groups, to a racially integrated community, with some 
mostly white neighborhoods, some black, and many 
mixed. 

Much of Dorchester's migration has been an inter- 
nal process. As one resident said, "When Dorchester 
people move, they move to another part of Dorches- 
ter." But many have moved away, as suburbia became 



fashionable, or even, with increasing job mobility, out 
of the state. 

Statistics tell us something about the changes. In 
1966, Dorchester's black population was six percent; 
now it is almost half. Dorchester has an increasing 
number of elderly people, and, by city median, it has 
become somewhat poorer. Immigrants continue to 
move into all sections of the district. Spanish and 
French are commonly heard in many shopping areas 
as Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Haitians become a part 
of Dorchester life. Dorchester is no longer the heart of 
Jewish life in the city. The Jewish community has all 
but disappeared in the last fifteen years. A few families 
have moved to other towns and cities because of the 
controversy over forced busing. And there is a new 
phenomenon — a whole new group of young profes- 
sionals moving into Dorchester's beautiful Victorian 
homes and rehabilitating them. 

All of these things do not happen without some 
conflict, some pain, just as in the past. Dorchester citi- 
zens have organized community groups to help their 
neighborhoods accomodate the new and still retain 
their particular identities. Many residents think that it 
is the intense pride and intimacy within the myriad 
small communities of the district that allows it to main- 
tain stability in the midst of change. Dorchester has, in 
its 345-year history, become used to change, and has 
learned to adjust to it with a degree of grace that makes 
it outstanding among Boston's neighborhoods. Dor- 
chester's citizens have much to be proud of. 



Police of Station 11, igii 



47 



South Boston Branch Librar/ 
646 East Broadway 
South Boston. MA 0?''^^ 

Project Staff 

Katie Kenneally, writer, project coordinator 
Anne L. Millet, editor 
Jan Cor ash, photographic editor 
Harron Ellenson, director Boston 200 
Michael and Winifred Bixler, typography 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The experience and insights of many Dorchester residents contributed 
to the making of this history. We would hke to thank especially Bill Sweeney, interviewer, Kath- 
leen Kilgore for editorial help, the Dorchester Bicentennial Committee, John Madden, Chair- 
man, the Dorchester Historical Society and the following participants: Rev. James K. Allen, 
Donald F. Brown, Ruth Brown, the late Richard Bonney, John J. Cadigan, Jim Carney, Regina 
Krajewski Clifton, Willard DeLue, Caroline C. DeVoe, Lawrence DiCara, Mary L. Duchaney, 
John J. Donovan, Fr. Daniel F. Dunn, Bertha J. Glavin, Martin E. Glavin, Josephine Jepsen, 
Mary E. Kennedy, Alfred J. LaBollita, Veronica Lehane, Patricia Lloyd, Francis Maloney, 
Mary Maloney, Jack McCready, Walter McLean, Charles F. Murphy, the late Charles L. 
Paget, Earl Perkins, Philip Petrocelli, Julia Ruiz, Henrietta Russell, Nina Solomita, June Tam- 
mi, Myrna Wiley, and Julia V. Wright. 

PHOTO CREDITS: Peter Brooks, Bob Johnston, Boston Architectural Center, designers of the Dor- 
chester Neighborhood Exhibits, Rev. James Allen, The Boston Globe, the Bostonian Society, 
the Print Department of the Boston Public Library, Riva and Romas Brickus, Ruth Brown, 
William Busick, Agnes Casey, the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, the Dorchester His- 
torical Society, Fred Dudley, Lawrence Etta, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Walter Mc- 
Lean, William Melchin, Olmsted Associates, Inc., Julia Ruiz, St. Peter's Church, Robert 
Severy, Douglass Shand Tucci, John J. Ward and The Society for the Preservation of New 
England Antiquities. 

SPONSORS: The Boston Neighborhood Histories Project was made possible through the support of: 
The Blanchard Foundation, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, the Massachusetts Bicentennial 
Commission, Workingmens Co-operative Bank, and the people of the City of Boston. 



BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 




3 9999 05674 801 3 



Boston enjoys an international reputation as the birthplace of our American 
Revolution. Today, as the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary, that struggle 
for freedom again draws attention to Boston. The heritage of Paul Revere, Sam 
Adams, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill still fire our romantic imaginations. 

But a heritage is more than a few great names or places — it is a culture, 
social history and, above all, it is people. Here in Boston, one of our most cher- 
ished traditions is a rich and varied neighborhood life. The history of our neigh- 
borhood communities is a fascinating and genuinely American story — a story 
of proud and ancient peoples and customs, preserved and at the same time 
transformed by the American urban experience. 

So to celebrate our nation's birthday we have undertaken to chronicle 
Boston's neighborhood histories. Compiled largely from the oral accounts of 
living Bostonians, these histories capture in vivid detail the breadth and depth 
of our city's complex past. They remind us of the most important component 
of Boston's heritage — people,which is, after all,what the Bicentennial is all about. 



Kevin H. White, Mayor 




Boston 200