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Dedham, Massachusetts

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Dedham, Massachusetts

Town of Dedham
First Church and Parish
First Church and Parish
Flag of Town of Dedham
Official seal of Town of Dedham
Nickname(s): Contentment, Shiretown
Location in Norfolk County in Massachusetts
Location in Norfolk County in Massachusetts
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Norfolk
Settled 1635
Incorporated 1636
 • Type Representative town meeting
 • Town
Jim Kern
 • Board of

Mike Butler
James MacDonald
Dennis Guilfoyle
Dennis Teehan
Brendan Kehoe
 • Total 10.6 sq mi (27.6 km2)
 • Land 10.5 sq mi (27.1 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)
Elevation 120 ft (37 m)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 24,729
 • Density 2,355.1/sq mi (912.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC−4)
ZIP code 02026 (02027 for P.O. Boxes)
Area code(s) 781 / 339
FIPS code 25-16495
GNIS feature ID 0618318

Dedham is a town in and the county seat of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States.[2] The population was 24,729 at the 2010 census.[1] It is located on Boston's southwest border. On the northwest it is bordered by Needham, on the southwest by Westwood and on the southeast by Canton.


Settled in 1635 by people from Roxbury and Watertown, Dedham was incorporated in 1636. It became the county seat of Norfolk County when the county formed on March 26, 1793. When the Town was originally incorporated, the residents wanted to name it Contentment. The Massachusetts General Court overruled them and named the town after Dedham, Essex in England, where some of the original inhabitants were born.

At the first public meeting on August 15, 1636, eighteen men signed the town covenant. They swore that they would "in the fear and reverence of our Almighty God, mutually and severally promise amongst ourselves and each to profess and practice one truth according to that most perfect rule, the foundation whereof is ever lasting love."

They also agreed that "we shall by all means labor to keep off from us all such as are contrary minded, and receive only such unto us as may be probably of one heart with us, [and such] as that we either know or may well and truly be informed to walk in a peaceable conversation with all meekness of spirit, [this] for the edification of each other in the knowledge and faith of the Lord Jesus…" The covenant also stipulated that if differences were to arise between townsmen, they would seek arbitration for resolution and each would pay his fair share for the common good.

In November 1798, David Brown led a group in Dedham protesting the federal government; they set up a liberty pole, as people had before the American Revolution. It carried the words, "No Stamp Act, No Sedition Act, No Alien Bills, No Land Tax, downfall to the Tyrants of America; peace and retirement to the President; Long Live the Vice President," referring to then-President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson.[3][4][5] Brown was arrested in Andover but because he could not afford the $4,000 bail, he was taken to Salem for trial.[6] Brown was tried in June 1799.[3] Although he wanted to plead guilty, Justice Samuel Chase urged him to name those who had helped him or subscribed to his writings in exchange for freedom.[3] Brown refused, was fined $480,[7][8] and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. It was the most severe sentence up to then imposed under the Alien and Sedition Acts.[3][6]

Dedham is home to the Fairbanks House, the oldest surviving timber-frame house in the United States, scientifically dated to 1637. On January 1, 1643, by unanimous vote, Dedham authorized the first taxpayer-funded public school, "the seed of American education."[9] Its first schoolmaster, Rev. Ralph Wheelock, a Clare College graduate, was paid 20 pounds annually to instruct the youth of the community. Descendants of these students would become presidents of Dartmouth College, Yale University and Harvard University.

The first man-made canal in North America, Mother Brook, was created in Dedham in 1639. It linked the Charles River to the Neponset River. Although both are slow-moving rivers, they are at different elevations. The difference in elevation made the canal's current swift enough to power several local mills.

In 1818, though citizens were still taxed for the support of ministers and other "public teachers of religion", Dedham set a precedent toward the separation of church and state. Residents selected a minister different than that chosen by the church selectmen; their right of selection was confirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court. The shift in power to the congregation led to the rise of the Congregational Churches.

The local Endicott Estate burned to the ground in 1904 after the local volunteer fire department, responding to three separate fires burning simultaneously, reached the Endicott fire last. By the time they arrived, only ashes remained. It is said that the estate's owner, Henry Bradford Endicott (also founder of the Endicott Johnson Corporation) took the burning of the homestead as a divine command to rebuild (which he did). The rebuilt Endicott Estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate and surrounding grounds are open to the public, upholding Henry's stepdaughter Katherine's wish to use the house and property for "educational, civic, social and recreational purposes."

In 1921, the historic Sacco and Vanzetti trial was held in the Norfolk County Courthouse in Dedham.[10]

Dedham Pottery is a cherished class of antiques, characterized by a distinctive crackle glaze, blue-and-white color scheme, and a frequent motif of rabbits and other animals. Dedham is sometimes called the "mother of towns" because 14 present-day communities were included within its original broad borders.


Dedham is located at (42.244609, −71.165531).[11] On the northeast corner of High Street and Court Street the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, now the U.S. National Geodetic Survey, has placed a small medallion into a granite block showing an elevation of 112.288 feet.

Dedham is made up of a number of neighborhoods:

  • In the geographical center of town is Oakdale. It is roughly confined by East Street to the west, Cedar Street to the south and east, and Whiting Ave to the north. The houses in the area around Woodleigh Road, which was declared to be one of the best streets in Greater Boston, have many homes designed by Henry Bailey Alden, who also designed the Endicott Estate.[12] Nearby the subdivision consisting of Morse Avenue, Fulton Street, and Edison Avenue, is named Whiting Park.[13]
  • Riverdale is an island surrounded by the Charles River and Long Ditch.
  • Greenlodge runs along the axis of Greenlodge Street and the area between Greenlodge Street and East Street.
  • The Manor comprises the neighborhood south of Sprague Street.
  • East Dedham falls between Mother Brook and the Boston line.
  • Precinct One, or Upper Dedham, is in the northwest corner of the town, between High Street and Common Street and the Westwood and Needham lines.
  • Ashcroft is the neighborhood between Cedar Street and Sprague Street. It includes Paul Park and the Capen School.
  • Fairbanks is the neighborhood between East Street and Wigwam Pond.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 10.6 square miles (27 km2), of which, 10.4 square miles (27 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (1.79%) is water.


As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 23,464 people, 8,654 households, and 6,144 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,244.6 people per square mile (866.9/km²). There were 8,908 housing units at an average density of 852.2 per square mile (329.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.51% White, 1.54% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.87% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.80% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. 2.42% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 8,654 households, of which 30.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them. 56.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.14.

Dedham's population is spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $61,699, and the median income for a family was $72,330. Males had a median income of $46,216 versus $35,682 for females. The per capita income for the town was $28,199. About 3.2% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.


Religious Affiliation in Dedham, MA, 1980-2010[15]
Religion 1980 1990 2000 2010
Catholic 50.14% 54.67% 58.58% 52.97%
Mainline Protestant 13.34% 7.3% 6.18% 4.93%
Evangelical Protestant .85% 1.88% 1.45% 1.69%
Orthodox Christian n/a n/a 1.16% .53%
Other 1.27% 6.88% 7.13% 4.56%
Unaffiliated 34.39% 29.28% 25.52% 35.33%

Seal and flag

The Town of Dedham's flag

The town's seal was originally designed by a member of the Dedham Historical Society and has several features.[16] In the center is a crest containing the Old Avery Oak.[16] When the tree was finally felled the gavel used by the Moderator at Town Meeting was carved out of it.[17] Above the tree are the scales of justice, representing Dedham as the county seat and home to Norfolk County's courts.[16] On the left of the tree are agricultural instruments and on the right is a factory, showing Dedham's history first as a town of farmers and then a one with a number of mills and factories, particularly along Mother Brook.[16] Below the tree is a banner with the word "Contentment," the name of the original plantation.[16]

The town flag is red with the seal prominent and in the center. In the lower left corner is part of the Avery Oak and in the lower right is part of the Fairbanks House. It hangs in the selectmen's chambers at town hall and in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House.


A charter adopted in 1998 lays out the basic structure of the Town government, although it has been amended occasionally over the years. A seven-member Charter Advisory Committee, appointed in 2012, recommended six substantial changes and numerous minor changes be made to the document. The Selectmen consolidated them into six articles for Town Meeting's consideration, and five were presented to the Meeting in 2013. Voters approved four of them in 2014. A version of the sixth and final proposal was adopted at the Spring 2014 Annual Town Meeting.

Town Meeting

According to Dedham's Charter, the "administration of all the fiscal, prudential, and municipal affairs of the town, with the government thereof, shall be vested in a legislative branch, to consist of a representative town meeting." Town Meeting is to consist of no less than 270 members, but not more than necessary to achieve an equal number coming from each precinct. There are currently seven districts, but could be as few as six or as many as nine, with lines drawn by the Board of Selectmen and the Registrars of Voters every ten years.

Votes are by voice unless members call for a standing or roll call vote, either of which can be called for by the Moderator. All Town officers are required to attend Town Meeting and multiple member bodies must send at least one representative who have all the privileges of a Member except the right to vote. If 5% of Town voters petition the Board of Selectmen within 14 days of Town Meeting any action taken may be submitted to voters. The final result is to be determined by majority vote, but Town Meeting can not be overruled unless 20% of registered voters participate.

Town Meeting sets its own rules and keeps a journal of proceedings. The Town Meeting may establish various ad-hoc and standing committees on which any Town Meeting Member or voter may serve.

Town Meeting members

Currently Town Meeting consists of 273 members, or representatives, with each of the seven districts, or precincts, electing 39. Thirteen are elected from each precinct each year and serve a three-year term. Each precinct elects from its own members a Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Secretary.

To be eligible, candidates must have 10 registered voters from their precinct sign nomination papers. Town Meeting Members can not serve on any other elected board or on the Finance Committee. Members who move from the district or are removed by redistricting may serve until the next Town Election, however any member who moves out of the Town immediately ceases to be a Member.

In case of a vacancy, the remaining term is to be filled at the next town election. If no election is to take place within 120 days of the vacancy then the district chairman is to call together the members of the district and they are to elect a member who will serve until the next town election.


The Warrant at Town Meeting includes the articles to be voted on. Any elected or appointed board, committee, town officer, or any ten voters may place an article on the warrant. Each article to be voted on is directed by the Board of Selectmen to an appropriate board or committee to hear and provide the original motion at Town Meeting. All articles expending funds are directed to the Finance Committee; articles dealing with planning and zoning to the Planning Board; articles relating to by-laws to the By-Law Committee. The Finance Committee recommendation has the force of the original motion on all articles except those related to zoning. The Planning Board makes the original motion for those.

Mini Town Meeting

While it is not called for in the Charter, there is a tradition in Dedham for the Chairmen of the several districts to elect from amongst themselves a chairman. This Chairman of the Chairmen hosts what is officially known as the District Chairmen's Warrant Review Meeting but is much more commonly referred to as Mini Town Meeting. The "Mini" is generally one week before the actual Town Meeting. The purpose of the Mini is to air out several of the contentious issues before bringing them to the floor of Town Meeting.

Board of Selectmen

The executive branch of the Town Government is "headed" by a Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen have five members who are elected for three-year terms and are the chief policy making body for the town. They appoint a Town Manager who runs the day-to-day affairs of the Town. They also appoint constables, registrars of voters and other election officers, the board of appeals, conservation commission, historic district commission, and members of several other multiple member boards.

They set policy for all departments below it, but are not involved in the day-to-day affairs of the Town. They issue licenses and can investigate the affairs and the conduct of any town agency.

Town Clerk

The Elected Town Clerk serves a three-year term and works full-time for the Town. The Clerk is "the keeper of vital statistics of the town and the custodian of the town seal and all public records, administer[s] the oaths of office to all town officers... [and is] the clerk of the town meeting." In the role as clerk of town meeting he notifies the public and members of the Town Meeting and keeps a verbatim record of proceedings.

Town Moderator

Town Meetings are presided over by the Town Moderator, but he has no vote unless all the Members present and voting are equally divided. At the first Town Meeting following the annual town election he is to appoint, subject to Town Meeting's confirmation, a Deputy Moderator from the elected Members. The Deputy serves in case of the Moderator's absence or disability.

Other boards and committees

The seven members of the School Committee are elected for three-year terms and appoint a Superintendent of Schools. They also set policy for the School Department.

The three elected members of the Board of Assessors serve three-year terms and annually make a fair cash valuation of all property within the town.

The three elected members of the Board of Health are responsible for the formulation and enforcement of rules and regulations affecting the environment and the public health.

The Board of Library Trustees has five members, each of whom serve three-year terms, and have care of the Town's public library at the Endicott Branch and Main Branch. They are responsible for all library policy, the library budget, and hiring and firing the library director.

The five elected members of the Planning Board make studies and prepare plans concerning the resources, possibilities and needs of the town. It also prepares the Master Plan.

There are five elected Commissioners of the Trust Funds who manage and control all funds left, given, bequeathed or devised to the town, and distribute the income in accordance with the terms of the respective trusts.

There are five members of the Housing Authority. Four are elected by the Town and one is appointed by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Community Affairs. As a Board they have all of the powers and duties which are given to housing authorities under the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth.


The theater company and Viacom/ CBS Corporation parent National Amusements is based in Dedham. Dedham is also home to The Norfolk & Dedham Group, a regional mutual insurance company.


Public education

The Dedham Public Schools operates seven schools, and is known for the first implementation of a tax supported, free public school system, now used nationally.

  • Dedham High School
  • Dedham Middle School
  • Avery Elementary School
  • Oakdale Elementary School
  • Greenlodge Elementary School
  • Riverdale Elementary School
  • Dr. Thomas Curren Early Childhood Education Center

Private education

In addition, there are several private schools in the town including:

  • Noble and Greenough School, a private, co-educational day and boarding school for students in grades 7-12
  • Dedham Country Day School, a private elementary school and middle school.
  • Ursuline Academy, an independent college preparatory day school for young women in grades 7–12.
  • The Rashi School, a Jewish elementary and middle school.
  • Little Sprouts Early Education and Childcare, a preschool and kindergarten.

Former schools

Ames School, a former public elementary school named after distinguished Dedham resident Fisher Ames.

  • St Mary's School, a former Catholic elementary school that operated as a part of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish until 1975.
  • The Quincy School, a former public elementary school that operated until 1982.
  • The Dexter School, a former public elementary school now operating as a private preschool and kindergarten, Little Sprouts Early Education and Childcare, Dedham location.

Places of worship

  • Allin Congregational Church (United Church of Christ)
  • Calvary Baptist Church
  • Dedham Temple (Haitian Seventh-Day Adventist Church)
  • Fellowship Bible Church
  • First Church and Parish in Dedham (Unitarian-Universalist)
  • St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church
  • St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • St. Mary's Catholic Church, home of the LIFE TEEN program, and former church of John Anthony Dooher, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church
  • St. Susanna's Catholic Church
  • The Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal
  • The Link Church

Boston United Hand in Hand Cemetery is located on Lower East Street straddling the West Roxbury line. Dating back to 1875, the original plot was full by 1896 but subsequently expanded multiple times. There are graves as recent as 1980 in the West Roxbury portion; the Dedham portion is still active. Chestnut Hill's Congregation Mishka Tefila currently owns the property.[18]

Points of interest

Mill Pond Park


Commuter rail service from Boston's South Station is provided by the MBTA with stops at Endicott and Dedham Corporate Center on its Franklin Line. Also MBTA Bus route 34 Dedham Line to Forest Hills serves Washington Street. Bus route 34E Walpole Center to Forest Hills serves Washington Street, Dedham Square, and the Dedham Mall. Bus route 35 Dedham Mall to Forest Hills serves Washington Street.

Notable people


Arts and literature









  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d Stone 2004, p. 64.
  4. ^ Tise 1998, p. 420.
  5. ^ Curtis 2000, p. 88.
  6. ^ a b Tise 1998, p. 421.
  7. ^ Tise 1998.
  8. ^ Simon 2003, p. 55.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d e
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Bill Hunnefield Stats
  27. ^ Bobby Kelly
  28. ^
  29. ^ Greenhouse, Steve. "Tim Costello, Trucker-Author Who Fought Globalization, Dies at 64", The New York Times, December 26, 2009. Retrieved December 28, 2009. Archived May 31, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ Levin, Jay. "Eli Sagan, 87, proud Nixon 'enemy'", The Record (Bergen County), January 9, 2015. Accessed January 18, 2015. "Mr. Sagan and his wife, Frimi, who taught English at Dwight-Englewood School, lived in Englewood for 55 years. They moved to Dedham, Mass., in 2011."

Works cited

Further reading

  • Cremin, Lawrence A., "American Education: The Colonial Experience 1607–1783," First Edition, New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970.
  • Hanson, Robert Brand, "Dedham, Massachusetts, 1635–1890," published by Dedham Historical Society, 1976

External links

  • Dedham's official website
  •'s Dedham news page
  • "Taxation for Religion in Early Massachusetts" – Ronald Golini mentions the role of the 1818 "Dedham case"
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