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Mendon Musings

Happy Birthday Mendon

They came southwest from Braintree – 29 miles away – and Weymouth – 32 miles away – by horseback and ox-cart to make their new homes in a 64 square-mile wilderness purchased from the local Indians for 24 pounds sterling.

And, a few years later, on May 15, 1667, the area they settled was incorporated by the General Court of the Massachusetts Colony as the Town of Mendon. That was 350 years ago, this past Monday.

Governor Charles Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin issued a proclamation recognizing May, 15, 2017 as "Mendon Day."

What a difference in those 350 years. Today, Braintree and Weymouth are about 45 to 50 minutes away by car. In the 1660s, the journey would have taken days. Instead of the interstate highway, there was just mostly wilderness.

In what would become Worcester County, there were other scattered settlements – Berlin, the Brookfields, Clinton, Leominster, Southborough and West Boylston – but only one other existing town: Lancaster, incorporated in 1653.

Within the whole colony of Massachusetts, there were only 37 towns older than Mendon: Plymouth (1620), Salem, (1626), Lynn (1629), Boston (1630), Charlestown (1630), Dorchester (1630), Medford (1630), Roxbury (1630), Ipswich (1634), Concord (1635), Hingham (1635), Weymouth (1635), Cambridge (1636), Dedham (1636), Scituate (1636), Duxbury (1637), Salisbury (1639), Sudbury (1639) Braintree (1640), Gloucester (1642), Woburn (1642), Wenham (1643), Hull (1644), Reading (1644), Manchester-by-the-Sea (1645), Rehoboth (1645), Eastham (1646), Malden (1649), Yarmouth (1639), Topsfield (1650), Marblehead (1651), Lancaster (1653), Chelmsford (1655), Bridgewater (1656), Northampton (1656), Milton (1662), and Dartmouth (1664).

If "Mother Mendon" had remained "intact" – that is, not losing its five daughter towns (Bellingham, Upton, Uxbridge, Milford and Blackstone) and three grand-daughter towns (Northbridge [from Uxbridge], Hopedale [from Milford] and Millville [from Blackstone]) – today it would have a population of more than 105,000 people.

Started as an agricultural settlement, today Mendon is more of a bedroom community that people drive off from each weekday morning and commute back to at night.

The town has a rich history. Until this past year – with the focus on Mendon's 350th Anniversary – I had never heard of the 19 "Mendon Resolutions" from 1773 that presaged the Declaration of Independence. As described by local historian and retired teacher Dick Grady, "They stated that all men have naturally an equal right to life, liberty and property, and that a just and lawful government must originate with the free consent of the people." Much of the language in the resolves was later "repurposed' into our Declaration of Independence!

An excellent series of lectures on Mendon's history – being given by Grady and John Trainor – began last November and, to date, have covered Mendon's history from 1620 through 1845. There still are five more talks scheduled on Mendon's history from 1846 through today.

The governor's proclamation includes this paragraph: "Whereas through the vicissitudes of three and one-half centuries, Mendon has enjoyed an interesting and exciting history. This year the town celebrates its Three Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary, proud of its long history, happy in its pleasant location and confident in its citizens and its promising future."

Well said! Happy Birthday, Mendon!


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