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THIS is the forty third town in Massachusetts that secured an act of incorporation. It was originally a part
of Dedham, and was incorporated as a town in 1650. A church was organized here in 1651, consisting of eight members;
Rev. John Wilson, Jr. was installed pastor the same year. Mr. Wilson was born in England, and graduated in the
first class in Harvard college. He united in himself the offices of a preacher, physician, and school-master, at
the same time. He continued in the pastoral office more than forty years, and died in 1691. After a period of nearly
six years, in which thirty two candidates were employed, Joseph Baxter was settled, and sustained the pastoral
office more than 48 years. Mr. Baxter commenced his ministerial labors at the age of eighteen, and in consequence
of his youth his settlement was delayed almost three years. “He was selected for a missionary during his ministry
by Governor Shute. When his excellency had a conference with the indians at Georgetown, in Arrousic Island, in
August, 1717, he presented to them Mr. Baxter, a Protestant missionary; but, through the influence of the jesuit
Ralle, he was rejected. Mr. Baxter was succeeded by Rev. Jonathan Townsend, who was settled in 1745, and died of
the small-pox in 1776. His successor was Rev. Thomas Prentiss, D. D., who was settled in 1770. Dr. Prentiss died
in 1814, deeply lamented."
This town is pleasantly situated, has a fertile soil, and, is watered by Charles and Stop rivers. In the village
are two Congregational churches (one of them Unitarian) and 1 Baptist, and about 40 dwelling-houses. Considerable
quantities of hoots, shoes and straw are manufactured here. The principal business, however, is agriculture. There
are extensive meadows west of the village, on Charles river, which are very valuable. It is stated that the name
of the town (which is spelled on the ancient records Meadfield,) originated from the circumstance of the plantation
being situated near these meadows. There is good peat in the town, and quarries of granite. Distance, 8 miles S.
by W. of Dedham. and 17 S. S. W. from Boston. Population, 899. The principal articles manufactured are straw bonnets,
of which, in 1837, there were 124,000, the value of which was $135,000.
The above is a west view of one of the oldest houses now standing in New England. It is about one third of a mile
eastward from the central village of Medfield, on the main road to Dedham. This house was standing at the time
when the principal part of the town was burnt by the Indians. in 1676. It is, probably, the onlt house of the kind
now standing in this country. It is an interesting relic of antiquity, showing the manner in which most of the
houses of the first settlers were built. This house is 24 feet in length, 14 1/2 feet in breadth, 10 feet from
the ground to the eaves of the roof, about 12 feet from the eaves to the top of the roof. There are three divisions
on the ground floor, consisting of one principal room, an entry, and a pantry; on the second floor are two chambers,
above which is a narrow garret. The building standing on the side of the house is believed to be about as ancient
as the house, and was formerly used as a weaver's shop. The floor of this building is sunk about 3 feet below the
surface of the ground. Among the first settlers of this town, it is stated, there were a large number of weavers.
In this town slaves were formerly common and numerous. Concerning witches. it is stated in Dr. Saunders' Historical
Sermon, that the Rev. Mr. Baxter went to reprove Goody Lincoln for the sin of practising witchcraft, and felt a
strange pain in his leg on his return, which was attributed to her ill influence.
The greater part of this town was burnt in King Philip's war. The following account of attack of the Indians is
taken from Dr. Saunders' Historical Sermon, preached at Medfield, in 1817.
"Having arrived in a vast body at Wachusett mountain, in Princeton, they [the Indians] divided for more extensive
mischiefs into two parties. One proceeded toward Concord, Chelmsford, Woburn, and Haverhill; the other burnt Lancaster,
Marlborough, and Sudbury, and soon reached Medfield. The Sunday before the assault, they were seen on the heights
of mount Nebo and Noonhill, as the people came out from public worship. There were then four  garrisons in
town. Nearly 300 soldiers had arrived for its defence; but these had been billeted out upon the inhabitants in
every direction. The Rev. Mr. Wilson had charged his flock to be vigilant against surprise and guarded against
dangerz. Monday morning, 21st February. 1676. was the fatal period. During the night preceding, the Indians had
spread themselves over every part of the town, skulking beside every fence and building. At the first dawn of day,
about 50 buildings were set into a blaze at the same instant. Many of the inhabitants through great perils were
able to reach the garrisons, others were shot down as they rushed out of their houses, and one was burnt in his
own. dwelling. At length, the savages were compelled to retire over a bridge in the south-west part of the town.
Burning the bridge in order to cut off pursuit, they retired to a savage feast on the top of the nearest hill,
in view of the ruins they had occasioned. Philip had been seen, riding upon a black horse, leaping over fences,
exulting in the havoc he was making. Though he could neither read nor write, yet he caused a paper to be left,
threatening to visit them every year for twenty years to come. He did not live to fulfil this promise.
"The destruction commenced at the east part of the town. Most of the houses and barns were consumed between
the meeting-house and the bridge leading to Medway. Nearly 50 buildings and two mills were destroyed. The best
houses and all the garrisons escaped. The damages were estimated at about 9,000 dollars. It was supposed that there
were 500 indians in this engagement. Their dread of cannon hastened them away. Soon after, they carried destruction
to Rehoboth, Pawtucket, and Providence. Here, John Fussell, aged about 100, was burnt in his house. Eight inhabitants
were killed, four were mortally wounded, besides three soldiers who fell, amounting in all to fifteen.
"On the 6th of May following, the Indians met with a notorious repulse at the stone-house near Medfield, in
the north east corner of Medway. On the 2d of July, there was near this a new conflict in the woods, and more execution
was done upon the enemy. Among the captives recovered, a slave gave information of an intended attack upon Taunton
with 200 savages, which information proved the preservation of that town by timely auxiliaries sent to their protection.
July 25th, 30 of our men and 90 Christian Indians from Dedham and. Medfield pursued the savages and captivated
about 50 of them, among whom was Pomham, the great sachem of the Narragansetts. Soon after, the savages retired
from this part of the country, to carry new distresses into more distant regions."
Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.