Dedham /ˈdɛdəm/ is a town in
and the county seat of Norfolk
County, Massachusetts, United
The population was 23,464 at the 2000
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 and
incorporated in 1636, and is the county
seat of Norfolk County. When the Town was incorporated the residents
wanted it to be named Contentment, but the Massachusetts General Court
overruled them and named the town Dedham, after Dedham, Essex in England.
Some of the original inhabitants
were born in Dedham, Essex.
The first public meeting was held on August 15, 1636 in which 18
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 that they would submit the issue to between
one and four other members of the town for resolution and that they
would each pay their fair share for the common good.
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
; "the seed of American education." Its first teacher,
Rev. Ralph Wheelock
, 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
Other Dedham firsts include the first man-made canal in North
America, Mother Brook
, which links the
to the Neponset River
. Although they are both slow
moving rivers, they are at different elevations. When Mother Brook
connected them, the difference in elevation made the current swift
enough to power several local mills.
though citizens were still at this time taxed for the support of
ministers and other "public teachers of religion", Dedham set an
important precedent towards the separation
of church and state by selecting a different minister than that
chosen by the church, a right of selection that was confirmed by
the Supreme Judicial Court.
The historic Sacco and Vanzetti
trial in the 1920s was
held in the Dedham Courthouse. Dedham
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 within its original borders.
Dedham is located at (42.244609, -71.165531). On the northeast
corner of High Street and Court Street the U.S. Coast &
Geodetic Survey, now the U.S. National Geodetic Survey
placed a small medallion into a granite block showing an elevation
According to the United
States Census Bureau
, the town has a total area of
10.6 square miles (27.6 km²), of which, 10.4 square
miles (27.1 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles
(0.5 km²) of it (1.79%) is water.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 23,464
people, 8,654 households, and 6,144 families residing in the town.
The population density
2,244.6 people per square mile (866.9/km²). There were 8,908
housing units at an average density of 852.2/sq mi
(329.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.51% White
, 1.54% Black
or African American
, 0.16% Native American
, 0.04% Pacific Islander
, 0.80% from
, and 1.08%
from two or more races. 2.42% of the population were Hispanic
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
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.
Seal and flag
The Town of Dedham's flag
The town's seal has several features. In the center is a crest
containing the Old Avery Oak
. When the
tree was finally felled the gavel used by the Moderator
at Town Meeting
was carved out of it. Above the tree are the
scales of justice, representing Dedham as the county seat and home
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
. Below the tree is a banner with
the word "Contentment."
The town flag is red with the seal prominent and in the center.
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.
The most recent town charter
in 1998, lays out the form of government for the Town.
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
." 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 to be "not less than six nor more than nine convenient
voting districts, so established as to consist of as nearly an
equal number of inhabitants as is possible in compact and
contiguous territory." The districts are to be drawn by the Board
of Selectmen and the Registrars of Voters every ten years.
Town Meeting sets its own rules and keeps a journal of proceedings.
Votes are by voice unless members call for a standing or roll call vote
. The Moderator may call for a
role call vote at his discretion. 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
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 Town Meeting may establish various ad-hoc and standing
committees on which any Town Meeting Member or voter may
The Warrant at Town Meeting includes the articles to be voted on.
Any elected or appointed board, committee, town officer or 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
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 to be "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 Administrator 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
They set policy for all agencies 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.
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 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 current Chairman is Joseph B. Craven.
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
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.
Dedham is home to a number of community organizations, including
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. John's Methodist Church
- St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church Auxiliary Bishop
- 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
Paul's Episcopal Church
- St. Susanna's Catholic Church
- The Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal
- Fountain of Grace Church
Points of interest
Commuter rail service from Boston's South
Station is provided by the MBTA with
stops at Endicott andDedham
Corporate Center on its Franklin
Arts and literature
- Louisa May Alcott, author of
Little Women, lived and worked
for seven weeks during 1851 as a domestic helper in Dedham.
- Jacques d'Amboise, ballet
dancer and choreographer.
Endicott, American composer, faculty of New England
- Alvan Fisher, artist
- Lilian Westcott Hale,
- Philip Leslie Hale,
- Connie Hines, television actress
- Anita Shreve, author
- Paul Thurrott, author and tech
- Richard Trethewey, plumber on
This Old House
- Fisher Ames, U.S. Congressman
- Louis Brandeis, Associate
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
- LeBaron Bradford Colt, U.S.
- Samuel Dexter, U.S. Congressman, Secretary of War, Secretary of the
Treasury, administered the oath of
office to Chief
Justice John Marshall
- H. Wendell Endicott, ambassador and
philanthropist, founder MIT Endicott
- Horace Mann, American education
reformer and abolitionist
- John Lothrop Motley,
historian and ambassador to England and Austria
- Frederick J. Stimson, Ambassador-Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to Argentina from 1914-1921, Assistant
Attorney General of Massachusetts
- George Fred Williams,
U.S. Congressman, ambassador to Greece and
Montenegro, known as "the sage of Dedham."
- Eliphalet Adams, (1677-1753),
clergyman and missionary to the Native Americans
- Henry B. Endicott, founder of the Endicott Shoe Company, later Endicott-Johnson Shoes
- Roger Marino, former owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins
- Katharine Pratt,
- Timothy Bush,
great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of president George W.
- Jason Fairbanks, murderer
Fairbanks, builder of the Fairbanks House and ancestor of at least three US presidents, one
vice president and two governors.
- Lockridge, Kenneth A. (1985). A New England Town: The First
Hundred Years: Dedham, Massachusetts, 1636-1736 (2nd ed.). W.
W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-95459-5.
- Cremin, Lawrence A., "American Education: The Colonial
Experience 1607-1783," First Edition, New York, Harper & Row,
- Hanson, Robert Brand, "Dedham, Massachusetts, 1635-1890,"
published by Dedham Historical Society, 1976