History: Hometowns

We all share an interest in Holliston. Maybe you didn’t grow up here, but you grew up somewhere. Where was that, and what are your favorite memories of that place? Would you live there today if you could? Here’s your chance to tout your original hometown…including Holliston!

Holliston Natives – send photos, please!

Now’s the chance for Holliston natives to share their favorite memories of this community. How far back can we go?? 1940s? 1930s? Maybe a family photo and local lore from even farther back? We’d love to see them.

Springfield MA

I grew up in Springfield MA about 90 miles west of here, and I lived there until 1964. There were about 175,000 people in the city when I was in High School, and we parried with Worcester for the position of second largest MA community.

My mother and I in Forest Park

Downtown Springfield late 50s

My favorite places were Forest Park, Trinity Methodist Church, the Italian Trading Store that my Godfather owned in the South End, MacDuffie School for Girls (I attended for grades seven-12) and Johnson’s Bookstore in downtown…BEST used/new bookstore ever!

Would I live there today? Since my family is all here, no, but if they had scattered over the years, I might have moved back to Western MA. I will always prefer its slightly slower pace, its topography, its culture …and it will always be my original hometown. I think we hold a special fondness for the place we consider our first hometown.

Hometown Holliston

The year was 1723, and people living in what we call Holliston today were actually residents of the much larger community of Sherborn (originally called Boggastow,) which measured about 12 miles wide east to west. Some of our intrepid and faithful Hollistonians had to walk five or more miles to reach the church in Sherborn, and they grew tired of the trek. They decided to petition the state legislature to create a precinct of Sherborn on the west side of Dopping Brook where they could build their own Meeting House.

At about the same time, one Thomas Hollis, Esq., of London, England made a sizable donation to Harvard University, and the state legislators were looking for a way to appropriately thank him for his generosity. (Clearly lots of Harvard grads were in office.) Someone remembered that residents of Sherborn were asking for a new precinct and that idea evolved into the idea of creating a whole new town and naming it Holliston.

As of December 3, 1724, the General Court granted the petition from Holliston with an amendment that said, “Saving that the western part of Sherborn be a Town and not a Precinct.” This was NOT what the residents expected…they just wanted a precinct where they could have a Meeting House closer to home…but instead, they now had the work and responsibility of creating and managing a town. By 1728, there were 150 people and 30 farms in Holliston.

Mr. Hollis never visited Holliston, never even came to the states. He did, however, send us a Bible, which remains in the hands of the First Congregational Church displayed as the Thomas Hollis Bible.

In My Opinion: That was a lukewarm beginning. No great battle waged for control of land. No political movement to create a new town. No long range plan. No strategic negotiation on Beacon Hill…just two miscible events coming together at one moment in time and poof! here we are.

Starting Off

Eighteen days after the vote, town leaders met and elected the first officials. John Goulding became Moderator, Town Clerk and First Selectman. The other Selectmen were William Sheffield, Jr., Ebenezer Hill, Jonathan Whitney and Thomas Marshall (I need to research when we went to three members.) If you are a real history buff, stop by the Town Clerk’s office and ask to see the original records from this meeting. It’s a bit of a thrill to read the script (I’m in awe of the handwriting) and realize how old those notes are! Our Town Clerks have made it a point to have these historical records preserved for posterity, and we are lucky to have them. School kids are enthralled when they see them.

It took until 1731 to get the Meeting House built. Colonel Browne of Salem donated three acres in the center of Town “to be perpetually occupied as a site for a meetinghouse and burying ground.” This is the area where the Congregational Church stands (though the church does not date that far back.)

The original building is shown below, and it was used until 1822 when the church was built (the church was later redesigned and a second story inserted.) The drawing and text come from “The Story of a New England Town,” written by Dorothy Rees for the 250th Anniversary in 1974.

The Central Burying Ground, of course, is still located adjacent to Town Hall. Take a minute sometime and read the names on those stones. Most of the people are found in the archived records and the several Holliston histories that have been written over the years. You can find those books in the town library.

Again I thank Joanne Hulbert and the late Dorothy Rees for their research and writing about the town. Their books are my mainstays.

 


4 responses to “History: Hometowns”

  1. Very interesting about Thomas Hollis. I find it amazing he never visited !

  2. Steve Curley says:

    Holliston is not where I grew up but it is where my heart is. I was a city boy as a youngster but moved as I grew work wise and finally in 1968 married and with a family, came to Holliston. What a great town. We lived in two different houses but for almost 40 years, we were on Avon St. How great was it to be able to walk to my job as a teacher at the middle school, and even walk with my kids — when they let me! I only had a car to get to the H.S. during the football season as I was part of the successful football team in the 1970’s. My neighborhood was the greatest. People cared about each other and I am sure there were (are) many unlocked doors. After my wife and I had been retired, we moved to the Cape. That, I guess is a big dream for many but guess what? We could move back in a NY minute since we miss the “hi how you doin?” we used to appreciate whether is was downtown or out on the street. To all who read this, don’t leave your comfort zone. We all need the pleasure of knowing people and having a history. Holliston is the best.
    Know it and believe it.

    Steve Curley
    Love you Mary Greendale!!

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