Historic Landmarks Weymouth Massachusetts
Taken from a Weymouth Historic Commission Brochure
Progress and change which come with the passing of time have left little evidence ot mark Weymouth’s history. To insure remembrance of those events which the Weymouth Historical Commission has had placed throughout the Town a number of markers which identify some of the more memorable sites.
Location of Markers
- Arnold Tavern: Commercial Street, Weymouth Landing, opposite Sacred Heart School.
- Wessagusset Settlement: Corner of Bridge Street and Birchbrow Avenue, North Weymouth.
- Watch House Hill: North Street, opposite entrance to “Old Burying Ground,” North Weymouth.
- Abigail Adams Birthplace: Norton Street near intersection of North Street.
- First Church in Weymouth: Church Street, Weymouth Heights.
- Rice Tavern: Commercial Street, Jackson Square, East Weymouth.
- First Town House: Corner of Washington and Middle Street
- Old Toll House: Washington Street near Hingham line, East Weymouth.
- Second Parish Meeting House: Columbian Square, South Weymouth.
- Great Pond: Randolph Street, opposite the north end of the Pond.
The Wessagusset Settlement
A short distance north of the marker lies King’s Cove where in 1622 Thomas Weston’s company of “Charity” and “Swan” to establish a fishing and trading post. On the north side of the Cove they built a stockade and buildings; thus the second oldest Settlement in the Commonwealth was established.
The settlers soon found themselves in dire need of food. Taking advantage of their weakened state the Indians plotted to destroy the settlement and only the timely arrival of Captain Myles Standish and a small band of soldiers from Plimoth saved the settlers.
During the next few years the small settlement almost disappeared, but new arrivals from England helped to keep it alive and by 1630 there were nearly 500 inhabitants.
In July of 1635 the Reverend Joseph Hull and 21 families, numbering nearly 100 persons, arrived from Weymouth, England, and were given permission by the General Court to settle in Wessagusset. On September 2, 1635 Wessagusset was incorporated as a Town and the name was changed to Weymouth.
Arnold Tavern, Weymouth Landing
About the year 1741 according to tradition, Captain Alexander Nash built a home for his new bride on the old Plymouth train near the junction of what is now Washington and Commercial streets. Later it was acquired by Samuel Arnold who operated it as a tavern. In several of the old Boston Almanacs of the late 18th century it is listed as the fifth tavern out of Boston on the road to Plymouth.
In March 1775, Dr. Cotton Tufts, Major Solomon Lovell, Major Vining, Asa White, Josiah Colson and others met in the Tavern and formed the Weymouth “Committee of Correspondence”. These “Committees” were first established in Massachusetts in 1772 for the exchange of information among the towns and colonies concerning their relationships with England.
The general area that now includes the Abigail Adams Birthplace on Norton Street, Watch House Hill or the Old Burying Ground on North Street and the First Church of Weymouth on Church Street, was the center of community life in Weymouth during the latter half of the 17th and on into the 18th century.
Here on Watch House Hill sometimes prior to 1645 was built the first Meeting House where the affairs of the Town were conducted and religious services held. The entrance to the Hill is off North Street just beyond the intersection with Norton Street. The road winds up past the resting place of Dr. Cotton Tufts and the Reverend William Smith. The Soldier’s monument on top of the Hill was dedicated July 4, 1868 and the old Naval cannons surrounding it were given by the Navy Department in 1898.
The second Meeting House was erected on the west side of North Street almost opposite the Soldier’s Monument. In 1682 a new Meeting House was built on Meeting House Lane (now Church Street). In the Spring of 1751 the structure caught fire and burned down. Unfortunately several barrels of the Town’s gunpowder were stored in the loft of the Meeting House and in the words of the Reverend William Smith, “It made a surprising noise when it blew up.” The Meeting House was rebuilt and later replaced by the present structure in 1833.
A short distance down Norton Street on a site to which it was moved stands the “Ell”, a part of the parsonage once owned by the Reverend William Smith, pastor of the First Church. In the “Ell”, according to the Abigail Adams Historical Society, Abigail Smith was born on November 11, 1744. Abigail was one of three daughters born to the Reverend Smith. She married John Adams of Braintree, later second President of the United States, and she was the mother of John Quincy Adams, our sixth President. Abigail Adams was also the first woman in the country to be the wife of a Vice President, the wife of the first Ambassador to England and the first wife of a President to live in the White House.
First Town House
The geographic center of Weymouth lies close to the intersection of Washington and Middle Streets. During King Philip’s war in 1675-76, Indians raided the Town on at least three occasions. The final raid was on April 19, 1676 when a band of Indians on their way to Plymouth burned seven houses in this area and according to the old records killed Sergeant Thomas Pratt.
In 1852 the first Town House or Town Hall was built on the southwest corner of the intersection. The following year, in a room set aside for the purpose, the first High School in Weymouth was established. Joseph Dow was the first teacher for the school year 1853-54 for which he was paid $480.25. The course of study included arithmetic, algebra, bookkeeping, anatomy and physiology, general history, French and Latin as principal subjects with minor attention to geography, English grammar, parsing, composition, reading, spelling, declamation and penmanship.
The Rice Tavern
On the west side of Broad Street in Jackson Square, East Weymouth is located the Mortimer N. Peck Funeral Chapel. In the late 18th century the building was a well-known Tavern on the old Boston-Plymouth road operated by Josiah Rice the “Innkeeper”. In the old Boston Almanac the Tavern is listed under the general heading of “Places Of Entertainment”. The latter was a general category under which Taverns and Inns were listed in various periodicals published in the latter part of the 1700s.
According to Weymouth folklore, Indians from time to time stopped at the Tavern for food and lodging which was given, but seldom paid for.
Old Toll House
On Washington Street (formerly the Queen Anne Turnpike) near the Hingham line stands the Old Toll House, a stone structure, the first of its kind built in Weymouth. It was built about 1800 by Bela Pratt, a builder who specialized in stone buildings and structures. In 1806 the Queen Anne Turnpike was built as a more direct route to Plymouth and the Stone House was operated as a Toll House along the new road.
Weymouth Great Pond
In the extreme southern end of Town lies “Great Pond” the principal source of Weymouth’s water supply. This natural body of water was left by the receding Wisconsin ice glacier more than 12,000 years ago.
Located in a wooded, sparsely settled area, the Pond has retained its natural beauty since the early days of the Settlement. Along the shore and clinging to the rocks and boulders may be seen a brownish black substance know as limonite or bog iron. In colonial days the Town leased the digging rights of bog iron at the rate of 60 cents a ton. The iron ore was sold to foundries and forges.
Randolph Street which skirts the north and west side of the Pond was formerly the “Bay Trail”, one of the most important Trails in the Region. It linked Massachusetts Bay with Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
Indians of the “Massachusetts” tribe camped along the shore of the pond where they hunted and fished, and evidence strongly indicates that they were here hundreds of years before the coming of the white man.
In the late fall of 1965 the receding waters of the drought stricken Great Pond bared a secret that it had jealously guarded for centuries. At the extreme southern end of the Pond, buried in the mire offshore, was discovered intact and in remarkable condition an Indian Dugout. The craft was turned over to the Weymouth Historical Commission for preservation and safekeeping.
A radiocarbon determination test commonly known as Carbon 14 Test was made of a sample of the Dugout. The results of the test established that the median age of the Dugout was 445 year or according to the calendar about the year 1505 A.D.
Further tests showed that the Dugout was made of eastern white pine. The tree from which the Dugout was made measured about 10ft. in circumference and was about 150-200 ft. in height.
Preservation of the Dugout has been completed. The method used was similar to the techniques used by the Swedish Government in the preservation of the wooden warship “VASA” discovered in the harbor of Stockholm in 1956 and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin in the preservation of an 18th century French bateaux discovered in Lake George. Essentially the process consists of immersing the archeological wood specimen in a solution of poly ethylene-glycol until all the water moisture has been replaced by the preservative.
Through the cooperation of the Library Trustees, the Dugout is on display in the Town Museum maintained by the Historical Commission at the Tufts Library on Broad Street. The museum also displays many artifacts, documents, pictures and other material pertaining to local and regional history on loan from the archives of the Weymouth Historical Society.
Second Parish Meeting House
Early in the 1700s numerous settlers had located in the southern part of town. These early inhabitants soon found that attending worship service in the Meeting House near Watch House Hill in North Weymouth was a trying experience. Although the actual distance is only a few miles, the rough ungraded ways and footpaths made a wearisome journey and in bad weather almost an impossible one, particularly for women and children. About 1721, a number of leading citizens agreed to secure a central location and erect a Meeting House. The site selected was on the property of Jacob Turner on the Great Plain now know as Columbian Square. At that time there were only a few homes near the proposed site, most of them being in the vicinity of Old City, which is now part of the U. S. Naval Air Station.
During the next two years religious services were held in the new Meeting House, but there was not regular or formal organization. On June 2, 1722 a petition signed by John Vining and thirty-eight residents in the south part of Town was presented to the General Court. The petition cited the difficulties of attending services in the North Meeting House and prayed that the south part of Town be set off as a new precinct and that the live of division be drawn two miles north of their new Meeting House.
The petition incurred the opposition of the north part of Town. However, the General Court appointed a Committee of five to inquire into the matter and ascertain if the Town was able to support two ministers. Opposition to the new precinct gradually subsided and on June 5, 1723 the second precinct was created. The following month the Reverend James Bayley was officially called and accepted the post as the first minister.