Escape from Salem

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Clayes House

(Area from the intersection of Salem End Road and Willowbrook Road west on Salem End Road to the border of Framingham and Ashland)

 In April 1692, three sisters from the north shore of Massachusetts found themselves locked in a cell in Salem Village, (Danvers) awaiting trial for witchcraft.  By September, two of the sisters had been hanged for the crime, the third barely escaping with her life to Framingham.  Seventy-one year old Rebecca Nurse and her sister Mary Esty were two of the twenty men and women (and two dogs!) put to death in Salem that year. Sarah Clayes was the sister who got away.  It’s unclear just how she was able to escape the noose and find refuge here in Framingham.  Some legends say that she and her family traveled here by night, hiding out in caves and hollowed out trees.  Others believe that Deputy Governor of the colony Thomas Danforth, who owned the land now known as Framingham, helped her escape.  Danforth had been one of the questioners at the hearing in Salem in which Sarah was first accused as a witch, but later spoke out publicly against the trials.  Could his guilty conscience have helped spare Sarah’s life?  More than 300 years later, people are still fascinated by the story, and many make Salem End a pilgrimage on their tour of “witchcraft sites.”  Some say they can feel a supernatural presence near her house, which is possible, given that one of the sisters- Mary Esty – is said to have appeared as a ghost before her accusers, still proclaiming her innocence.  Perhaps the trio of sisters gathers here in town to find solace in each other’s company.51JZM1D1K3L._SX342_

The hangings in September 1692 were the last in the colony, and the remaining accused people were eventually released from jail, as long as they paid their jail costs.  In 1711, the colony passed a bill, which restored the rights and good names of the accused, and granted restitution to the heirs of the victims.  Sarah Clayes was the central character in a 1986 television movie called “Three Sovereigns for Sarah,” starring Vanessa Redgrave.  In 1957, the state of Massachusetts issued a formal apology for the events in 1692.

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Thomas Danforth

Ironically, back in Danforth’s hometown of Framlingham, England, witches had been tried and executed in large numbers about 50 years earlier. The pond in front of Framlingham castle was often the scene of a “witch ducking,” considered a foolproof way of identifying witches.  The accused was bound with rope and tossed into the pond.  If they floated, they were a witch.  If they sank, there was good news and bad news.  The good news was they were not a witch.  The bad news is…they sank.

There was another so-called witch who took up residence in Framingham for a short time.  Back in the mid-1930’s, actress Margaret Hamilton lived on Gilbert Street with her husband before taking on her signature role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz in 1939.


The Haunted Beach – and the Pirate’s Buried Treasure

(Learned Pond Beach at the intersection of Brigham Road and Shawmut Terrace)

 learned pondMany New England towns claim to have treasure hidden in secret places by the famed pirate Captain William Kidd.  Framingham not only makes the same claim, but also boasts a legend and a poem written by a local writer of romantic novels and flowery verse.  In 1897, Main Street resident Clara Augusta Trask published the Legend of Learned’s Pond, detailing the sinking of a chest of gold by the notorious Kidd. According to the legend, if you want to recover the treasure, all you have to do is come back here late at night with two other people, form a triangle with your bodies, then, in perfect silence, after moving in a straight line towards the chest as it rises from the water, lay an iron key on it.   But, the task is only for the strong of heart, for

Captain Kidd, who sailed and sailed, and spied three ships from Spain

Is watching still his treasures hid on land and on the main,

And if you break the magic spell laid on this chest of gold

The pirate’s ghost will drag you down in Learned’s waters cold.

Framingham does lay claim to one pirate, Joseph Bradish, who was born near Sudbury in 1672.  At age 26, Bradish found himself a Pirate captain of the ship Adventure after the crew mutinied off the island of Borneo. Bradish sailed the ship back to New England where its valuables were sold and the ship was scuttled.  The law finally caught up with Bradish and he was thrown in jail in Boston in April, 1699.  In true pirate fashion he escaped with the help of his cousin, who was the jailer, his cousin’s beautiful maid, and his one-eyed companion Tee Witherly.  The trio was caught near Saco, Maine and returned to Boston.  There Bradish’s cellmate was the legendary Captain Kidd, which may explain how the Learned’s Pond legend  came about.  Bothe men were brought to London to meet their fate, death by hanging.


The tale of Edgell Grove Cemetery, Grove Street, Framingham

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Entrance to Edgell Grove Cemetery c. 1905

The cemetery was built on land once owned by Colonel Moses Edgell, who gave thousands of dollars for the construction of the cemetery’s memorial chapel. It was laid out as a “garden cemetery,” modeled after Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.  Garden cemeteries were lavishly landscaped and designed to provide a peaceful resting place for the dead, as well as a contemplative setting for mourners.  The story of one such mourner appeared in the Framingham Gazette in December of 1891 under the headline:

A sad, uncommon story is that of the death of Elbert Hemenway and Elven, his brother.

Elbert, the younger brother had passed away at the age of 73.  Several days later, brother Elven, his wife by his side, was driving the family carriage to the Hemenway plot in Edgell Grove for the burial.  Without warning, he gasped, dropped the reigns, and fell back in his seat, dead.  The first person to respond to Mrs. Hemenway’s anguished cries was Mr. Thomas, the undertaker, who was waiting at the grave for the arrival of the mourners.  Elven was loaded onto the same wagon that had just brought his brother to his own grave, and transported to the undertaker’s. There are those who say that the unfortunate Mr. Hemenway can still be seen on these roads, desperately driving his ghostly carriage in an attempt to make it to his beloved brother’s funeral.


Curator Job Description

Founded in 1888, the Framingham History Center is a dynamic organization with significant community participation in its programming, collecting and preservation efforts.  Its mission is to preserve and share Framingham’s history in order to encourage connection to community.  The organization oversees a campus of three historic buildings on the town’s Centre Common which contain permanent and revolving exhibitions as well as a banquet facility.  These buildings and the vast collection of historical objects, material culture, and archives dating back to the 1600s that are housed within, drive monthly programs and preservation efforts.

The Framingham History Center is seeking a part-time (20hrs/week) Curator.  The Curator will take the lead in completing a collections management plan that currently includes an extensive survey of over 18,000 museum-quality items. This plan will present new guidelines for acquiring, caring for and disposing of objects. The Curator will have overall responsibility for managing the FHC’s collections including all aspects of collections care, processing, interpretation, cataloguing and research.  They will be a part of a team that creates annual revolving exhibits as well as updates to the permanent exhibit currently located on three floors of a former Academy building. The Curator will work with the Executive Director on grant submissions to support these exhibitions.  In addition to overseeing an active Collections Committee, the Curator will manage interns, collections volunteers, and contribute regularly to the FHC’s e-news, and biannual newsletter.

Requirements:  Masters degree and at least one year of applicable experience.  Knowledge of principles and practices of collections management; Past Perfect experience as well as excellent research, writing, interpersonal, and organizational skills required. Send cover letter, resume, brief writing sample [limit 5 pages], and three professional references to:  Annie Murphy, director@framinghamhistory.org


Welcome to Dennison Manufacturing Co. – Book Review

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Martha Davidson
Framingham History Center Librarian

For over a century the Dennison Manufacturing Company was the chief supplier of paper specialties in the United States and the world and for ninety years its manufacturing headquarters were in Framingham, Massachusetts.  As the leading employer in the region Dennison was important to thousands of families, and the enlightened labor practices of its president, Henry S. Dennison, his U.S. government appointments and numerous lectures and books, made him a nationally recognized industrial figure.

In the vividly illustrated book Welcome to Dennison, its History, Products, Programs, and People, authors Patricia Lavin and Laura Stagliola tell the Dennison story, from its beginnings in Maine when shoemaker Aaron Dennison first made cardboard jewelry boxes, to the death of his great grandson Henry S. in 1952.  It is a story of remarkable growth and ingenuity.  Andrew’s son Eliphalet Whorf Dennison had an eye for the unmet needs of businesses for good quality tags and labels and he was able to employ engineers to design machines to manufacture complicated shapes and structures.  Engineering expertise and inventiveness characterized the business until 1990 when it merged with Avery International Corp. and ceased to exist as an independent entity.

The book captures in full color the variety of products available to businesses and families, from merchandise tags and mailing labels to gift wrap, paper dolls and crepe paper costumes and flowers.  It also recounts the personnel policies that made Dennison famous – the first private unemployment fund in the United States, a system for rewarding employee suggestions, a credit union, and amenities such as an in-plant library, medical and dental clinics, and separate club houses for male and female employees.  The monthly Round Robin kept all members of the Dennison “family” informed of developments in the business.

The book was made possible because of the extensive Dennison archive that was moved to California with the Avery Dennison Corporation but returned to Framingham in 2013.  Much of the collection is housed at the Framingham History Center and much of it is still to be explored.  The authors hope that this book will inspire researchers to dig deeper into the archives and further develop the story of Dennison and its people from the 1840s through the many accomplishments of the later twentieth century.

 Purchase “WELCOME to Dennison Manufacturing Co.” here