Your Recollections – Gone, But Not Forgotten
This portion of our website will consist of your personal recollections of the Town of Norfolk and life within it - we would be happy to publish your memories - they can be as simple as your reflections on taking the quarts of milk in from the metal box on the porch, the smell of the ink from the school's mimeograph machine, making butter in kindergarten with a glass butter churn with hand cranked paddles, swimming in Mann's Pond, attending the Center School, listening to concerts at the old bandstand on Town Hill or propping up a clothes line with a wooden pole, your recollections of daily life of even fairly recent times will soon pass into history. With the turn of another century, your thoughts and recollections will service as as a means of putting daily life and historic events into the context of the time for future researchers and just plain curious individuals such as ourselves - after all isn't that why you're here !
As Norfolk's Historical Commission we are charged with preserving records of the changing methods and patterns of everyday work and life as this will comprise an important legacy for the future. The record of the recent past has yet to find its way into many history books - your recollections or everyday jobs, duties, activities within our town will help ev eryone gain an appreciation for how such events have changed in recent decades. - just as surely as the plastic jugs of milk in the supermarket have inevitably replaced those glass bottles on the porch that Big Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning.
In this section we will also publish a series of photographs, images and text to provide examples of some of our past and the historic structures that once graced the town of Norfolk with their presence. Though now gone due to the crush of the wrecker's ball, fire or other lost battles with the furies of nature, their memory and images will reside within these pages as testimony to what once was and could have been. Hopefully these images and words, will demonstrate and illuminate some of the reasons why we are dedicated to the preservation of our town's history and historic structures and why we will continually strive to preserve and maintain Norfolk for the use and enjoyment of future generations. These once proud symbols and examples of historic architecture continue to ground us inexorably to the past and yet provide a foundation for us to move forward to explore the future in our new century and beyond.
We are always interested in any information, documents, photos or other items relating to the history of Norfolk and our surrounding areas. If you would like us to publish your recollections, have information or items regarding the history of your house or any other aspects of life in Norfolk and would like to see them included in these pages - just submit them to me via email or give me a call.
Norfolk Historical Commission
Betsy Pyne, Chairman
The Norfolk, Massachusetts of 1890
Norfolk is a farming town, with some manufactures, lying in the midst of the southwestern section of Norfolk County, about 23 miles southwest of Boston, on the New York and New England Railroad. The stations are Highland Lake, Norfolk (centre) and City Mills. The last two are post-offices. The other villages are Pondville in the southeast, and Stony Brook in the south part of the town. Norfolk is bounded on the north by Medway, Millis and Medfield, on the east by Walpole and Foxborough, on the south by Wrentham, and west by Franklin. The assessed area is 9,056 acres. There are 3,772 acres of woodland.
The surface of the land is uneven, somewhat rocky, and in the northeast and southeast, hilly. Stop Brook runs northerly along the eastern border, affording power at Highland Lake ("Campbell's Station" formerly); and Mill River, flowing in the same direction in the western part, drives the machinery at City Mills. Popolatic Pond, of 74 acres, in the northwest section of the town, and several smaller bodies of water near the centre and at the south and southeast, diversify the quiet scenery.
The crops which were proportionately large were cranberries, apples and strawberries. The value of the aggregate product of the 94 farms, in 1885, was $85,726. Forty-nine persons were employed in the woollen mill, 18 in the paper mill, and 30 persons were engaged in making straw goods. Other manufactured products were lumber (1 mill), metallic goods, mixed textiles, and boots and shoes. The value of the manufactures was $295,592. The population was 825 and the legal voters numbered 178. The valuation in 1888 was $467,318, with a tax-rate of $11.50 on $1,000. There were then 183 taxed dwelling-houses.
The town has six public-school buildings; and the Norfolk Public Library in 1888 had 250 volumes. The "Enterprise" is the weekly newspaper of the town. There are two churches, the Baptist and the Congregationalist.
This locality: was for a long period known as North Wrentham. The present town was formed from parts of Wrentham, Franklin, Medway and Walpole, and incorporated February 23, 1870. The boundary line with Wrentham was revised in 1871.
Dr. John Edwards Holbrook, a distinguished naturalist, and author of "American Herpetology" and other important works, was a resident of this town at the time of his death, September 8, 1871.
pp. 505-506 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890
Norfolk's Gone, But Not Forgotten Structures
The Center School
This school was located across from the town hill, next to the Federated Church. It was the primary educational facility in the town of Norfolk for many years. It was moved up to the town hill in the early 1800s and remained their until it was demolished in 1950.
Dorothy Campbell recalled how in the 1920s there were two classes to a room and there were only four class rooms in total. Each teacher was responsible for two classes. Once a week the girls had sewing and while they were sewing the boys went across the street and up town hill to the Tramp House in order to have "Sloyds" manual training classes. Although there were no hot lunch programs at the time, Olive Day remembered having hot cocoa brought into the school in large milk cans in the wintertime - "No marshmallow though". Phil Evans could recall that in 1899 at the age of nine, his job as the new boy in town at the school, was to go across the street to the Mann's store and pump a pail of fresh water, once a week, to be used for drinking water. The Center School at that had no running water.
There were at least seven schools in Norfolk at one time. The Center School, City Mills, Sharps Field on Diamond Street, Bush near Buckley and Mann on the corner of Maple Street, City Mills near the cemetery on School Street and the Cleveland Street School, among others. School children in the pre - bus days either walked to school or were picked up by the school "barge" - an old stagecoach that made the rounds. Norfolk's stagecoach was later sold to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. Will be discussing these schools and the barge in much greater detail as we continue to update these pages.
Major Richardson's Stone Store
86 Myrtle Street
This store made from stone stood across from the pond in City Mills. Built in 1819 by Major Eli Richardson, who operated a cotton mill at the site, it provided merchandise for the workers in the City Mills factories for many years. The store also served as the first Franklin Post Office while the hall on the second floor was used for rehearsals for the Norfolk brass band and the City Mills Fife and Drum Corps. It was
taken down in 1914 by William Swett, the then owner of Major Richardson's magnificent house, because it blocked his view of the water and he wanted to extend his front yard further down to the edge of the roadway. As late as 1930 Norfolk Day celebrations were held on Swett's expansive front lawn as residents pitched food tents and celebrated with picnicking and fun activities. The big red barn from the Richardson estate, which had housed Swett's impressive collection of automobiles, still remains on property at the curve in the road, on the right hand side as you head towards present day Franklin - although his impressive house no longer is on the site - as Swett, in a dispute with the town of Norfolk, had it torn down board by board in 1935. Some say however that the Major's house was reconstructed in neighboring Wrentham and is now hiding underneath the vinyl siding that covers the present day Pond House on Rt 140.
City Mills Post Office
Corner of Main and Grove Street
This post office was believed to have stood near the corner of Main and Grove Street Built in mid 1800s it has to have been one of the smallest post offices in the United States. If anyone has any further information re: it we would love to hear from you !
From an advertising brochure for Sumner's Restaurant (Norfolk, Massachusetts):
SITUATED in the centre of a quiet country village. The very attractive house is equipped with all modern conveniences. Spacious screened piazza. All food served is home cooked.
STEAK DINNERS OUR SPECIALTY
OUR OWN VEGETABLES AND PRESERVES
OPEN ALL YEAR
LUNCHEONS, DINNERS, WEEK END PARTIES
SERVED ON SCREENED PIAZZA
PARKING SPACE FOR AUTOS
TWENTY-THREE miles from Boston or Providence. Good train service: - Eight trains daily to and from Boston. Auto route from Boston, Dedham, Norwood and Walpole; or from Providence, Pawtucket, Attleboro and Wrentham. Continue on the Boston and Providence state road. At Sharon Duck Farm turn North and follow this road three miles to Norfolk Railroad Station.
Gone, But Not Forgotten – Personal Recollections
Sumbit your memories to us!
When my sister-in-law and her family first came to Norfolk in 1917 there was a sign at the railroad station that said "Norfolk - High,Dry and Health " Don't know what happened to that sign...
– Thelma Ravinski (February 17, 2003)
I grew up on 40 Grove Street. So many things for a kid to do right in my back yard. On Saturday mornings for a couple of years my friend Chris and I would go to "Mr. Wright's" farm to feed the 4 cows and 2 pigs. Each cow had its own special diet and answered by name. Across the street were strawberry patches, peas and green beans. Dr. Wright would have us pick the vegetables and bring them back to the house. He let us pick at the food and paid us a fair rate. Just down the dirt road past the strawberry patches was a little frog pond. The bull frogs were huge and fun to catch. Every now and then we'd get a water snake too!
During the summer I'd work at the little preschool as a "helper" since I wasn't old enough to get an "adult" job yet. I was paid $20/week to help out the teachers with activities and play and watch the kids on the play ground. Behind my house were wetlands. We would hike in the spring and summer looking for wildlife, and would track the rabbit droppings on the ice to "rabbit island" in the middle of the swamp in winter. Deer, hawks, snakes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, owls, salamanders and many others were amongst some of our favorite animals to spot. The wild flowers were abundant and I remember hearing that you could be fined $50 for picking a Lady Slipper, the state flower, so we always just stopped to look "not touch". We'd build forts out of ferns and pine needles and swing on the tire over the old oak. If we weren't picking blueberries in our back woods, we were climbing pine trees, making forts or ice skating on one of the many ponds near by. One of my favorites was lake #### past Grove over the wooden bridge. Pete (old best friend) and I would finish our paper rouute (Sun Chronicle) and stop on the bridge to wait for the train. We would stand on the second wooden rail slightly elevated to feel like we were flying as the train would rush underneath passing swiftly.
Down on Main Street past the fire station was a dirt road up to the old town pond. I actually took swimming lessons there. That was a great place to swim and fish. Plenty of bass would circle the little pond and you could see them below on the concrete diving block. We would fish anywhere there was water...even if we never caught anything. At the lake we would hike to the backside away from the street for peace and quiet as we climbed the train bridge and dropped our poles into the stream that left the lake. We would tease that we felt the track vibrating to make the other scared and go down below.
Stony Brook was another wonderful place to hike. We would go the entire trail around the lake and count how many animals we saw along the way.
Before they built the new minimall across from Daley's Sunoco, we would explore the old abandoned hotel that was said to have been the place where George Washington stayed one night. Cubscouts at St. Mary's Catholic church and the Federated church's basements. My Cub Scout Pack Leader Mr. James made sure we had a good time at pinewood derby car races and trips to see the fire engines at the station. One of the hotspots for kids on Friday nights was "Skatetown USA". I believe it closed down, but was the best place for arcade games, popcorn and roller skating. We'd skate to the music and roller games and if you were lucky a girl would let you hold her hand during the "slow skate". Basketball games in friends' driveways, rollerblade hockey at the Centennial School tennis courts and kite flying at the elementary school football field. Motorcycle riding down dirt roads and skateboarding anywhere we could find smooth asphalt. We would "ollie" the pot holes as a challenge.
I liked going to the town pharmacy candy aisle. There were so many items to choose from, and the pharmacist ( don't remember his name) knew us by last name. "How are the Vick boys doing today". On half days of school friends and I would go to Andy's pizza for cheese fries and pizza. Andy welcomed everyone and gave special service to our family of 8 when we came early on Saturdays for breakfast. Norfolk House of Pizza made the best pizza around. Oh how I loved growing up in Norfolk.
– SV (February 17, 2004)