Happy second Monday in October, Wellesley. On the holiday, which is officially recognized as Columbus Day by the United States government, federal offices will be closed.
As for what’s closed in Wellesley:
Wellesley Public Schools will be closed.
Wellesley’s RDF will be closed.
Wellesley town buildings and offices will be closed.
Wellesley Free Library will be closed.
The Tolles Parsons Center will be closed.
Parking meters in Wellesley will be free.
Regular Town of Wellesley schedules will resume on Tuesday, October 15. Please check the Town of Wellesley website for specific hours.
The US government says one thing, some states say another
Across the country according to Pew Research, “Columbus Day is one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays. It’s one of 10 official federal holidays, which means federal workers get the day off. And because federal offices will be closed, so will most banks and the bond markets that trade in U.S. government debt (though the New York Stock Exchange will remain open).”
New England states that call it Indigenous Peoples Day:
Maine (as of April 2019)
New England states that call it Columbus Day:
World of Wellesley invites the community to attend a special presentation of “First Light Flashback: A Performance by Annawon Weeden.” Weeden says the word “Wampanoag means ‘People of the First Light’ due to our geographic location as the furthest eastern tribe.”
Born and raised in Charlestown, Rhode Island among tribal community relatives of Narragansett and Pequot lineage through his father, Annawon now resides in his mother’s Wampanoag community in Mashpee. Following in his father’s footsteps, Annawon began sharing the culture of his tribes with his family during public programs and performances at a young age. For decades, Annawon has worked at Plymouth Plantation as a museum interpreter and outreach educator and at Boston Children’s Museum as a Native program specialist. He has spoken at Wellesley Public Schools over 20 times.
The original property deed for my little piece of Wellesley heaven was written out by hand in the mid-1800s in loopy cursive handwriting. It’s a thing of beauty. One letter flows into the next, all slightly slanted toward the right, with lots of flourishes and curlicues. It was hard for me to decipher the 150+ year-old legal document, and I grew up at a time when the Palmer method of handwriting was the gold standard of penmanship. Chicken scratch was always more my style, despite an early education spent laboring away at rows of lower case n’s with two humps, lower case m’s with three humps, and capital Q’s that looked like fancy 2’s. Some of you know what I’m talking about.
I recently got the chance to see the piece of living history that is my deed on a computer screen at Wellesley Town Hall. As part of the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds Community Outreach Program, William P. O’Donnell, Register of Deeds for Norfolk County, and Alicia A. Gardner, Director of Support Services of the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, came to pay a call to the good people of our fine town. Their goal: to spread awareness about how the Registry works today. It’s been a wild ride over the past 200 years for the historic record-keeping government agency. The Norfolk County of Deeds was started in 1793 and is one of the oldest registries in the country. Since its inception, the registry has moved from scribes scratching away with quills dipped in ink pots to office staff who, armed with just a few key terms and a laptop, can bring up deeds and land records in record time.
In the Selectmen’s Meeting Room at Wellesley Town Hall, Gardner asked me a few questions to get going. I wanted to see the scanned computer image of the original deed of my home. No problem, she said, but some properties are easier to look up than others. For example, just typing in an address doesn’t guarantee a quick search. Land records in the 1700s and 1800s did not require addresses to appear on deed documents. That didn’t become part of the process until 1969. My home was built over 100 years before that, so my original deed is listed by title number. That’s not exactly a list of digits I can rattle off as easily as my Social Security number. No matter, it was easy enough for Gardner to pull up the records based on name and address, both of which appear on the updated deed from when our home most recently changed ownership.
The records reflected that our property had turned over remarkably few times, given its age. When we moved in, neighbors had told me the previous family had lived in the area so long — “forever” was the term, I believe — that a nearby street was named after them. I was also told the massive peony beds were “over 100 years old”, and that I should be able to find an historic home plaque in a drawer somewhere. Maybe the kitchen. I found the street the neighbors mentioned, and the plaque was, in fact, in a kitchen drawer. The peonies, like proper ladies, didn’t reveal their age, but I’ve tended them with the care to which they’re entitled given their rumored long years.
Who owned it first?
But what about the history of my property before my property became part of the land records, I wanted to know. Who owned the land before 1793, that storied year of when land records began? How did a house end up on the land in the 1800s? Answers to these questions are going to take more than just a few key strokes, I found out. So although I didn’t come away with all the information related to my property, I was pointed in the right direction to continue my research.
Gardner also printed out an official copy of my deed, certified with an official stamp. “This document is as legal as the original deed you received back when you closed on your property,” she assured me. The price was free, just for showing up at the Registry’s office hours. Had I instead visited the Registry’s Customer Service Center at 649 High Street in Dedham (across the street from the Norfolk County Superior Court), the cost would have been a whopping $1. Don’t ever let any outside company “search” your deed for you and provide you with an official copy for a mere $75 (or more). Although not illegal for companies to do this, it’s a total waste of your money, and feels a little scam-like.
If you can’t make it to the Registry, you can send a request by mail to:
Norfolk County Registry of Deeds
Copy of Document Request
649 High Street
Dedham, MA 02026.
The cost by mail is $2.00 for the first page, $1.00 for each additional page.
The digital age
Moving records into the digital age is without a doubt what O’Donnell is most proud of over his 17 years as Register of Deeds. In 2015, the Registry started working with Xerox Services to take over 250,000 hand-written deeds from 1793 to 1900, scan them, and transcribe them. The transcription process was taken on to ensure that historical records will be legible to future generations, and the information on them will be read correctly. “We’ve gone from handwritten records to document imaging so that all land records can be accessible to residents,” O’Donnell said.
The Norwood resident serves as an elected official. In the 2018 general election he ran unopposed. Out of 312,152 votes cast, O’Donnell got 229,410 of them, or 98.9% of the vote. He’s been Register of Deeds since 2002, and has gotten the thumbs up from voters four times, unopposed each election cycle except for 2004. He is a graduate of Boston College Law School, Georgetown University, and Xaverian Brothers High School. O’Donnell was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar Association in 1985.
Services the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds performs:
- Provides copies of Deed or other land documents
- Files a Homestead Declaration
- Records recent Mortgage Discharges
- Provides information on foreclosure assistance, home buying and more
October 23rd seminar — find out how to find out all there is to know about your property:
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will hold a Computer Seminar on Wednesday, October 23, 4:30pm – 5:30pm . It will be an informational seminar of computer assisted land records research and will be held at the Registry. The program will include a brief presentation, written reference materials, and hands-on exercises.
To register, go to the Customer Service Center at 649 High Street, Dedham, or contact Alicia Gardner at 781-461-6104 or [email protected]
Registry phone is 781-461-6101
Registry email is [email protected]
Registry building hours are Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm
Recording hours are 9am – 4pm
Temps reached into the 80s Saturday, making for a beautiful day. Mrs. Swellesley was off hiking in western Mass with friends. I was laying low, resting my legs in advance of a sure-to-grueling 5K road race.
OK, I guess I’ll actually pop over to the Babson College pop-up exhibit of Sir Isaac Newton artifacts that I signed up for back in July. How boring can it be?
As it turns out, not boring at all.
Sure, as I assembled in the lobby of the Sorenson Center I realized my worst fears. Asked by a visiting curator from the Huntington Library in California what drew us to this exhibit, the majority of the group responded that they were engineering grads from Olin College. A Wellesley College instructor also was in the mix. Then there was me, a lowly wordsmith looking for a touch of enlightenment.
While I know my basic Newtonian facts, such as the Big 3 laws and that he didn’t discover gravity by getting bonked on the head by an apple, I didn’t quite appreciate the extent to which he was one of those Ben Franklin types who was the best at seemingly everything he did. That he was doing STEM before there was STEM.
Not only was this down-to-earth 17th- and 18th-century figure a great mathematician and scientist, but the Master of the Mint, an alchemy enthusiast, and “the most learned religious scholar of his time,” according to Huntington’s Joel Klein, an alchemy expert himself. Newton’s religious research, including his own blasphemous beliefs, mainly came to light after his death, when collectors like Babson acquired his works at auction.
“No problem was too big for Newton,” Klein asserted.
Because this exhibit was so small, featuring about a dozen items enclosed in 4 cases borrowed from Harvard, attendees were forced to zero in on what was before them. It reminded me of The Raconteurs show I’d just attended at the House of Blues, where attendees were required to lock their phones in pouches to compel them to stare at Jack White and his band mates for 90 minutes instead of holding up and checking their phones during the show.
On display at Babson from Sept. 20-22 was just a sampling of the massive Newton collection assembled by Grace Babson, first wife of college founder Roger Babson. Roger Babson was known to have a fascination with Newton’s laws, applying them to business, as well as with the concept of anti-gravity.
The Newton exhibit, set in a black box theatre, included an original edition of Principia, THE math book, with Newton’s hand-scrawled notes in the margins. Also on display were very old coins, at least one of which was clipped, or cut off around the edges. Schemers did this to sell off the silver and still use the coin for its own value. Though they did so at the risk of being burned, hung or drawn and quartered. Such ploys were high crimes at the time, Klein said.
A cryptic Newton sketch related to his efforts to discover the philosopher’s stone, which in theory could turn base metals into silver or gold, also made for interesting viewing. Especially after Klein noted Newton’s focus on the substance antimony, and something about the “menstrual blood of a sordid whore.”
I didn’t see that coming.
Nor did I foresee myself reserving a book called Newton and the Counterfeiter from the library after my visit. But I did.
The Wellesley Hills Fire Department Headquarters on Route 9 was for the 18th year the location of the town’s annual remembrance ceremony to observe the events of September 11, 2001 and honor the 2,977 civilians and first responders who died in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. About 70 Wellesley residents, first responders, and other town employees gathered to once again hear the somber toll of the bell and hear the names of town residents who died in the terrorist attacks. The gathering ended on an appropriately solemn note, as all bowed their heads to the mournful wail of Taps, played by bugler Kim Shaw, a Library Associate at Wellesley College and a member of the US Coast Guard Reserves.
Rabbi Moshe Bleich from Wellesley Weston Chabad provided the benediction and said, “That fateful day will always be in our hearts…give strength and comfort to the survivors so that they may find purpose in their lives.” He led the crowd in prayer for “a world of justice, compassion, and peace.”
Board of Selectmen members Lise Olney, Beth Sullivan Woods, Tom Ulfelder, and Chair Marjorie Freiman were in attendance. Freiman remarked, “What we do today is to come together and pay our greatest respects to, and honor those, who were taken from us or injured by this senseless act of terror.”
Wellesley residents who lost their lives in the attacks were named: Neilie Casey; Edmund Glaser; Patrick Quigley; and John Cahill.
As the oldest one among public schools, the Wellesley High School and Needham High School football rivalry is historic. Commemorating this tradition is a boulder with a football and words on it at Morton Field, site of the first game back in 1882.
As we reported early in 2019, thanks to the support of Needham and Wellesley Rotary Clubs, a clean-up of the increasingly dingy boulder was planned. The effort helps to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first graduating class from Wellesley High School (then known as West Needham High School), according to Tory DeFazio, who spearheaded the project.
“As you can see it’s a vast improvement and one can now read the wording of the boulder as intended for the Centennial in
1982,” DeFazio says. “Hopefully this year, we can use this as a photo op site for a group photo of the Needham & Wellesley football captains as we get near the 2019 Thanksgiving Day game, this year hosted by Wellesley.”
The Wellesley Historical Society is readying for its 2nd annual New England Craft Beer Experience on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 4-6pm at the Sunset Terrace, Wellesley Country Club, 300 Wellesley Ave.
A $45 ticket will open a whole new world beyond more mainstream beers, plus covers food. You’re encouraged to order tickets by Sept. 16 here: https://squareup.com/store/wellesley-historical-society