15 Sep 2014
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Medfield and the Fourth of July

A sizeable percent of the population leaves Medfield during the Fourth of July. But active celebration or not, the Town of Medfield has a proud and patriotic history concerning America’s independence and it played an important role that all town residents

Medfield and the Fourth of July Medfield and the Fourth of July Medfield and the Fourth of July

Medfield has always had a strong patriotic tie to Independence Day. It stems from the overwhelmingly patriotic spirit that was clearly evident here and seen from the first signs of troubles with Great Britain in the early 1770’s.

As early as 1773, when Bostonians were feeling their rights were being infringed, Medfield Town Meeting voted to support the cries of Samuel Adams and warn the British Government that “the Colonists have rights and the infringements of those rights are real.” The vote further stated that “Medfield stands ready to join with Boston or any other towns in any Constitutional measures for recovering, securing and defending our invaluable Rights and privileges, both civil and religious.” It instructed our Representative to “use his best endeavors in the General Assembly to have the full exercise of our just and invaluable rights and liberties restored and to use his utmost influence to end that most cruel, inhuman and unchristian practice known as the Slave Trade.”

In December of 1773, just two days before the Boston Tea Party, a Special Town Meeting was called where Medfield again joined with the Boston Committee of Correspondence in denouncing “the infringement of our rights by the British Parliament, especially the tax on tea.”  They ended the vote by recording; “We remain united with our brethren in Boston in one common cause.”

By 1774 the tone of the Medfield Town Meeting was even more defiant as it instructed our Representative to the General Court “not to submit or yield obedience to any acts of the British Parliament that infringes upon our natural and charter rights.”

Medfield then formed a Committee of Correspondence and sent delegates to the newly called Provincial Congress. Due to the crisis taking place, Medfield Town Meetings were being held on a weekly basis. The town then voted to double its stock of ammunition and raise tax revenue for that purpose. The Nov. 21, 1774 Town Meeting passed a vote of compliance with the resolves adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and voted that the resolution be entered into the Medfield records.

One hundred and fifty-three Medfield men signed their names to that resolution. The list, without exception, included the entire voting population of the town; showing there were evidently no Tories in Medfield. On Dec. 26, Town Meeting voted to form a company of 25 Minute-Men. As a result of the destruction of the tea dumped into Boston Harbor and the closing of the Port of Boston under the Intolerable Acts, Medfield voted to send money and supplies to aid the Bostonians. From Medfield came 132 pounds of pork, 402 pounds of cheese and 22 cart loads of wood.

When actual fighting broke out in Lexington and Concord, the Medfield Minute-Men responded. In all, 82 men marched from this town. When the Bunker Hill alarm came, the Medfield men again responded but did not arrive in time for the battle. Instead they stayed and took part in the siege of Boston. Medfield men were sent by General George Washington to aid in the attack against Quebec.

Samuel Cole, Jabez Boyden and Lemuel Thompson perished outside Fort Ticonderoga. Each year we filled our quotas of men from Medfield requested to serve in the Continental Army. We raised town taxes to pay for the war, including 40 shillings a month for each Medfield man enlisted into the Continental Army. William Tilden in his History of Medfield says: “it cannot be denied that the town manifested a spirit of genuine patriotism: 154 men from this town were in service during the Revolutionary War. The states of Massachusetts and Connecticut during the war sent one soldier for every seven of population, which was a larger proportion than that of any other state. The Town of Medfield sent one soldier for every five of population.”

In the years following the war, the Fourth of July here in Medfield, was a much celebrated joyous day that featured the reading of the Declaration of Independence and an official town-wide celebration. Great enthusiasm took place. Special sermons related to American Independence were given in the churches. The military of Medfield (all those between 18 and 45 were obliged to serve in those days) paraded through the streets of the town, headed by the local musicians with fifes and drums.

There would be the orator of the day giving a patriotic speech; the clergy and town officials would speak. In those early years, at the conclusion of the celebrations, all would head over to the Johnson Tavern, located where Town Hall is located today, to sit down for a dinner. Toasts were given and after each toast a cannon, located outside the tavern, would be fired.

 The musicians would play and all the guests would respond by drinking a glass of wine. In most cases there were up to 20 toasts given. Everyone from the President of the United States to the Army and Navy to the Massachusetts Agricultural Society to our Representatives would be toasted. The 20 or so toasts accompanied each by the wine appeared, according to early accounts, to have an influence upon the spirit of the company. It was by all accounts a lively Fourth of July.  

In more recent times, Medfield has lost much of its official celebration, with so many in the town leaving to go on vacation and celebrate at locations ranging from the beaches of the Cape to the lakes of Northern New England. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, long-time resident Edie O’Toole remembers a lawn party taking place the night before the Fourth outside the Congregational Church (now the ) where refreshments and hot dogs were served. The youth of the town often got carried away in celebrating and used the Fourth of July celebrations to burn vacant buildings or push burning wagons filled with hay through the town center. Throughout much of the early and mid 20th century the Fourth of July featured a baseball game. Some years the games were between the married and single men in the town and some years between the town team and the state hospital employee team.

The Medfield Drum and Bugle Corps performed at the State Hospital on the Fourth of July with a parade enjoyed by the hospital residents.  In the late 1930’s Alexander and Marguerite Allan bought the Block, where is located today, and opened The Paper Store. The Paper Store sold stationary, candy, wallets, magazines, tobacco products, newspapers, etc. At the time, fireworks were legal in Massachusetts and during the Fourth of July, The Paper Store attached a small shack to the Main Street side of the building. Here, fireworks, sparklers, cherry bombs, etc. were sold for the locals to celebrate our nation’s independence.

From the 1950’s until today, most Medfield residents go out of town to view a number of firework displays including those in Walpole, Needham and Franklin. Today there is no official town celebration. MEMO places the American flags along the telephone poles in the center of town. Area stores, in particular, display bunting and American flags from their buildings. Town residents put flags of all sizes outside or attached to their homes.

By and large, however, a sizeable percent of the population leaves Medfield during the Fourth of July. But active celebration or not, the Town of Medfield has a proud and patriotic history concerning America’s independence and it played an important role that all town residents can be proud of, wherever they celebrate.

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