Edward Everett Square
Lava and Ice at Work
"A lump of puddingstone is a thing to look at, to dream upon, at go crazy with—From what cliff was it broken? Rolled by the waves of what ocean?
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1860.
600 million year ago the Boston Basin where you now stand was ringed with volcanoes whose molten lava flowed to the sea, creating the bedrock of Dorchester. Mile-high glaciers advanced and retreated across the region for the next 250 million years sculpting the face of the landscape. Soil and rocks left by the melting ice created hills and valleys, whose waters fed the mighty Neponset and smaller brooks and streams. Changes in the shoreline and the intermingling of salt and fresh water in the marshes led to abundant life in the coastal plain. Living with the Earth
"For thousands of years our ancestors lived with this land as part of the circle of life."
Massachusett-Ponicapoag Tribal Council, 2007.
The first known people in this area arrived at least 10,000 years ago. Native people traveled with the seasons between summer coastal fishing grounds and winter inland hunting areas leaving behind trails that have become Dorchester streets. In time they cultivated corn, beans, and squash. Descendents of the early peoples, known as the Massachusett, used their resources collectively to ensure the land and the sea would sustain them.
The colonists arrived in the 1630's with their custom of private land ownership and resource use. Initially, the Massachusett shared resources with the new arrivals, but conflict arose as the colonists claimed the land, enslaved or killed many of the native people and pushed the survivors inland.
"The soil of Dorchester is rocky but fertile and exceedingly productive."
Hayward's Gazetteer, 1839.
(Inscription under the photo in the center)
Rural Dorchester in the 1840's, 200 years after the first colonists divided the land for farms, fields and orchards.
Colonists found Dorchester abundant in natural resources: the sea plentiful with fish, the slopes rich in fertile land, and the main plateau covered with wood. After a grim winter the colonists built dwellings and a meeting house near what is now Edward Everett Square and fortified "Rock Hill", now Savin Hill. Each family took ownership of a home lot plus additional land for fields, orchards, and grazing. They soon clear-cut forests, built fences to protect their livestock, and cultivated successful farms.
Productive Farm Land
"In Dorchester once fine fruit did grow.."
Poem celebrating orchards on the Humphrey's Estate, 1917.
By the 1800's this area had become home to large estates where orchards and gardens produced the finest fruits and vegetables. Many of these were new varieties cultivated through experimentation and grown for the first time. Examples of these are: the Clapp's Favorite Pear, the Downer Cherry, the Dorchester Blackberry, and the President Wilder Strawberry.Feeding the Community-As Dorchester developed, many residents maintained a connection to the land by planting fruits and vegetables in their yards. These gardens have helped keep food on the table and provided comfort to new immigrants as they harvested and ate the traditional foods of their homeland. Even today urban programs work with youth to transform vacant lots into urban farms that provide fresh food for local residents.
(Inscription under the photo of the Food Project)
Young adults employed by the Food Project harvesting beans in Dorchester.Early 1900's postcard shows a statue of Edward Everett at the center of the square. The statue was later moved to Richardson Park and the bronze Clapp's Favorite Pear now sits in its place.
The population of Dorchester continued to grow. The railroad came to Dorchester in the 1840's. After 1869, when Dorchester residents voted for annexation to Boston, explosive real estate development divided the large estates and changed rural Dorchester into a densely populated community.