Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Tour - Stony Brook

Abt Hall - Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House.

I'll be leading this week's Saturday tour of the Stony Brook neighborhood. We'll start at the Stony Brook Orange Line T station and work our way down to Green street. I'll be talking about the changes in the district, from the time that wolves prowled the forest through the coming of the railroad and the settlement of German immigrants in the area. We'll visit James Michael Curley's church and the old Haffenreffer brewery complex - now the home to Sam Adams beer.

Tour starts at 11:00 AM, weather permitting, and is free. Come by and say hello.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moses Day - the Man and the Street

Mr Moses Day.

Blue line indicates the home of Moses Day. Red line indicates the home of his son, Moses H. Day. 1859.

The two Day properties - 1873.

Bird's Eye View map, 1888. View faces south-west over Parker Hill towards Jamaica Plain.

Sewell & Day Cordage Co. Between Parker street and Huntington avenue. (Bromley, 1884)

Jamaica Plain's Day street runs north from Centre street at Hyde Square towards Heath street. It originally connected with Heath street, but now stops where Minden street connects a block short of Heath street. Day, Centre and Heath streets all date far back into Jamaica Plain history, and all may originate to the 1662 Roxbury laying out of streets that gives us the earliest recorded street date. In 1825, another common date for street acceptance in Roxbury, the road between Centre and Heath streets was given the name Cross street (as shown on the 1859 map above).

So how did Cross street become Day street? The answer comes from the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds. In May of 1848, Benjamin Sewall and Moses Day, partners in Sewall and Day Cortage Company, purchased 8 acres of land from Joseph P. Shaw, then of New Orleans. In time, Day would buy part of the lot, with his house already built upon it, from his partner Sewall. In April of 1868, Cross street was renamed Day street, in honor of one of Roxbury's leading businessmen - along with owning the ropeworks, Day bought and sold land in Roxbury.

[In a correction to the original text, I now show the home of Moses Day at its correct location on Heath street adjacent to the house of William Heath. The house originally shown as belonging to Moses Day at Heath and Cross streets was actually owned by his son, Moses H. Day.]

t. The bottom map, from the same year, shows the Sewall and Day Cordage Company, between Parker street and Huntington avenue. Note the long, narrow building along Parker street. That was the rope walk, a traditional part of every rope factory. The longer the rope walk, the longer was the rope that could be made in one piece. Rope walks appear in Roxbury maps from the early/mid-19th Century. They were a fire hazard because of all the dry hemp and hot tar they contained, and the smell of tar made them unattractive as well. The newly filled land that makes up today's Fenway district was just the place to put a rope walk. Note that the 1884 map shows Sewall and Day owning land across Huntington avenue as well. That land would become the Museum of Fine Arts property soon after.

Sewall and Day opened their ropeworks in 1835. Day himself is noted for having modified the spinning jenny to assemble rope yarns in 1841. At a time when Boston ships carried a large share of American sea-going freight, rope-making would have been a critical industry for the area, and any improvement in manufacture would have given advantage to Boston's overseas traders.

Anyone interested in the Day family genealogy, please visit:

Special thanks to Glen Wallace and the Day family descendants for correcting and adding to this article.

Resources: American - Ropemaking
Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:

180:101 - 5/10/1848 Joseph P. Shaw to Benjamin Sewall and Moses Day
310:198 - 12/2/1862 Benjamin Sewall to Moses Day (part of same lot).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Creighton Street Got Its Name

Creighton street development plan - 1859.

Bromley Atlas, 1884.

Creighton st. 1895 (David Rumsey Collection).

As a follow-up to an earlier street name post, I've done some digging and added Hyde Square's Creighton street to the list of known street name origins. As so often happens in local history, I came about the source of Creighton street's name in a roundabout way. I was investigating the Blessed Sacrament Church property, which once was the site of the Withington Tavern. Phineas Withington sold the tavern and 3 acres of land to Phillip Wentworth for $6000 in 1805. The second map above, dated 1884, shows Elizabeth Wentworth still in posession of the property. It was Elizabeth who led me to the Creightons.

Addendum (9/29/09) In browsing the History of the First Church in Roxbury, I learned that after Phineas Withington sold his inn to Phillip Wentworth, he opened another inn on Naushon Island during the War of 1812.

The property plan at the top of the entry shows the Halsey Homestead Sites in 1859, with Creighton street in place - if only in the imagination of a surveyor. Notice the difference between the property plan and the 1884 map. On the 1859 plan, there were house lots laid out on either side of Creighton street. Twenty-five years later, Elizabeth Wentworth owned all the land on the east side of Creighton street. In fact, a deed search shows that Elizabeth purchased lots 22-27 in December of 1859, the same year the plan was drawn.

But what of the Creighton name? Elizabeth purchased the six house lots from Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton. In one bold stroke, we connect the Halsey name to Creighton - it's not often that it's that clear cut. Thomas Creighton was a Halsey, and his antecedent, Thomas Halsey, had owned the same land when Withington sold his tavern to Phillip Wentworth in 1805.

Unfortunately, Thomas Halsey's presence in Roxbury at the turn of the 19th Century has so far eluded my grasp. Thomas Lloyd Halsey was born in either Boston or Newburyport Massachusetts (depending on sources) in 1750, and died at Providence, Rhode Island in 1838, at 88 years old. Thomas had seven children, including another Thomas, who served as Consul to Buenos Aires during the early 1800s, and Harriet, who married Commodore John Orde Creighton, USN. They had six children, including Admiral Johnston Blakeley Creighton and Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton, whom we've already met. Various deeds list all six Creighton siblings as owner of the old Halsey estate.

That leaves me with two mysteries: how did the Halsey's get from Roxbury to Providence, where Harriet, mother of Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton, was born and died? And how did the children of Harriet - rather than Harriet's siblings - end up owning the property?

Unfortunately, I've been unable to nail down Thomas Halsey himself. A Thomas Halsey arrived at the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1630s, but he moved on to New York, settling on Long Island. Online sources all point to that earlier Thomas Halsey, and leave us wondering where our Thomas came from, and how his family ended up in Providence.

As a bonus to our Creighton exploration, I can tell you that Commodore Creighton served in the Mediterranean, where his notorious temper involved him in multiple cases of abuse of seamen and near-mutinies. If Creighton street was named for the man, and not for the family, then it carries an interesting origin indeed. Beatings, whippings, petitions to Congress and charges brought against the man bring us back to a time when naval service - and sea-going life in general - was closer to slavery than our modern ideas of military service. An online search for John Orde Creighton will tell the tale for those interested.

You never know where you'll end up when you start digging into the most prosaic of local history topics.


Thomas Lloyd Halsey genealogy
Thomas Lloyd Halsey papers
History of the First Church in Roxbury

Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:

23:85 - 6/11/1805: Phineas Withington to Phillip Wentworth.
283:82 - 12/30/1859: T.L.H. Creighton to Elizabeth Wentworth.