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).


  1. As a Moses Day Gr-Gr-dau, the address used in an
    1875 wedding invitation was HEATH Street - and Sewall-Day Cordage letterhead Commerce St return addy.

    Did U use Glenn Wallace - the DAY Family Historian for Ur source?

    Mimi Taylor

  2. Mimi

    I got all the information off the internet, except the property deeds. Is there any chance of getting that wedding invitation scanned? I'd love to post a copy of it with this article.

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