Early History of the Charles River Meadowlands

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Oct. 28. 2017, 20 walkers explored the Meadowlands between Oak St. Extension and White Ave in Franklin.

(Quoted from Franklin: From Puritan Precinct to 21st Century Edge City, with permission of the author Eamon McCarthy Earls)


As the men of the [Wrentham, which originally included present day Franklin] rebuilt the settlement [following the devastation of King Phillips War], their families remained in Dedham...New townspeople were arriving from Medfield, and settling in the northwest part of town. The Medfielders were soon putting up houses and cutting down trees to feed the water-powered saw mill being built on Mine Brook.

Ever since European settlement began in the 1620s and 1630s, New Englanders had faced an extreme shortage of hard currency. Most trading involved swaps between towns and tribes, for example, furs in exchange for guns, corn in exchange for nails, or even school lessons. Some things, though, were simply too difficult to produce easily in New England. For example, bed frames were sometimes imported from England—a tremendous expense for poor farmers.

Although bed frames were expensive, other aspects of farming life were getting easier. After decades of wolf hunting, shrinking wolf populations were allowing farmers to put horses and cattle out to pasture with less supervision.


Especially along Mine Brook, wide, wet meadows made ideal grazing land for herds. These early ‘ranchers,’ were able to herd their livestock to the coast each year, loading animals onto ships bound for British sugar plantations in the Caribbean, where soldiers, planters, and slaves hungrily awaited fresh beef.

By the 1700s the new village on Mine Brook, was generating much of the Wrentham’s business. Two sawmills churned out boards, cattle waded around in the swamps, and on higher ground corn stalks took root. Residents were still subject to Wrentham’s laws, but felt increasingly independent from the rest of the town...