Happy Birthday Norwood Massachusetts


Aaron Guild, featured on Norwood’s Town Seal

Ezra Morse and Josiah Fisher were granted permission to use 14 acres of the Purgatory Swamp in 1697 and were the first known settlers to live in what is now Norwood. Morse’s grist mill in Dedham had been causing problems for farmers downstream who needed the water for growing crops, but the mill was useful and needed as well. The solution was to move the mill to the Southern part of town.  The mill was located roughly in the area near present day Morse Street, between pleasant and Washington. It was likely close to the rear of the Norwood Space Center and the Certainteed plant on Water St near the East Walpole line.

Ezra Morse built the first house in Norwood in 1678, a typical saltbox style dwelling for the time, on the nearby hill which became known as Morse Hill. In 1868, 4 years before Norwood became a town, his descendant George H. Morse tore Ezra’s house down and built a new house on the same property in roughly the same location. The George H. Morse House still stands at 1285 Washington St, overlooking South Norwood.

The George H Morse House

The population of South Dedham grew and by 1717, the settlers were tired of traveling into Dedham Village to attend services at the Church of Christ so they petitioned to start their own Parish in South Dedham. The removal of so many parishioners would be a large tax loss for the Church, and Dedham steadfastly refused several times. To solve the problem, parishioners started holding services in private homes in South Dedham 1722.  Dedham agreed to the request in 1728 and on October 18, 1730 the General Court incorporated the area as the South Parish of Dedham.

West Dedham (now Westwood) could not agree with South Dedham as to the location of a new meetinghouse, so West Dedham returned to the Dedham Christ Church.  In 1736 South Dedham erected their first meetinghouse near the present day Morrill Memorial Library. Chosen as the pastorate of the new Congregational Church was Reverend Thomas Balch of Salem, a Harvard graduate. The town records state “he was deservedly highly esteemed for he was a man of talents and intellectual attainments. He was orthodox and highly regarded as a preacher.” The Balch school in South Norwood is named in his memory.

The first Balch Schoolhouse, built in 1867, was named in honor of Rev Thomas Balch. Photo courtesy of the Norwood Historical Society

Two year later, in 1738, South Dedham requested their own schoolhouse and in 1740 built the first school near the site of the present day Callahan school. The school was far from perfect. Teachers had to travel from Dedham each day, sessions were short and only boys were allowed at school, but it was a start. In 1754 South Dedham hired their first schoolmaster and 4 years later girls were allowed to attend the school. This school was closed in 1788.

Now with it’s own meetinghouse and it’s own school, South Dedham continued to grow, establishing the Old Parish Cemetery in 1741. This served as South Dedham’s only burial ground until 1880 when Highland Cemetery was created.

Old Parish Cemetery in Norwood.

South Dedham had no commercial center, so residents still had to travel the 5 miles into Dedham village for dry goods, materials or other supplies. They also continued to pay taxes to Dedham even though they were now establishing their own services and not benefiting from improvements in the village. Resentment was building.

Two events in 1870 and 1871 finally led to the break between Dedham and South Dedham.

South Dedham had replaced the original schoolhouse with two more. Schoolhouse Number 6 was located near present Lenox and Cross street. Schoolhouse Number 7, also known as the “Little Red Brick Schoolhouse”, stood on the corner of Pleasant and Sumner streets until 2009 when it was moved and meticulously rebuilt on the grounds of the George H Morse house. But South Dedham still didn’t have a High School. In 1870, Frank O. Winslow (of the Winslow Brothers tannery) petitioned Dedham to allow a High School to be built in South Dedham. When the vote failed to pass, talk of secession from Dedham began.

Brick Schoolhouse Number 7, also known as the “Little Red Brick Schoolhouse”, 1942

Norwood also had two fire companies- Washington Number 7 near present day St Catherine’s Hall and America Number 10 near present day Walnut Ave and Washington St. Very low tech operations, their tools were mainly tubs of water with bucket brigades and later hand pumps carried via a horse carriage. More than just an emergency service, the firehouses served as social halls, and the men were a proud band of brothers. Washington Number 7 had a tradition of ringing the firehouse bell on the Fourth of July to celebrate the holiday. Dedham Selectmen voted to ban the bell ringing in 1871, and fire Company steward George E. Metcalf defiantly rang the bell anyway.

Washington Number 7 Firehouse.

For many South Dedham residents, these two events were enough to convince them to break away from Dedham. On December 22, 1871 a meeting was called in Village Hall and a committee was selected to petition the formation of a new town, made up of South Dedham and small portion of Walpole. Eighty percent of the village signed the petition.

Village Hall, Norwood, 1885

On February 10th, 1872, the following Bill was presented to the State Senate (you can click here for a PDF or scroll below)

The Bill was approved by the General Court and signed by Massachusetts Governor William B. Washburn on February 23, 1872, 148 years ago today.

Honoring Norwood’s Veterans

Norwood has a long history of proud military service, and the town and townspeople have done an excellent job of paying tribute to those veterans.

United States Marines from Norwood march through South Norwood in this late 1960’s 4th of July Parade Photo. My grandfather Russell H Webber is the Marine in the center.

Downtown Norwood

Located in the center of town is the Norwood Municipal Memorial Building. Also known as the Town Hall, this building stands as a tribute to the veterans of Norwood. It was dedicated ninety years ago today, on November 11, 1928.

Just outside Memorial Hall are plaques with the names of all those Norwood veterans who served from all conflicts and wars up until World War I.


On Veteran’s Day 2002, the town dedicated four more wooden plaques inside Memorial Hall, commemorating the 101 Norwood veterans who died serving in WWI, WWII, The Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.

Outside the Town Hall is a cannon captured from German forces in World War I.

On the northwest corner of the Norwood Town Common is a beautiful 20 foot high statue, “Protector’s of the American Way”  which pays tribute to all of Norwood’s veterans. Created by Woburn artist Robert Shure, it was made possible by a donation from Norwood resident and veteran of two wars, Frank Simoni. The statue was dedicated in a grand ceremony on September 15, 1991, and depicts our military guarding an American family.


Here is the statue in 2018.


This monument, also located on the Norwood Town Common on Washington street reads:

“Dedicated to the heroic valor and patriotic spirit of the men and women of the town of Norwood who served in the armed forces of the United States of America and all its wars.”

Heading East from the Town Common on Nahatan St, you will pass under the George T. Lee Memorial Bridge.

Col. Lee, a Norwood High graduate, was a fighter pilot in World War II who flew an impressive 258 combat missions in Europe and became the youngest Colonel in the air corps at that time. He died on active duty at the age of 35 in 1954. In 1988, the Bridge was named in his honor.

Aaron Guild Park Area

South on Washington street around a quarter of a mile away from the Town Common in Aaron Guild Park, there are several monuments to Norwood veterans.

This monument was dedicated by the Norfolk County Marine Corps League in 1957 to recognize and salute the service of United States Marines.


The inscription reads

In Memory of

All Marines of Norfolk County

Who Gave Their Lives

For Our Country

This beautiful bench was donated in 2007 by the Norwood high School Class of 1948.

Dedicated to Those

Men and Women who

Served in the Armed Forces

During the Korean Conflict

There’s also a stone marker commemorating the 5 Norwood men who fought in the Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.


Around the corner heading west up Guild street from Aaron Guild Park in front of the Morrill Memorial Library is a stone marker marking the spot where Aaron Guild dropped his plow when he received news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The story of Aaron Guild making it to Lexington in time to fire upon retreating British soldiers is often repeated in Norwood.

Near This Spot Capt Aaron Guild On April 19, 1775 Left Plow In Furrow, Oxen Standing And Departing For Lexington, Arrived In Time To Fire Upon The Retreating British

Aaron Guild an his oxen on the Norwood Town Seal.

The town seal bears an image of Guild and his oxen,and both Guild street and Guild park are named after him.

Highland Cemetery

There are over 4000 veterans buried at Highland Cemetery in Winter Street, mostly in private or family lots. In 1973, the Town of Norwood converted a plot of land in the center of the cemetery adjacent to the cemetery office as a Veteran’s section. Over 170 veterans are buried in this section today.

The annual Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day parades both end near this section every year.

American Legion Post No. 70 dedicated this bronze memorial tablet to Norwood’s WWI soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in 1921. It sits just West of the Veteran’s section.

In Memory Of Their Comrades

Who In The World War on Land and Sea

Fought Valliantly, Suffered, Endured,

Gave All In Service And Gained

Through Death Immortal Life



In 1896, The House of Representatives authorized the Committee on Naval Affairs in Washington to donate a “condemned cannon and 4 pyramids of cannon balls” to George K. Bird Post, No. 169, Grand Army of The Republic to be placed in Highland Cemetery. The monument is dedicated to the South Dedham soldiers who died in the Civil War (1861-1865, a decade before South Dedham became Norwood).



Directly in front of the cannon is a memorial to the unknown dead from that same conflict, donated by the Grand Army of the Republic’s Women’s Corps in 1905.


In the newer area in the rear of the cemetery, at the top of the hill, sits this beautiful tribute to Norwood’s 154 Lithuanian war veterans and the 7 who lost their lives. The monument stood outside St George’s church in South Norwood from 1949, until the church was closed in 2005 when it was moved to Highland Cemetery.


Norwood Memorial Airport

In 1946 the War Department in Washington gave the airport to the Town of Norwood. The facility was officially named the Norwood Memorial Airport, in memory of Norwood residents who lost their lives in World War II, but no formal dedication ceremony was performed until 2003, when Norwood’s Veteran’s Agent Ted Mulvehill rectified the oversight.

Disabled Veteran’s Memorial Park

This triangular park, bounded by Walpole St (Route 1A), Chapel Street and Berwick street, is a memorial for all Norwood’ disabled veterans.

Street Signs

For the past 20 years, plaques have been placed on corners near almost 60 fallen veteran’s homes, to recognize those Norwood residents who bravely gave their lives while serving their country.

This sign is on the corner of Railroad Ave and School st was placed to honor my great uncle, Horace Webber, who served in the 117th Infantry Airborne division. Horace died during the Battle of the Bulge in November 18, 1944. The family resided at 286 Railroad Ave.

Lance Corporal Richard Murphy was killed on June 15, 1968 in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. His plaque stands at the island at the intersection of Prospect St and Winter Street across from Highland Cemetery. He grew up at 193 Vernon street.


Norwood holds parades annually on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and people turn out in droves to thank them for their service.


July 4th, 2003

Memorial Day 2015

We owe an enormous debt to all our veterans, so please take the time to thank them whenever possible.

1903 July Fourth Parade

My great grandfather, Norwood resident Edgar Webber, took these photos of the Native American “Red Men” marching in the Norwood 4th of July Parade.

The first photo is near the intersection of Winter street and Norwood Central Station. The rear of Norwood Hospital cuts off Winter street in this area today.

He apparently let one of them use his horse, and marked it near center right of the photo below.