Dogwood Lane

The Quarterly Journal of the Mary May Binney Wakefield Arboretum ___________________________________

Volume Three, Issue 4 - Summer 2021
Features and Objects, Part 2:
Objects and Artifacts That Reveal Intriguing Tidbits of History
This edition of Dogwood Lane is the second of a two-part series looking at the features, objects, and artifacts that help tell the story of the ten generations of the family that called this place home. This quarterly tells stories through objects and artifacts that reveal interesting details and tidbits of forgotten history about the lives of those who lived here over several hundred years. 
Spearhead of the First People
In 2010, students participating in the Summer Archeology Institute program were excavating the area surrounding the early-18th century farmhouse when they discovered a spearhead. The excavation yielded many artifacts however this spearhead, measuring three inches in length, is a reminder of the rich history and the cultural practices of native people that lived in this area for over 15,000 thousand years prior to the European invasion and conquest of the New World. In 1620, at the time of first contact between the Massachuseuk tribes and the pilgrims from England, the Blue Hills was home to many native settlements. "The Massachuseuk derived their name...from the sacred hill Massa-adchu-es-et, which lies about seven miles inland from the Atlantic. Massa means 'large,' adchu means 'hill,' es is a diminutive suffix, and et a locative suffix or identifier of place. So the word translates roughly as 'large hill place,' or 'at the great hill.'"1  Chicatawbut was the sachem, or leader, of the Neponset Band of the Massachuseuk people, and they used the Blue Hills area as their winter settlement.  

Less than a mile from the Mary May Binney Wakefield Arboretum, archaeologists discovered a site that was used to manufacture and trade arrowheads and spearheads for centuries. Though not proven, it is possible that this spearhead was made there. To date, the unearthed spearhead is the only evidence of occupation by native people on this site that has been discovered. Hopefully, future excavations can provide more information into the lives and culture of the people who lived in this area before Europeans arrived. While the ongoing archaeological research here at the arboretum has not unearthed evidence of any pre-colonial settlements on site, according to Boston Archaeologist Joseph Bagley, Brush Hill Road was a well-worn footpath connecting the native settlements in the Blue Hills area to the rich fishing grounds at the Neponset River, just half a mile below the arboretum. This spearhead represents an important historical link to the first people - the Massachuseuk tribes - who called this area home.
The Summer Archaeology Institute
The Summer Archaeology Institute (SAI) is a hands-on archaeology program held most summers here on the grounds of the arboretum. It is designed specifically to introduce high school-age youth to the science and methodology of historical archaeology. 
The Original Deed Marking the First Davenport's Ties to the Land
This deed is just one of several found in the Isaac Davenport mansion, all dating to the early to mid-18th century. They are valuable windows into the history of this land and the generations who have occupied it since 1706.
Long after hands carved and shaped the aforementioned spearhead, another set of hands put ink to parchment to declare private ownership of parcels of land that had been occupied for thousands of years prior to European contact.
In 2009, found buried deep in a trunk in the basement of the Isaac Davenport mansion and nearly 300 hundred years after it was written, the original deed marks the beginning of the Davenport family's ownership of the land. Written in 1706, it also provides a glimpse into the geopolitical reality of that time. The English colonists who settled in New England brought with them the European idea of private entitlement to land. In their view, a land title or deed was proof of ownership, and as the closing line of this deed suggests, is legally binding under the full authority of the English crown: “…in the year of our Lord one thousand, seven hundred and six, and in the fifth year of the reign of Anne, of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Queen.” 
Sixth Division of Land 
“John Davenport first appears on the tax lists in Milton in 1707. Deeds in the Wakefield Estate’s archives from May of 1706 document John Davenport’s purchase of contiguous parcels from John Daniel and Thomas Vose in the Sixth Division lands near Great Blue Hill in Milton. In these deeds, both John Daniel and John Davenport are listed as husbandmen and Vose as a yeoman. Neither Vose nor Daniels is listed as original owners of parcels in Dorchester’s Sixth Division lands. However, as recorded by historian Albert Teele, these lands exchanged hands rapidly after the incorporation of the town of Milton in 1662 and both Daniel and Vose are associated with sales of Milton’s common lands in 1705 and 1706. Davenport’s purchases from these individuals approximately 46 years after Dorchester’s Sixth Division totaled 49 acres of land...The parcel, by its description reaching the Braintree line, appears to extend across what is now Canton Avenue, encompassing more lands east to west than the current parcel. If the Sixth Division map reproduced in Teele’s history of Milton is accurate, it appears that this parcel consists of a portion of the former “Common Land” and the parcel numbered 29, its shape a long narrow strip consisting of 13 acres from the Braintree border to the meadows abutting the Neponset.” 
-Erin Doherty: “The Davenport Estate: Land Use, Agriculture, and Architectural Display”
Ownership of Land
The idea of an individual person having exclusive use of a particular piece of land was alien to Native Americans. While Native Americans fought, as communities, with other tribes over hunting rights to the territory, they had no concept of "private property," as it applied to the land. The "right" to the land was very different from the legal terms understood by the white settlers, who brought with them to the New World the concept of private ownership of land. "When individual private property did finally become the norm across the Americas, it was through the destruction of prior systems of property rights."2
George Washington Commemorative Lapel Button
A year after the discovery of the spearhead, our young archaeologists unearthed a dark round artifact, about the size of a half-dollar, that originally was thought to be an ordinary button or coin. Caked in dirt, its features were covered and indistinguishable. Slowly and carefully, the object was cleaned with a toothbrush, revealing a large brass button with the letters GW in its middle section and an inscription across the top rim, reading “Long Live the President.” Could it be related to George Washington, asked the students? Sure enough, after some research, it was determined that the button was a commemorative lapel button worn at George Washington’s first inauguration in 1789. What a find!
The button, while rare and interesting by itself, reveals some fascinating historical details of the first generations of Davenports who lived here from 1707-1828. At the time of the American Revolution, Samuel Davenport (1720-1794) owned the homestead created by his grandfather John Davenport. Samuel was a community leader, silversmith, and appointed as a Selectman in the town of Milton. In the late 1760s, tensions between colonists and England were on the rise. On March 5, 1770, British soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters in Boston, killing three and wounding eight in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Samuel Davenport was chosen to serve as a juror in the case against the British soldiers involved in the massacre. The soldiers were successfully defended by a young lawyer named John Adams; all were acquitted. John Adams went on to become the country’s third president. So far only 10 ‘cuff buttons” celebrating the inauguration of John Adams have been discovered throughout the United States but future digs at the Mary May Binney Wakefield Arboretum might reveal some more.
Enterprising Craftsmen Created Commemorative Buttons
On April 30th, 1789, George Washington made history, becoming the first president of the United States. Soon after being sworn in, George Washington's inauguration as president inspired enterprising craftsmen to make and sell a variety of commemorative buttons with patriotic designs. This coat button had Washington's initials and the salute "Long Live the President” engraved in it, the phrase pronounced by Robert Livingston after he gave the oath of office to Washington on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York at Mount Vernon3. At the time of the nation’s first inauguration, military officers wore the buttons to show support for Washington. Only the elite could afford the buttons, which cost about six months’ salary4. For more about this, click here.
The Eagle Hall Lantern
Entering the Isaac Davenport mansion through its original entrance (facing Brush Hill Road) is like stepping back in time. The porch ceiling is decorated with dentil (teeth-like) molding that was hand-cut by local carpenters. The impressive and grand doorway was meant to impress visitors to the successful young shipping merchant's country mansion. Wide enough for the ladies' hoop skirts of the day, its massive door is supported by huge iron straps, no doubt fashioned by the local "smithy." Handblown glass inserts would have provided just enough light to guide the residents and servants inside until candles or oil lamps were lit to greet visitors.

The mansion, built in 1794, is imbued with hints about what was happening in Milton and our young country at that time. The fireplace in the parlor boasts a mantel marking the date of the mansion house’s completion. Its architectural style is “Georgian,” the dominant architectural trend in Colonial America during the 18th century and associated and named for the reigns of the first four King Georges of England. Following decades of turmoil in the colonies following the end of the French and Indian War and with the passage of the Stamp Act, Milton, like many communities, was deeply fractured. The American Revolution not only divided neighbors and friends, it devastated many families.5 Even William Franklin, a Loyalist and the last colonial Governor of New Jersey, rarely, if ever, spoke to his Patriot father Ben after the war. By July 4, 1776, with the Patriots in control of most of the territory in the Thirteen Colonies, royal officials and self-proclaimed Loyalists had been expelled. Any remaining Loyalists had their properties ceased, fled to Canadian provinces or kept quiet.
Inside the Isaac Davenport Mansion, nothing is more evocative, or rich with clues about this chapter of the family history, than the entry's magnificent Eagle Hall Lantern, which would have been the first thing visitors would have seen when entering the mansion. Centered at the north end of the mansion's impressive entry corridor at the base of the grand staircase, this fixture ostensibly seems to pronounce the owner's allegiance to the new republic.
A magnificent large eagle, the symbol of the young new republic, supports this handsome fixture by chains. These chains were used as pulleys to lower and raise the lantern when lighting it as, pre-electricity, it was likely lit by candles or an early type of oil lamp which used whale oil. The large eagle holds a pentagonal configuration of glass panels surrounding the light source, each etched with roses and more eagles boldly waving flags with the thirteen stars of the colonies. “Modern lighting” was only found in wealthy homes and, due to the expense of the oil, would have been used only on special occasions. The lantern was hung especially low to best illuminate the entryway so guests would have certainly had the opportunity to marvel at this newfangled means of interior lighting, as well as its patriotic decoration.
In 1782, the final design of the Great Seal of the United States was approved showing an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and thirteen arrows in the other, denoting the power of peace & war.6
The constellation of stars symbolizes a new nation taking its place among other sovereign states.
With the prominent placement of this stunning Eagle Hall Lantern boldly sporting imagery referencing the newly approved Great Seal, Isaac Davenport seems to be making a strong statement to his guests that he supports the young United States. But why he felt that statement was necessary might be more deeply rooted in family history. By 1794, 80,000 Loyalists had fled to Canada or Britain following the war.7
Yet Milton still had many residents who had been “fence-sitters” and had kept their allegiance to the Crown quiet, uncomfortable with the Patriots’ often harsh and even violent or brutal treatment of professed loyalists. This had been a decades-long period of intense political turmoil when Loyalists or "tories," including prominent Brush Hill residents, were being banished, seeking exile, or having their properties confiscated.

In fact, Isaac Davenport’s father, Samuel Davenport, a silversmith and former Selectman for the Town of Milton, was one of several prominent citizens who had been admonished by the Town Meeting in 1774 for sending a letter of support to the late Royal Governor Hutchinson, which stated:
“We, the Select Men, the Magistrates, and other principal Inhabitants of the Town of Milton, upon hearing of your speedy Embarkation for England, cannot let you leave this Town which you have so long honored by your Residence without some publick(sic) Expression of our sincere wishes for your health and happiness.
We have been Eye Witnesses, Sir, of your amiable private and useful publick(sic) Life; We have with concern beheld you, in the faithful and prudent Discharge of your Duty exposed to Calumnies, Trials and Sufferings, as unjust as severe; and seen you bearing them all with becoming Meekness and Fortitude.
As to ourselves and Neighbours(sic) in particular; although many of us, in future perplexities will often feel the want of your skillful gratuitous advice, always ready for those who asked it, we cannot but rejoice for your sake Sir, at your being so seasonably relieved by an honourable(sic) and worthy Successor, in this critical and distressful period from the growing Difficulty of the Government of your beloved native Province. And we see your Departure with the less Regret, being convinced that the Change at present will contribute to your and your Family's Tranquility: possessed as you are of the applause of good men, of the favour(sic) of our Sovereign, and the Approbation of a good Conscience to prepare the Way to Rewards infinitely ample from the King of Kings; to whose Almighty protection, We, with grateful hearts commend you and your family.”8 
In his book, The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution, James Stark, using colorful biased language asserted that the signers, including Samuel Davenport, “were obliged to recant, so as to save their property from being destroyed by the mob, and from personal injury and insult such as tarring and feathering, etc. It was with such doings that the 'Sons of Despotism' amused themselves, and made converts to the cause of 'liberty.' It, however, did not save James Murray (of Brush Hill Road) and Stephen Miller, who were banished, and Miller's estate confiscated.”9

As we often host Milton's fifth-grade history tour, this entryway and magnificent eagle fixture is a sharp reminder of the atmosphere at the time when the mansion was built, both technologically and politically. With its strong messaging and ties to a challenging chapter in family history, the Eagle Entry Hall Lantern is an object rich with significance. It embodies the intriguing and at times, disturbing and complex evolution of family properties like the Davenports', as well as the young nation's.
Historic Wallpaper
In early 2021, the decision was made to restore the ceilings, walls, and floors of the first floor of the Isaac Davenport mansion. Years of neglect had left the interior of the house in disrepair: the ceilings sagged away from the lathe behind, waiting to fall off completely, the walls and woodwork dinged and damaged, and the floors covered in old and stained wall-to-wall carpet that needed to be removed. A preservation company was hired to bring the mansion interior back to its original glory. In the main parlor of the mansion there are two historic, custom-built mirrors on adjacent walls. 
When Mike Gallagher of Village Green Restoration inserted a small video camera behind one of the mirrors to assess the wall’s condition, he was surprised to see some intricately designed wallpaper behind it. He carefully removed the mirror to find a well-preserved wall with an intact section of historic wallpaper believed to be the original wallpaper installed at the completion of the house’s construction in 1794. It was for us another “Eureka” moment - one more secret revealed. The paper has been gently cleaned and left exposed, covered with a simple frame and UV glass, for visitors to see and marvel over.

The mansion’s restored rooms - ceilings, walls, woodwork, and floors - bring to one’s attention the skill and craftsmanship of those who built the mansion in the 1790s, not to be outdone, however, by the preservationists who brought them back to their original splendor. 
A Brief History of Wallpaper, Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum
“Up until 1840 all wallpapers were produced by hand using the block-printing process that, as we have seen, was labor-intensive and slow. Many early wallpapers featured stylized floral motifs and simple pictorial scenes copied from contemporary embroideries and other textiles. They were printed in monochrome, in black ink on small sheets of paper that measured approximately 40 cm high by 50 cm wide. It was not until the mid-17th century that the single sheets were joined together to form long rolls, a development that also encouraged the production of larger repeats and the introduction of block-printing, which continued to be used in the manufacture of more expensive wallpapers until the mid-20th century. In this process, the design was engraved onto the surface of a rectangular wooden block. Then the block was inked with paint and placed face down on the paper for printing. Polychrome patterns required the use of several blocks – one for every color. Each color was printed separately along the length of the roll, which was then hung up to dry before the next color could be applied. 'Pitch' pins on the corners of the blocks helped the printer to line up the design. The process was laborious and required considerable skill.”10 -Victoria And Albert Museum, for more on this topic, click here.
Discovering a Hidden Treasure: Audubon's Royal Octavo
For nearly 300 years, members of the ten generations of the Davenport-Hayward-Cunningham-Binney-Wakefield family collected a vast array of objects including art, furniture, books, jewelry, decorative arts - even a mineral collection and historic doll clothing. At the end of the family’s ownership of the property, the rooms of the Isaac Davenport mansion were packed full of “stuff” - with many rare and valuable pieces.

Each summer for a number of years, Museum Studies students documented and catalogued the objects that filled the house. While young archaeology students dug outside as part of the Summer Archaeology Institute, these college interns “dug” through the objects in the house, and made exciting discoveries of their own.
One such discovery happened when a consultant was conducting a survey of the books in the house: on a bottom shelf of an old book case in one of the unheated rooms in the back of the house, she found several stacks of thin blue pamphlets tied with string in bunches of 30.
When she untied the string and opened up the packed pamphlets, she was astonished to find a nearly complete set of first edition John James Audubon’s hand-colored lithographs of birds - known as Audubon’s Royal Octavo Edition, printed in the middle of the 19th century. The color of the exquisitely painted birds was as if the painting had been done the week before. The collection was in excellent condition.

Henry Cunningham, who married Mary May Hayward and lived in the Davenport mansion in the early 20th century, acquired the Royal Octavo collection from his grandfather Andrew, who is listed among the subscribers on the inside cover of the pamphlets. Per Audubon’s own journal, Andrew Cunningham became a subscriber to Audubon’s works on November 30, 1840. The price in 1840 for each booklet containing five hand-colored lithographs of American birds was $1. Henry Cunningham was active in local history and genealogy and became the recording secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1923. The Royal Octavo is just one small example of the enormous volume of items left in the Isaac Davenport mansion by the generations who lived here, and is a tangible link to their culture, interests and hobbies.
Audubon's Royal Octavo
"The success of Audubon's first Birds of America brought Audubon Worldwide acclaim. Following that success, he returned to America and set out to issue a smaller version that would include more birds (most newly discovered in the Western U.S.). He decided on a 1/8 or octavo-sized sheet measuring about 6-1/2" x 10". He called this set The Royal Octavo Edition of Birds of America. The 1st Edition of 500 plates was lithographed and hand-colored by J.T. Bowen in Philadelphia and New York from 1840-44. They were again sold by subscription and issued in order by species in 100 sets of 5 each. It is estimated that from 1000-1200 complete sets were issued. No one knows how many complete sets and individual prints survive today."11
For more on this topic, click here.
Audubon's Success Selling Subscriptions in the Bay State
John James Audubon is rarely associated with Massachusetts. He was born in Haiti and spent his early years in France. After emigrating to the United States as a young man, he spent the better part of three decades in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Louisiana. He eventually moved to New York, where he died and was buried. However, despite never calling the Bay State home, Audubon spent a significant amount of time in Massachusetts—because Massachusetts spent a significant amount of money on Audubon’s work.
In order to make a profit from his enormous artistic endeavors, Audubon had to sell his art. To do so, he used a subscription model. People would add their name to Audubon’s list of paying subscribers, and in return, they received five prints at a time, of Audubon's Royal Octavo.

Selling subscriptions at such prices was not easy, but Audubon set out on the task as zealously as he had once set out to draw every species of American bird. He traveled from state to state, from city to city, and from door to door to gain subscribers to his work. In the fall of 1840, Audubon went to Massachusetts in search of subscribers. There, he met with Boston Brahmins including Andrew Cunningham, the heads of leading libraries, and a celebrated blacksmith in Worcester. He visited tony homes on Beacon Hill and a host of other places, including New Bedford, Plymouth, Duxbury, Hingham, Dedham, Marblehead, and Lowell.

His efforts in the Bay State were handsomely rewarded. Over three hundred citizens of Massachusetts subscribed to Audubon’s work—more than any other state and about 30% of the total list of subscribers. Boston, the nation’s fifth-largest city, accounted for over two hundred subscribers—more than any other city in America. - Jess Clay
Tenant Farming and Faith
In 2010, while excavating a trash-filled pit, the student archaeologists of the Summer Archaeology Institute pulled from the artifact-strewn surface a beautifully preserved copper
palloy crucifix with a relief of Jesus on the cross and inscribed with INRI, typically translated as “Jesus, King of Judeans.” This was a very
special find, as the cross was attached to a broken copper-alloy chain with a faceted opaline glass bead. The students had found a broken rosary!
After excavating the full trash feature, the young archaeologists realized that these objects belonged to the Irish tenant family that lived in the farmhouse at the
turn of the 20th century, the Byrnes! From historical records we know that family attended the Church of Most Precious Blood in Hyde Park, where all of these
children were baptized, confirmed, and later even married. And we also know from the artifacts that their Catholicism was meaningful to them in their every day lives. Not only did we find this rosary, but also many other Catholic-related artifacts that belonged to them including two more rosaries, two scapulars and a Sisters of Charity of Nazareth medallion. These objects together show that while the Byrnes family were working on the farm, their faith remained important feature of their daily lives. -Sara Belkin
Articles written and edited by Erica Max, Debbie Merriam, and Mark Smith.
Sara Belkin and Jess Clay, contributors.
Layout by Erica Max.
For a printable copy of this or any prior issue of Dogwood Lane, click here or visit the news tab on our website.

For a printable list of sources footnoted in this quarterly, click here.