Her-Story – Women’s History Month and Marian Case

Marian Case, undated photograph. Credit: Weston Historical Society

Weston has benefitted from many strong and interesting women over its long-ish history–the women of Exmoor Farm--one of whom donated 41 acres that became Jericho Forest in 1948, the Jones sisters who kept up the Josiah Smith Tavern, and a schoolteacher on Ripley Lane who snowshoed to the bus stop. Certainly there were many more whose histories were not written, and yet influenced the town in so many ways.

Today, at the beginning of Women’s History Month, the Owl takes a look at the history of one of Weston’s titans, Marian Case. It is impossible to convey the entire marvelous story of this incredible woman in one media post. Fortunately, we have the Weston Historical Society, which has written more than one Bulletin about the Case history. Much of what is here can be found in the 2006 Historical Bulletin and in Pam Fox’s book Farm Town to Suburb.

James Brown Case was one of the first Boston businessmen to summer in Weston, beginning in 1863 and it is where both Louisa and Marian Case, his daughters, learned to love the land. After he died in 1907, Marian started buying land adjacent to her family summer house (now Case House). The family land included where Lands Sake is now, and all three schools, the Town Pool, Recreation Center etc. Marian’s property-buying binge created Hillcrest Farms (later Hillcrest Gardens), which later became known by the town as Case Estates.

Marian termed herself a “farmerette” and tried out all kinds of new-fangled things as well as started a summer program for local boys, the Hillcrest Boys. While Marian Case was a pioneer in many ways, she was not leading the way for the girls at that time–there were no girls among the summer workers.

Hillcrest Gardens 1922, Weston Massachusetts book cover

“Hillcrest is an experimental farm where we wish to work up the scientific side of
agriculture as well as to employ the boys of the town through their long summer vacation.
In order that we may keep in touch with the best work that is being done in agriculture,
and also interest the boys in nature, we have had lectures through the summer by specialists; on butterflies, on bees . . . on apples. . . on grapes . . . and on birds. . . . These lectures were given in a little club house on the farm which has two large rooms, the upper
one being furnished with folding chairs, a stereopticon curtain—the reflectoscope we
have not yet bought but have hired a lantern as we needed it through the summer. We
have also in this room or hall a platform, a blackboard and the bird charts.
” – From Marian Case’s Green Books

The more you read about Marian Case, the more you wish you had known her. A favorite line about her in the Bulletin reads:

“She has been described as “sort of the odd stick in the family” but also “exceedingly kind and helpful to others.”

During the first year of the farm, the crop is wild blueberries. Two large horses are bought–she names them “Pluck” and “Win”. Deliveries of vegetables are by “bicycle express”–a crate tied between the handlebars of the boys who worked there. When Pluck the horse dies a year later, a new horse is added named “Try” so that they now have “Try” and “Win.” This woman’s humor would have made my day.

Hillcrest Gardens circa 1938. Credit: Weston Historical Society

Over the years, she adds features to the property that we can still see today–the “hen’s tooth” wall on Wellesley street and the giant stone wall called “Louisa’s wall” that is tucked behind rhododendrons on today’s Legacy Trail. Irrigation systems are installed, a Ford truck gradually replaces horses, and the boys march in parades to their own fife and drum corps. The incinerator is built to burn brush, and my favorite, the horses at the Case Barn get steam heat.

Case Barn: site of wished-for muncipal goat herd. Credit: weston.gov

Marian Case was clearly a tree lover, and it makes sense that the Farm was eventually donated to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. You can get an idea of the number and extent of tree species on the farm by the account of how many were lost in the 1938 hurricane. The Green book lists approximately 3000 pines, 500 oaks, 250 maples, 74
apple trees, 15 peach trees, 8 quinces, 6 plum trees, and ornamental trees and shrubs including three Chinese Elms that were among the oldest in the country,

Marian Case died in 1944. It is her oft-overlooked sister, Louisa, who prevailed on Harvard to sell to Weston the Case house on Wellesley Street, the area of the Recreation Center, Country and Field Schools.

Case Estates is the heartstone of Weston– the former Case property encompasses three schools, the town pool, the recreation and community center, Land’s Sake farm, the Legacy Trail, and acres of conserved land. Over the next year, Weston will need to decide what to do with the three historic buildings on the property–the School House, the Rand House and the Case Barn. You can see them all decribed on the town page. Because of septic limitations, the town can not hold on to them–which is too bad as I was really hoping for a municipal goat herd at the Barn, and extra classrooms at the School House.

Happy Women’s History month!

+++For more information about Marian Case, and Case Estates, please see the following publications:






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