Did You Know? The Story of Weston’s Town Seal
Most Westonians are familiar with the Weston town seal as it can be found affixed to just about anything that leaves the doorway at Town House Road. It’s a fascinating piece of storytelling–history in a fringy green circle. Basing this post (loosely) on an article written by Pam Fox in the Town Crier on the occasion of Weston’s 300th birthday, the reader will have to forgive some of the Owl’s editorializing comments on this story.
Let’s break it down.
A Part of Watertown 1630
Watertown was founded in 1630 by Sir Richard Saltonstall and 40 other families who wanted to farm rather than be caught up in all that city-folk stuff in Boston. Originally named Pequossette for the native American tribe who lived there, the name was changed to Watertown by someone who, it must be said, lacked a marketing background.
The riverfront lands of the Pequossette and the Nonantum tribes were bought for the enormous sum of 13 pounds (source). No idea what that is in today’s dollars but not enough to buy a house on Meadowbrook, that’s for sure. While local native American history is way outside the knowledge set of the Owl, the stories of the treatment of native American peoples would make the reader quite ill. Who knew that “troublesome” natives were sent to the Harbor Islands to simply perish? Those sad stories are for another day.
In any case, Weston, Waltham, Lincoln, as well as parts of Belmont and Cambridge, once flew the Watertown flag. But then, as happens all the time in Weston, people started complaining about the commute.
Farmer’s Precinct 1698
In the good old days, church attendance was mandatory and Sunday services were all day. As Watertown folks started building houses in the western territory known as “The Farms, ” they started showing up late to prayer service. The 7-mile journey took an estimated two hours each way on horseback. You can imagine the complaints went–white pines were downed in storms, they didn’t make horses like they used to, where’s the turn lane on Boston Post Road, etc.
So what to do? Write a letter to the Crier? Close. In 1698, the farmers successfully petitioned to form a separate “Farmers’ Precinct” with its own church, now known as First Parish. The first crude 30-by-30-foot square meetinghouse was located on Boston Post Road approximately where First Parish is today. As you all know from your intensive reading of the Owl, First Parish’s later iteration got itself a Paul Revere Bell…but he wasn’t alive in 1698.
Town of Weston. Incorporated 1712-1713.
Not content to merely have its own church, Weston petitioned to be its own town and on January 1, 1712, the General Court granted its petition to “be a distinct Township, to Enjoy the Privileges & Immunities which other Towns do and may by Law Enjoy.” So what’s the deal with the date on the seal being 1712-1713? Did it take a full year to found this tiny town? Could the typesetter not figure out what was written and just played it safe?
For this little quirk, Weston can thank former Selectman Francis Blake who was the inventor not only of the town seal, but the telephone transmitter that brought his wealth and a giant house called Keewaydin. Mr. Blake was a fascinating character, flamboyant spender of his own wealth, and a prolific photographer who had much to do with keeping Weston from getting too town-y. The Owl would like to digress on Mr. Blake for a bit but will behave until a future edition.
Back to the choice of using 1712 and 1713 and how that came about. It all comes down to telling time. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was adopted by most of the world to fix issues with the Julian calendar which measured 366 days per year, and well, that’s not right, is it? Was it adopted in Weston, never the bleeding edge of progressiveness? No. On one side, town historian Daniel Lamson said January 1, 1712 was correct. And yet by Francis Blake’s calculations, Weston was actually founded on January 12, 1713.
Mr. Blake was a stickler for accuracy and perhaps a little terrified of his constituency. Pursuing a second opinion from an unnamed “recognized authority,” the answer came:
“I should scarcely feel it necessary to change the date (1712). Whatever you may do there will be some half-educated person who will try to give himself importance by criticizing… But if you desire to change the die, in order to ward off all criticism why not change the principal date to 1712-13 or 1712 O.S. They look uglier, but make it clearer.”
Blake decided the Town Seal would read 1712-13. He also really liked punctuation.
And there you have it, Weston. While our town seal seems rather plain, the story is quite nice, is it not? And at least we didn’t have to fight off the moniker “Niptown” like our illustrious neighbor to the north, Lincoln. But that’s another story.