History Corner: A Murderer and a Front Yard Dead Horse. Just Another Day in Weston
As the Owl has mentioned, it is worth joining Facebook or perusing Instagram (you can see posts without joining) just for the new Historical Society posts. Instead of heading out to buy a new double oven (the last of the kitchen appliances to die in the last two years), I started catching up on a couple of missed days of posts and now I have to go wash my face from laughing til the tears started. Kara Fleming, you are PRICELESS! And another shout-out to Pam Fox and her awesome book from whence (where-ce?) these stories derive. Read on for the story of Murderer the gamecock and his wacky owner.
Residents from the Past – Gamecocks by Emerson
On the north side of Boston Post Road just west of Highland Street once stood the John Flagg Tavern, which was reportedly the longest-running tavern in Weston. It had been in operation from the Revolutionary war to well past the 1830s. Yes, George Washington slept there (in 1789). And also, President John Quincy Adams dined there in 1798.
By 1875, farmer Charles Emerson purchased the property. His son George raised and trained gamecocks there. George and his birds were occasionally mentioned in the Weston section of the Waltham Daily Free Press Tribute. George had a Bantivia Jungle gamecock named Murderer, which was described “to have a decided antipathy to anything religious” and “to be possessed of an evil spirit.”
As one may have gathered by this point, George had another specialty that added a certain “charm” to the area. He hosted illegal cockfights in his barn. Gentlemen from the area would congregate there for the events, which were frequently raided by local police. In one article from 1901, “Police Fooled/Cocking Man Held in Weston/Officers Were Told It Was an Auction,” George stood on guard during the cockfight. When police arrived, the participants fled and George claimed to have invited the men to his farm to attend an auction of gamebirds. According to this particular article, “there is intense feeling in the town against Mr. Emerson…”
In 1902, the former tavern house burned to the ground. George, however, continued to live on the property in a dilapidated shack standing just beyond the cellar hole and surrounded by rubbish and junk. George was described as being “as ungroomed as his surroundings.” To illustrate his eccentric style, the winter his horse died in his front yard he refused to move the body until the spring.
In a completely unrelated yet related story (?), a Wellesley friend’s grandmother grew up in the Balkans where she sailed alone around the Black Sea as a girl, got picked up by a warship when the sail broke and generally caused chaos until she went to Harvard in the first class of women doctors. What’s my point? Oh yes, she had a pet skunk named Mephistopheles, or Mephy for short, who (whom? help, grammar police) she would take on walks on a leash. I love eccentrics.
Proud to be a Westonian? Read more online and in Pam Fox’s book From Farm Town to Lunatic Asylum. Oh just kidding, folks. From Farm Town to Suburb. Get your own copy; mine is filled with notes.
All photos are courtesy of the Weston Historical Society.
Maybe we should have rebuilt the John Flagg Tavern which would probably have had a lot more cockfighting spirit than the JST has.
Thank you! ❤️
Pam has given this town a great resource with her book!!