Upham’s Corner, Jones Hill, and Savin Hill
The recorded history of Dorchester began with the arrival of English setters on the ship Mary & John in 1630. Dorchester was an agricultural town until the eighteenth century when waterpower harnessed from the Neponset River allowed industry to thrive. Boston needed land to expand for its increasing population and annexed the main part of what is now South Boston in 1804 and the Andrew Square area in 1854. The remainder of the town was annexed on January 1, 1870.
For the first two and a half centuries after English settlement, Dudley Street from Roxbury to Dorchester was the only land route from Boston to Dorchester and points south. Two major roadways now serve the area. Dorchester Avenue, a nearly straight north-south line, built as a turnpike, is on the eastern side of Dorchester, not far from the coast. Columbia Road meanders from Franklin Park through Upham’s Corner to South Boston in a northeasterly direction. The T’s red line, the descendant of the Old Colony Railroad serves the east, and the Fairmount commuter line, formerly the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, serves the west. It runs through the Upham’s Corner neighborhood. Since Dorchester encompasses such a large area geographically, the trail is divided into three separate sections beginning with this neighborhood.
Since Dorchester encompasses such a large area geographically, the trail is divided into three separate sections beginning with this neighborhood. This section of the trail covers northern Dorchester and its neighborhoods: Upham’s Corner, Jones Hill, and Savin Hill. The other two sections will be covered in the future. Unlike many of the BWHT trails, this trail is too long to be walked, but one could easily walk parts of it.
The women who appear on the trail were important contributors in multiple fields and to the cultural history of Dorchester, Boston, and the wider world. They lived in Dorchester across the centuries: from the time of the American Revolution, through the time of the annexation, and up to the 21st century. The list includes artists, businesswomen, doctors, musicians, philanthropists, reformers, teachers, and writers. Undoubtedly, the stories of many notable women residents remain undiscovered; we are always looking for more women. The stops on the trail represent where the women lived or worked during a period of their lives, although the sites may now look very different from the way they did when the women were alive and contributing to these storied neighborhoods.
Begins: Corner of Dudley and Howard Streets
Hepzibah Clarke Swan (1756?-1825)
Corner of Dudley and Howard Streets
Hepzibah Clarke Swan was a wealthy heiress and patron of the arts who used her fortune to promote the careers of architect Charles Bulfinch and artist Gilbert Stuart. Her husband James was a land speculator known to spend his wife’s money freely to advance his own pursuits. While living in France and negotiating deals, he was sent to debtors’ prison where he spent the last years of his life. Hepzibah was one of the members of the Mount Vernon proprietors who developed Beacon Hill into a fashionable neighborhood. She owned a row house there and had three others built for her daughters. Among her possessions was a collection of fine French furniture that is now housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as is her portrait by Gilbert Stuart. Her Dorchester house, pictured here, built in 1796, was designed by Bullfinch and located at the corner of the present Dudley and Howard Streets. Swan reportedly entertained dignitaries there including the Marquis de Lafayette. Along with Sarah Morton, she was a founder of the Sans Souci Club, an exclusive social group that engaged in such activities as dancing and card playing, which were frowned upon by many proper Bostonians.
Sarah Wentworth Apthorp Morton (1759-1846)
636 Dudley Street
Sarah Morton was an acclaimed poet and writer. She was born into a wealthy Boston family and was baptized at King’s Chapel. In 1781, she and Perez Morton, a Boston lawyer, were married in Trinity Church. Years later, after a family scandal involving her husband and younger sister, the couple moved to the Dorchester mansion pictured above. Sarah had been writing poetry since childhood, and as an adult addressed such serious topics as the role of women in society and relations among people of different races. Her first book, Ouabi, or the Virtues of Nature: An Indian Tale in Four Cantos, was published in 1790. It was a groundbreaking piece with a Native American hero and cultural themes. She published a number of other works that brought her attention and praise using the pen name Philenia. Sarah’s uncle, William Hill Brown, wrote a book based on her unhappy marriage titled The Power of Sympathy. It is considered to be the first American novel. Sarah lived to be eighty-six years old, and by the time of her death her literary career was all but forgotten. The site of her home on Dudley Street is now the location of The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center.
Lucy Anne Kirk (1859-1934)
677 Dudley Street
Lucy Anne Kirk, a homeopathic physician, was born in Dorchester and decided at an early age that she wanted to be a nurse. After attending area public schools, she enrolled in a training school for nurses in Hartford, Connecticut. Lucy worked for several years as a nurse before enrolling at the Boston University School of Medicine, earning her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1893. She did post-graduate work in New York and returned to Dorchester where she established her medical practice. She lived at 677 Dudley Street and had an office at 732 Dudley Street. Dr. Kirk was a member of several medical associations and on staff at Boothby Hospital and the Homeopathic Medical Dispensary, both located in Boston. In addition, she gave lectures to nurses and talks on hygiene to mothers living in Dorchester. She is buried in the Dorchester North Burying Ground.
Elida Rumsey Fowle (1842-1919)
654 Columbia Road
Elida Fowle was born in New York City. She moved to Washington, D.C., with her family when she was eighteen years old. The Civil War was in its early stages, and Elida found a way to express her patriotism by aiding the wounded in area hospitals and singing to groups of soldiers to help lift their spirits. As a member of a musical quartet, she sang at religious services held in the U.S. House of Representatives. She met John Allen Fowle, a Boston merchant and widower with two children, while he was working as a clerk in the Navy Department. He later became the chairman of a Navy relief organization. The two were involved in a number of joint efforts to comfort the wounded and married in 1863. Elida felt strongly that in addition to bandages, blankets, and food, positive influences such as access to books and religious materials would aid in the soldiers’ recovery. With the support of wealthy backers and using her own concert earnings, she was instrumental in establishing the Soldiers’ Free Library, located near the U.S. Capital on land granted by Congress. The Fowles moved to Dorchester in 1877 and lived at this site on Columbia Road, where they raised their four children. Elida continued her charitable work, founded the organization Grandchildren of the Veterans of the Civil War, and created a free library for local children. The Songbird of the North, a short silent movie based on Elida’s life and her work during the Civil War was released in 1913.
John Allen Fowle
Hannah Glidden Myrick (1871-1973)
58 Sumner Street
Hannah Myrick was a Dorchester native who decided as a child that she wanted to be a doctor. She lived at this address for many years. Her father hired a tutor to teach her Greek and Latin, prerequisites for admittance to Boys Latin School. Although it was rare for girls to be allowed to attend, an exception was made in her case. She went on to attend Smith College, receiving a BA degree in 1896. Hannah was then admitted to Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a medical degree in 1900. She practiced medicine in Boston and for a decade served as the superintendent of the New England Hospital for Women and Children (NEHWC). Later Dr. Myrick was employed for twenty-five years as a physician for Schrafft Candy Company in Charlestown specializing in industrial medicine. An amateur photographer, she won prizes for her work and is recognized for developing early X-ray films during her time at NEHWC. In her retirement, she continued to pursue her interest in photography and gardening and to support charitable causes, including a free dispensary in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester. Hannah Myrick lived to be 102 and was honored on what would be her last birthday by Lieutenant Governor Donald Dwight who awarded her a commendation for her life of service.
Dorchester North Burying Ground
585 Columbia Road
“Betty, a Negro Servant of Col. Robert Oliver Died Feby 19,1748”
Ann and Betty were two enslaved women owned by the Oliver family, whose mansion was located at the corner of Boston Street and Columbia Road. Robert Oliver was an eighteenth-century merchant, active in Boston and Newport, R.I., with connections to the island of Antigua. The headstones marking the graves of Ann and Betty are among the four erected for enslaved individuals in the Dorchester Old North Burying Ground. Ann’s mother’s name was Mimbo. The Akan people of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, in West Africa frequently named their children after the day of the week on which they were born and their birth order. Mimbo is the day name for girls born on Tuesday. Many of the enslaved persons living in New England had roots in Ghana and Senegal. They are celebrated in Francine Trester’s “A Walk in Her Shoes,” a musical composition premiered by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in 2021.
Sarah Baker (1805-1866)
565 Columbia Road
This church, which once stood on Columbia Road, was built with funds donated by Sarah Baker, who operated a band box business in the Savin Hill neighborhood for over forty years. A band box is a lightweight, round box designed to hold clothing. She was able to save and invest $5,000 of the earnings from her business and stipulated in her will that after twenty years the accumulated funds be given to her church to build a new house of worship. The structure was to be located within three-quarters of a mile of her home. With proceeds from the sale of the property of the disbanded Mount Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church in Roxbury added to Baker’s estate as well as additional funds, a new church was constructed on the corner of Columbia Road and Cushing Avenue. It was called Baker Memorial Church in Sarah’s honor. The church closed in 1943, and the building was demolished.
Julia Knowlton Dyer (1829-1907)
543 Columbia Road
Julia Dyer was born in New Hampshire and grew up in Concord and Manchester. After graduating from the New Hamilton Institute, she became a high school teacher in Manchester. Soon after, she met and married Micah Dyer, Jr., a Boston attorney. In the 1850s, the young couple moved to Columbia Road in Dorchester, where they raised their three children. As her family grew older, Julia became involved in numerous charitable activities. She served on the Board of Management of the Dedham House for Discharged Female Prisoners and as president of the Ladies’ Aid Society, which raised money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home. She considered her role in establishing the Woman’s Charity Club Hospital in Roxbury and serving as its longtime president one of her greatest achievements. In addition, Julia organized fund raisers for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union and the Home for Intemperate Women. She was also involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Upham’s Corner, the Moral Education Society, the Dorchester Woman’s Club, the Bostonian Society, and many other organizations. Her obituary in The Boston Globe called her “one of the best-known club and society women in Boston.”
Frances C. Kissell (1922-2003)
40 Virginia Street
The first woman appointed to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, Frances Kissell served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and a litigation attorney in the U.S. Small Business Administration for the New England Region. She was born in Boston and lived at this address in Dorchester until 1976 when she moved to Wareham, MA. Frances studied at Radcliffe College and Boston College School of Law, graduating first in her class at both institutions. During World War II, she was a classification specialist in the U.S. Marine Corps. While attending law school, she assisted her husband, Adolph J. “Butch” Kissell, who was a scout for the Buffalo Bills football team. Frances later served as president of the St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild and was included in the 1958 – 59 edition of Who’s Who in American Women. Politically active, she became the campaign coordinator for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign in eastern Massachusetts. In 1981, Francis earned a master’s degree in education from Bridgewater State College. While living in Wareham, she was active in a number of civic organizations including the Otis Advisory Council, the American Legion, and the Coalition to Save Buzzards Bay.
Charlotte C. Johnston (1845-1917) and Sarah Jane Frances Johnston (1850-1925)
37 Payson Avenue
The Johnston sisters were members of a family of artists residing at this Payson Avenue address. Charlotte worked in crayon and watercolors and was also a concert pianist, actress, and elocutionist. She was a member of the Boston Museum Company and known throughout New England for her dramatic readings and stage performances. Sarah studied with William Morris Hunt and was noted for her charcoal portraits. She designed a stained-glass window called “Recording Angel” for the Barnard Memorial Chapel, a free church for children, which was located on Warrenton Street in Boston but is no longer standing. Their parents, Sarah Elizabeth Murray and David Claypoole Johnston, were artists as well. Works by members of this family are part of the collections of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. The two drawings (below) are examples of Sarah’s artwork.
Mary Hannah Hanchett Hunt (1830-1906)
23 Trull Street
Mary Hunt was notable for her role in the temperance movement. She was originally from Connecticut and educated in New York and Baltimore. A trained science teacher, Mary would come to base her fight against the use of alcohol on its physical effects on the human body. Her father had been active in the temperance movement, and she followed in his footsteps. Mary married Leander Hunt in 1852, and the couple moved to Hyde Park in 1865. It was there that she began to spread her temperance message in earnest and was successful in petitioning the school board to adopt a curriculum that she developed for use in physiology and hygiene classes. She was invited to speak at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) convention in 1879, and in 1880 she was named the organization’s national educational chairman. Thereafter Mary spent many years traveling throughout the United States, lecturing on temperance, testifying before legislatures, developing programs of instruction in temperance for use in public schools, and writing and editing materials for teachers. By 1890 her influence was so great she was named to a position in the world WCTU similar to the one she held in the United States. Mary moved to Trull Street in Dorchester in 1893 where she died in 1906. Among her many publications are Health for Little Folks, Lessons in Hygiene, and Outlines of Anatomy.
Elizabeth A. Power (1867-1924)
428 Quincy Street
Elizabeth Power founded the Free Home for Consumptives (FHC) on land that is now the cul-de-sac Fernald Terrace and was its long-time president. The FHC provided care to people with tuberculosis regardless of means, nationality, race, or religion. Elizabeth’s obituary noted that in addition to being the former president of the FHC, she was appointed a trustee of the newly established City Consumptive Hospital but resigned after only a few months because she felt that she could not do justice to both institutions. Pope Pius X conferred a blessing on Elizabeth in recognition of her devotion to the poor who suffered from consumption.
Ethel Lennox (1910?-1984)
9 Jerome Street
Ethel Lennox moved to Jerome Street in Dorchester in the 1940s and became concerned with the lack of good health care for the poor and working class women of the neighborhood. Previously she had lived in the West End of Boston where she and her neighbors were dissatisfied with what they considered unsatisfactory care available to them at the well-established hospitals in the city. Ethel decided that what was needed was a health center to provide accessible medical services in a local setting. She solicited start-up funds and office space to turn her concept into reality. Her obituary in The Boston Globe declared: “Ever feisty and sharp-tongued, Mrs. Lennox was the driving force in the creation of the Upham’s Corner Neighborhood Health Center and a major figure in the development throughout Boston of what became one of the nation’s preeminent neighborhood health center systems.” The health center building at 415 Columbia Road is pictured above; the Center’s Eye and Dental Clinic at 636 Columbia Road is named the Ethel W. Lennox Health Care Facility.
St. Mary’s Infant Asylum
90 Cushing Avenue
St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children is the successor to St. Mary’s Infant Asylum and St. Margaret’s Hospital, both operated by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and previously situated on this site. From 1874 to 1883, St. Mary’s Infant Asylum and Lying-In Hospital was located on Bowdoin Street and then moved to the former property of Charles and Mary Green on Jones Hill. In 1901, a new building was constructed, and in 1911 a connecting building was erected for maternity patients. The facility then became known as St. Margaret’s Hospital. St. Margaret’s specialized in maternity and gynecological care and operated at the Dorchester location until 1993 when its services were moved to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton. St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children was then opened at the site and now provides housing, education, and work force development for young mothers with children.
Geraldine Pindell Trotter (1872-1918)
97 Sawyer Avenue
Geraldine Trotter was a Boston-born civil rights activist in the early 20th century who moved to Dorchester after her marriage to William Monroe Trotter in 1899. She served as the associate editor of The Boston Guardian, an African American newspaper co-founded by her husband. The paper was considered radical at the time because it challenged white progressives who largely saw race relations as a southern problem. Her editing and bookkeeping skills were instrumental in keeping the paper afloat. Her death from pneumonia at age 46 during the 1918 influenza epidemic is seen as one reason for the paper’s loss of influence. Geraldine’s funeral service was held at Tremont Temple where she was remembered for her war work, which included sending fruit and other comforts to black soldiers at Camp Devens. A memorial fund to support The Guardian was established in her honor. President Woodrow Wilson sent a message “making an appeal for justice to the race she represented.” Geraldine was a member of the Equal Rights League, the Boston Literary and Historical Association, the Public School Association, and the Woman’s Anti-lynching Society. She was an active congregant at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dorchester and is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park. She is celebrated in Francine Trester’s “A Walk in Her Shoes,” a musical composition premiered by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in 2021.
Isabel Hayes Chapin Barrows (1845-1913)
51 Sawyer Avenue
A groundbreaker on several fronts, Isabel Barrows was born in Irasburg, Vermont, and educated in Derry, New Hampshire, where she married William Chapin in 1863. They traveled to India to work as missionaries. William died soon after their arrival, leaving Isabel a nineteen-year-old widow. She remained in India, serving as a teacher at a school for girls before returning the U.S. Isabel remarried in 1867. Her second husband, Samuel Barrows, obtained employment in Washington D.C. as an assistant to Secretary of State William Seward. When Samuel became ill, she filled in for him becoming the first woman to work as a stenographer for the State Department. She later enrolled at the Woman’s Medical College in New York, earning a degree in medicine. The Barrows traveled to Europe, where Isabel studied ophthalmology at the University of Vienna, another first. Upon their return to Washington, she opened a private medical practice becoming the first woman to do so. The couple became active in prison reform and other religious and charitable causes. They settled in Dorchester after Samuel entered Harvard Divinity School and was named pastor of the Unitarian Church at Meeting House Hill. As a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Isabel testified before Congress in 1908 in support of the 19th Amendment along with Anna Howard Shaw, president of the organization. After Samuel’s death in 1909, she continued to write and remain active in reform movements until her death in 1913.
Anna Clapp Harris Smith (1843-1929)
65 Pleasant Street
Anna Clapp Harris Smith was the founder of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Her aim was to protect workhorses from suffering needlessly. A long-time Dorchester resident, Smith was moved by the sufferings of animals she saw roaming the streets and used her wealth to establish the Animal Rescue League in 1899. Under her leadership, such improvements as the installation of water basins around the city where dogs and cats could drink and the founding of the Horses Aid Association, which provided health care for the city’s horses free of charge, were implemented. A descendant of the Clapp family, who were among Dorchester’s earliest residents, she was married to publisher Huntington Smith and listed her occupation as a journalist in the federal census of 1900. She is one of the women celebrated in Francine Trester’s 2021 musical composition “A Walk in Her Shoes.”
Elizabeth Stanton Chadbourne (1855-1930)
71 Grampian Way
Elizabeth Chadbourne lived in Dorchester with her family, first on Payson Avenue and later in the house on Grampian Way. Her father William was a Boston police officer. Elizabeth is listed separately from her family in city directories during the 1870s and 1880s, which was a rarity at that time. Her occupations were recorded as teacher of elocution and public reader. Her father spent the last four winters of his life in Parksley, Virginia, a community that Elizabeth became interested in developing. She was instrumental in creating the Parksley Land and Improvement Company and, as secretary and treasurer, played a significant role in overseeing the business. She sold her shares in 1917, and Chadbourne Street in Parksley was named in recognition of her contributions to the town. In her retirement, Elizabeth became an active member of the Dorchester Woman’s Club and treasurer of the Savin Hill chapter of the Red Cross. She is buried in the Chadbourne Cemetery in Lyman, Maine.
This trail is a project of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.
Researched and written by BWHT Advisory Board members Anita Danker and Katherine Dibble, with assistance from Earl Taylor, President of the Dorchester Historical Society, and Mary Smoyer of the BWHT.
Upham’s Corner Photograph courtesy of the Dorchester Historical Society
#3 Photograph by Earl Taylor
#6 Photograph courtesy of the Dorchester Historical Society
#10 Images courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society
#12 Images courtesy of the Dorchester Historical Society
#13 Photograph by Earl Taylor
#17 Photograph of 65 Pleasant Street by Earl Taylor
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