THE HISTORY OF WAYLAND
Wayland’s pastoral beauty is as treasured today as it was 10,000 years ago by the Native Americans who hunted and fished along the shores of its river and ponds. Reflecting the principles valued by the Puritan families who established the town in 1638, Wayland to this day is committed to community, independence, education, and land preservation. Wayland has time and again demonstrated its willingness to sacrifice for those principles: from asserting the separation of church and state, to protesting unfair taxation during the colonial period, to establishing Massachusetts’s first free library, and more recently, to establishing the Sudbury Valley Trustees and protecting services and education when necessary with budget overrides. Moreover, Wayland soldiers have fought in every American war from King Phillips and the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts. Wayland’s citizens have brought those principles to the nation: from colonialist John Rudduck, to philosopher Edmund Sears, to abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, to Watergate investigator Archibald Cox, to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.
The Puritan Village
Wayland’s earliest history is detailed in the Pulitzer-prize winning book “The Puritan Village” by Sumner Chilton Powell and in Helen Fitch Emery’s excellent history “The Puritan Village Evolves: a History of the town of Wayland, Massachusetts”.
Wayland was the first settlement of the Sudbury plantation, established in 1638, and incorporated in 1639. Among the 60 original men, women, and children, were 15 Puritan families who had traveled in the ship Confidence from England. These original families included the Curtis’s, Grouts, Stones, Haynes, Noyes, Bents, and Goodenows. Bringing with them the English pattern of farming, with collective fields and grazing along with individual lots, they named their town Sudbury after the town in Suffolk , where their pastor Edmund Brown and some of their company had lived. The original settlement was clustered one half mile northwest of the present town center, now Bow and Old Sudbury road. The abundant pasturage along the Sudbury River that attracted them is evident today at the town’s Cow Common conservation area and extensive Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge areas. Wayland and Sudbury residents established the Sudbury Valley Trust in 1953 in part to protect these lands. Today Wayland is in the top 5 communities in the state in conservation acreage.
The larger part of the land grant was granted to the settlers collectively. There were six other independent grants in the area made to Herbert Pelham, Henry Dunster, William Jennison, and Mrs. Glover. At the outset each townsman had individual lots of 4 acres, with other allotments made according to family size, status, and cattle ownership. They also shared fields and grazing along the river.
The first meetinghouse was built east of the Sudbury River in 1643, at the site of what is now the Old North Cemetery . Sudbury was only the third inland settlement within Massachusetts , after Concord and Dedham. Land grants would eventually total more than 40 square miles, including land now in Wayland, Sudbury , Maynard, Stow, Framingham, and Natick. The lands west of the Sudbury River were first settled in 1643.
Within 10 years, the town had established the first Town Meeting, a system of government still used in towns throughout New England today. Early resolutions centered on the desire of the town to apportion their land without the influence of the clergy. In 1654, one of the earliest establishments of the separation of church and state in the colonies was created at a meeting of ministers at Parmenter’s tavern called by Sudbury ’s pastor, Rev. Edmund Brown, to assert pastoral rule. They were met by town Selectman John Rudduck, who said “We shall, or should, be judged by men of our own choosing.”
In 1643, a bridge was built west across the river and present-day Sudbury began to be settled. By 1656, the population had expanded and moved well west and south and established the Marlborough plantation, which became a separate town in 1660.
In 1676, Sudbury was the last town attacked by Native Americans during King Phillip’s (Massasoit’s) War. The east side of the river was more heavily populated than the west side at that time, and the majority of the deaths occurred on the west side. Many lives were lost by a contingent of the Concord militia at the river crossing. (The bridge and monument are just north of 27, near the Wayland Country Club). The Sudbury residents gathered in several garrison houses on either side of the river. The fight reached east across the river almost to Weston.
In 1714, after several generations had passed since the original settlers, residents of the western district petitioned the General Court for separation from the town of Sudbury . The newer settlers on the western side of the river thought that new land grants should be apportioned equally rather than by the previous merit-based system. In addition, the Sudbury River crossing was especially wide and difficult in the winter and spring, making it onerous for the residents on the western side of the river to make it to the meetinghouse for services. It was the usual course at the time in Massachusetts for newer, usually western, areas of settlement to petition to become separate towns, and the petitions were granted if there were no objections from the original settlement. The older families on Sudbury ’s eastern side did object, with the feeling that the town could still retain the unity of the original settlers if a second meetinghouse could be established. Consequently, in 1723, a second, western parish meetinghouse was built in what is now called Sudbury Center .
By the time of the American Revolution, some of the earliest protests of taxation and for self-governance had come out of Town Meeting. By 1774, Sudbury was one of the largest towns west of Boston and therefore had formed one of the largest militias, about 400. On April 19, 1775, the eastern and western parishes of Sudbury sent at least 302 men to Concord . Of the 115 men from the eastern parish, there were 75 militia led by Captain Joseph Smith and 40 in the minute company led by Nathaniel Cudworth. Their march through Wayland is recreated on April 19th every year by the Sudbury Minutemen. In North Cemetery are buried 56 men who fought during the war.
By 1780, the issue of town division arose again. Unusually, the petition came from those who lived in the original settlement on the eastern side of the river. Essentially, it was a tax protest. The higher average wealth level of the residents on the eastern side of the river and on Pelham Island caused the east side of Town to have a higher total assessment than the west side. There was very high town tax burden in the late 1770s caused by extra costs associated with the Revolutionary War. There had also been years of support for the damages and deaths incurred during King Phillip’s and the French and Indian wars. As a result the east-siders paid more than half of Town taxes even though more than half of the Town population (and the associated costs for Town services) was on the west side. Shockingly to the petitioners, the descendents of Sudbury ’s original settlers, the Massachusetts Legislature, on April 10, 1780, agreed to the division with the proviso that the original settlement had to forfeit the name of the town. The eastern parish took the name of East Sudbury .
East Sudbury 1780-1835, renamed Wayland 1835
The first US census in 1790 showed that East Sudbury was a farming community of 801 people in 112 houses. Today’s Boston Post Road ran through it on the way to Albany . Travelers stopped at the Corner Tavern where Old Connecticut Path split off down to Hartford , near today’s Old Coach Grill. The Pequod Inn stood at the intersection of the Post Road and the roads north to western Sudbury and Concord . Baldwin ’s tavern was near the four arch bridge over the river. The First Parish Church was built in 1815, complete with a bell by Paul Revere. A separate building for town meeting was built nearby.
In 1835, the men attending town meeting voted to change the name East Sudbury to Wayland, to honor Rev. Francis Wayland, President of Brown University, who was a friend of Judge Edward Mellen (whose law offices are found in the Wayland Historic District in a small white house at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Old Sudbury Road). The town was not reincorporated, but the renaming showed the desire to further distinguish itself from the town to the west.
Founded in 1848, the Wayland Library was the first free public library in Massachusetts and the second in the country. The library movement began in 1796 with the organization of the East Sudbury Charitable Library, by the Rev. Josiah Bridge. The Rev. Wayland in 1847 gave money to the town for the founding of a town library. The current Wayland Library was build in 1900, with land and money donated by Warren Roby.
Other notable residents of this time included the Rev. Edmund Sears, who wrote “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”, and Lydia Maria Child, abolitionist, suffragist, and author of “Over the River and through the Woods”.
Wayland is a semi-rural community located in the MetroWest region of Eastern Massachusetts, in Middlesex County just 18 miles from Boston, 26 miles from Worcester and 203 miles from New York City. Wayland is bordered on the west by Sudbury and Framingham, on the south by Natick, on the north by Concord and Lincoln and on the east by Weston. Wayland is accessible and attractive as a suburb to the City of Boston and to the businesses and industries located along the Route 128 with convenient access to the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The meadows and marshes along the ten-mile course of the Sudbury River through Wayland have been kept relatively unspoiled and are now the object of private and public efforts to maintain them in their natural state. They are still full of wild life and are beautiful to see. They provide an open, rural setting and contribute to the attractive features and uniqueness of this almost purely residential town.
Wayland is the home of two public golf courses, Wayland Country Club and Sandy Burr Country Club both located on Route 27. There is a town beach located on Lake Cochituate that offers swimming and a boat launch to its residents and guests. Wayland is also fortunate to have other recreational areas such as Mill Pond for fishing, pine-forested picnic areas and many conservation areas for hiking and horse riding trails. In addition, Wayland promotes outdoors athletic activities and provides well equipped basketball courts, ten tennis courts, ice-skating areas, a swimming pool, and several playgrounds.
The Wayland Public School system is regularly ranked as one of the top ten school systems in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The schools strive to maintain a strong academic curriculum. In addition, the Wayland Public School Children’s Center provides full childcare service from 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. in a healthy and safe environment for children in grades K-5 every school day. Additional childcare programs are available during school vacations and the summer.
The Town of Wayland is located in the MetroWest region, situated at the halfway point between Boston and Worcester. Wayland is just one of nine communities that comprise MetroWest, the others are Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Natick, Sherborn, Southborough and Sudbury. MetroWest is a region rich in history and natural beauty, and offers visitors and residents alike, a vast array of opportunities for such activities as shopping, sightseeing, dining and entertainment.
Attractions within MetroWest include Longfellow’s WAYSIDE INN in Sudbury, the oldest continuously operating inn in America, and the peaceful Sudbury River, which provided waterpower for the grain and textile mills that once dotted its shores. The Framingham/Natick stretch of Route 9 features literally hundreds of retail establishments of all kinds as well as fine and casual dining, making it a premier shopping destination. . Just bordering the MetroWest region is another premier shopping destination located in Wellesley, which offers a broad array of upscale dining and shopping, with many small shops and boutiques along Routes 135 and 116. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the abundance of parks, forests, lakes and nature preserves in the region. History buffs can travel back in time to our country’s earliest days when they visit nearby landmarks commemorating skirmishes that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. And art lovers will enjoy the variety of museums and galleries they’ll find here.
Known as the “Crossroads of New England”, MetroWest is easily accessible by air, rail and bus. Both Boston’s Logon International Airport and the Worcester Regional Airport are just 30 minutes away, and the area is served by major highway interchanges – including Interstate 495 and 95, Route 9 and the Massachusetts Turnpike (Route 90).