|• Type||Open town meeting|
|• Total||14.6 sq mi (37.8 km2)|
|• Land||14.5 sq mi (37.6 km2)|
|• Water||0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)|
|Elevation||178 ft (54 m)|
|• Density||882.7/sq mi (340.4/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (Eastern)|
|Area code||508 / 774|
|GNIS feature ID||0618323|
Medfield is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 12,799 according to the 2020 United States Census. It is a community about 17 miles (27 km) southwest of Boston, Massachusetts, which is a 40-minute drive to Boston's financial district. Attractions include the Hinkley Pond and the Peak House.
The territory that Medfield now occupies was, at the time of colonization, Neponset land. As part of the English settlement of the area, it was sold by the Neponset leader Chickatabot to William Pynchon in the late 1620s. In 1633, Chickatabot died in a smallpox epidemic that decimated nearby Neponset, Narragansett and Pequot communities. Because Chickatabot and Pynchon's deal left no written deed, the Massachusetts General Court ordered "those Indians who were present when Chickatabot sold lands to Mr. Pynchon, or who know where they were, to set out the bounds thereof". Fifty years later, Chickatabot's grandson Josias Wampatuck brought a land claim against Medfield and the other towns created within the borders of the Chickatabot purchase, for which he received payment. Of those lands, Dedham was the first town formed.
The majority of present-day Medfield had been granted to Dedham in 1636, but the lands on the western bank of the Charles River had been meted out by the General Court to individuals. Edward Alleyn, for example, had been granted 300 acres in 1642. Dedham asked the General Court for some of those lands and, on October 23, 1649, the Court granted the request so long as they established a separate village there within one year. Medfield (New Dedham) was first settled in 1649, principally by people who relocated from the former town. The first 13 house lots were laid out on June 19, 1650.
Dedham sent Eleazer Lusher, Joshua Fisher, Henry Phillips, John Dwight, and Daniel Fisher to map out an area three miles by four miles and the colony sent representatives to set the boundaries on the opposite side of the river. The land that Dedham contributed to the new village became Medfield, and the land the colony contributed eventually broke away to become Medway in 1713. Millis would later break away from Medway.
The separations were not without difficulty, however. When Medfield left there were disagreements about the responsibility for public debts and about land use. There were some residents who did not move to the new village who wanted rights to the meadows while others thought that the land should be given freely to those who would settle them. A compromise was reached where those moving to the new village would pay £100 to those who remained in lieu of rights to the meadows. It was later reduced to £60, if paid over three years, or £50 if paid in one year.
Tax records show that those who chose to move to the new village came from the middle class of Dedham residents. Among the first 20 men to make the move were Ralph Wheelock, Thomas Mason, Thomas Wight, John Samuel Morse and his son Daniel, John Frary, Sr., Joseph Clark, Sr., John Ellis, Thomas Ellis, Henry Smith, Robert Hinsdale, Timothy Dwight, James Allen, Henry Glover, Isaac Genere, and Samuel Bullen. By 1664, several of their sons would join them, as would Joshua Fisher and his son John, and several other Dedhamites. Those who moved there often moved with family members, and many would move on from their to other inland communities. It is also possible that those who left Dedham for Medfield were those most disaffected by the political or social climate within the town.
Town Meeting voted to release Medfield on January 11, 1651 and the General Court agreed the following May. Medfield became the 43rd town in Massachusetts.
The Rev. Ralph Wheelock is credited with the founding of Medfield. He was the first schoolmaster of the town's school established in 1655, and now has an elementary school named after him.
Half the town (32 houses, two mills, many barns and other buildings) was destroyed by Native Americans during King Philip's War in 1675. One house, known as the Peak House, was burnt in the war but was rebuilt shortly thereafter near downtown Medfield.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 14.6 square miles (37.8 km2), of which 14.5 square miles (37.6 km2) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.2 km2) (0.62%) is water. The Charles River borders almost one-third of Medfield. Medfield is surrounded by the towns Dover, Norfolk, Walpole, Millis, and Sherborn. The Charles River marks the Millis border.
|* = population estimate. |
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.
|Black or African American||0.51|
|Two or more races||0.68|
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.90% of the population.
Medfield Public Schools consistently ranks among the top ten school systems in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). As recently as 2017, Medfield was ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as the number 5 ranked school system in Massachusetts. As of 2013, Medfield High School Seniors scored an average of 591 on the SAT Critical Reading Section, 618 on the SAT Math Section, and 598 on the SAT Writing Section.
In 2005, Medfield High School and T.A. Blake Middle School switched buildings as a result of a massive construction project updating the current Medfield High School (formally Amos Clark Kingsbury High School).
Medfield's Free Public Library began in 1873. The public library is located on Main Street. In the late 18th century some of the residents of Medfield and surrounding towns formed a subscription library, called the Medfield Social Library.
Medfield State Hospital, located at 45 Hospital Road, opened in 1896 and originally operated on 685 acres (2.77 km2) of pasture. At its peak in 1952, it housed 1,500 patients. By 2001, it was down to about 300 acres (1.2 km2) and employed 450 people (including four psychologists) to care for a maximum of 147 patients. The cost to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was $21.5 million. On April 3, 2003, the doors were closed. Although the buildings are not open to the public (they have been boarded up), the grounds may be visited during daylight hours.
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