Colonialism, Patriarchy And Family Drama: Boston Archeologists Dig Up The Story Beneath Ronan Park Sinkhole

Boston archeologists have unearthed a trove of historic particulars a few sinkhole that opened up in close to a pathway in Dorchester’s Ronan Park in early December.

On the time, a cursory investigation (involving an iPhone and flashlights taped to a paint curler) revealed the existence of a nicely, possible constructed someday within the 1800s. Just one “artifact” was discovered — a plastic liquor bottle possible tossed into the opening inside days of its opening.

Nonetheless, a brand new report launched Friday by the Boston Metropolis Archaeology Program offers a extra fulsome image of the lives of a number of the individuals who lived on the land encompassing the nicely. And reader, only a warning: this abridged historic report goes from very scant to very complicated in a rush.

Nonetheless, in studying the report, one will get the sense of beginning down the deep nicely of Boston’s historical past, and within the darkness, seeing hints of the ugly realities of the time, such because the colonization of indigenous lands, patriarchal legal guidelines and lethal illnesses. However one additionally will get a glimpse of how the land that we right this moment name Ronan Park got here to be.

(Metropolis of Boston Archaeology Program)

The Web site’s Indigenous Historical past

Though Ronan Park has by no means been surveyed archaeologically, the report acknowledged, it’s possible that some Indigenous websites exist or as soon as existed within the park, as Boston as an entire is a part of the ancestral homelands of the Massachuestt. The closest intact websites are at Savin Hill and Business Level, each Massachuestt burial locations that date to the seventeenth century.

European Colonization

In 1630, European immigrants started colonizing the realm simply north of the location. And in 1793, historic data present that Thaddeus Mason Harris, a minister of the Dorchester First Parish Church situated simply north of Ronan Park, purchased the land on which the location sits.

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In 1818, a bricklayer named John Pierce bought 10 acres of the land and constructed two properties for himself and his spouse, Catherine B. Pierce, and their household — the second at 151 Adams St., the place the nicely was discovered.

John’s son, Charles, would later marry Mary Lyman of Springfield in 1846. And by the 1850s, each seemed to be dwelling in a home close to 151 Adams St., together with their two youngsters, a few Irish laborers and two Irish-born ladies, Kate Fitzgerald and Margaret Kohn, who the archeologists recommend could have been home servants.

An 1831 map of Dorchester shows an undeveloped area where John Pierce would later build a house. That patch of land, located at 151 Adams St., is where the sinkhole in Ronan Park is. (City of Boston Archaeology Program)
An 1831 map of Dorchester reveals an undeveloped space the place John Pierce would later construct a home. That patch of land, situated at 151 Adams St., is the place the sinkhole in Ronan Park is. (Metropolis of Boston Archaeology Program)

Mary’s Story 

In 1857, Charles died of typhoid fever however did not depart a will, and within the years that adopted Mary apparently fell on arduous monetary occasions. By regulation, she needed to petition for an allowance from her husband’s $43,000 property. And the $355 she was awarded apparently wasn’t sufficient for her and her two youngsters to reside on, as a result of the 1865 state census has her dwelling in a boarding home south of Fields Nook, together with 22 different individuals.

Later, Mary would buy the property at 151 Adams St., which had been willed to numerous relations by her husband’s father, John. Among the many heirs whose stakes within the property she had to purchase as much as acquire title? Her personal son, Charles Jr., and her daughter Elizabeth.

Mary died of most cancers in November 1885. In her will, she left $1,000 to her neighbor, $100 to her servant, and $50 to her nurse. Her daughter Elizabeth would obtain the Adams Road home, and the remainder of her $18,000 property — until she received married.

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An 1874 drawing from Hopkins Atlas shows Mary Pierce owning the house. The red dot indicates where the well was found. (City of Boston Archaeology Program)
An 1874 drawing from Hopkins Atlas reveals Mary Pierce proudly owning the home. The purple dot signifies the place the nicely was discovered. (Metropolis of Boston Archaeology Program)

Elizabeth, And The Relaxation Of The Story

Elizabeth died from a kidney illness in 1892 and was buried at Mount Benedict cemetery in West Roxbury. And whereas she remained single and didn’t have youngsters throughout her life, the report states that “Elizabeth’s will and probate displays a social life crammed with household and long-time mates,” naming 28 individuals in her will.

The report goes on to state that Elizabeth’s will made “a transparent desire for the ladies in her life, with twenty ladies named in her will and simply 9 males, and the ladies obtain the overwhelming majority of her property, totaling practically $30,000, with simply $5,000 given to males. It’s clear that Elizabeth selected to financially help the ladies in her life greater than the boys.”

In 1893, the executors of Elizabeth’s property bought the property to Hannah Bliss for “one greenback and different beneficial issues to us” — though the historians have no idea why.

In 1910, at about 82 years previous, Bliss died of a cerebral hemorrhage. And her heirs bought the property to the town of Boston, which might later used the land to construct Ronan Park.

A drawing from the G. W. Bromley Atlas showing Ronan Park soon after it was created. The red dot indicates the location of the well on this map. (City of Boston Archaeology Program)
A drawing from the G. W. Bromley Atlas exhibiting Ronan Park quickly after it was created. The purple dot signifies the placement of the nicely on this map. (Metropolis of Boston Archaeology Program)

Need Extra? 

There are extra depths to plumb on this report, if you’re a nerd for that form of factor — from geologic evaluation to analyses to the historical past of waterworks in Boston. Here is the report in full.

The Mary L. Pierce Well filled on December 29, 2020. (Courtesy Boston Parks and Recreation Department)
The Mary L. Pierce Effectively stuffed on December 29, 2020. (Courtesy Boston Parks and Recreation Division)
A modern aerial image of Ronan Park and the location of where the sinkhole opened. (City of Boston Archaeology Program)
A contemporary aerial picture of Ronan Park and the placement of the place the sinkhole opened. (Metropolis of Boston Archaeology Program)

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