The 200th and 350th Anniversary Committees:  A Family Connection

    The icy plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Nipmuc on New Year’s Day had special meaning
    for Jonathan and Joe Dudley. The bone chilling dip started the new year with a splash. It
    called attention that 2017 would become a fun and memorable year in celebration of Mendon’
    s 350th birthday. For the Dudleys, it was not just a civic event; it was personal. They had
    inherited the role as torchbearers for their generation to carry on the tradition of public
    service and affiliation with the town’s village center. Their ancestral lineage runs deep.

    One hundred fifty years earlier, in 1867, the people of Mendon needed something special to
    uplift their spirits. It had only been two years since the Civil War ended, and the town had
    lost twenty of its finest young men. President Lincoln had been assassinated. The
    agricultural economy had been in decline, as the farmer friendly Blackstone Canal closed in
    1848. The canal had served the farmers as an inland seaport market, allowing them to sell
    their vegetables from Worcester to Providence, and beyond. The P and W Railroad catered
    to the factory owners and snubbed the Mendon farmers. The town’s treasure trove of tax
    infusion ended in 1845 when the precinct of Blackstone became an independent town.
    Mendon was hurt financially, geographically, and in population. The once aristocratic
    population of the village center in the 1820’s had died out.  Titles of congressman, bank
    president, and ambassador were replaced by carpenter, wheelwright, and dairyman. The
    people of Mendon in the post war era needed a boost of hope.

    Silas Dudley, Atty. Nathan George, and Dr. John Metcalf, three of Mendon’s finest citizens in
    1867, were appointed to co-chair Mendon’s 200th Anniversary Committee. They were in
    charge of planning and organizing the town’s celebration activities. The festivities took place
    on North Avenue, across the street from Sky Farm, just north of where Clough School is
    currently located. The committee ordered a large tent that could accommodate 1,200 invited
    guests. They included local and state government officials, the clergy, descendants of
    founding families, and bands from the children towns. After introductory remarks, hymns,
    and musical pieces, the group assembled under the direction of General William Draper,
    grand marshal, and marched to the Unitarian Church.

    The ceremony at the church was warm and meaningful. The building was decorated in
    flowers, and there was a sign that read, “Welcome Home.” Dr. Metcalf gave the welcoming
    speech, followed by prayers hymns and musical selections by the band. Reverend Carlton
    Staples gave the main address. Reverend Adin Ballou composed a hymn which was sung by
    the choir. After the religious service, the group re-assembled and marched back to the tent
    on North Avenue.

    Afternoon festivities included musical selections, a blessing. dinner, speeches, and toasts.
    Honorable Henry Chapin read a poem that he had composed about Mendon’s history. The
    200th Anniversary Celebration closed with a benediction. May 15, 1867 was a day of
    reverence, gratitude, and jubilation. It was a well needed morale booster. An audience of
    more than four thousand appreciative people could attest to this.

    Jonathan Dudley and Kevin Rudden are co-chairmen of this year’s 350th Anniversary
    Committee. Their distinguished committee consists of a group of people who have devoted
    hundreds of hours in preparing a year- long agenda of meaningful, entertaining, and varied
    activities. The events to date have been well attended, and the response has been pleasing
    and enthusiastic. Whole families have been participating. New friends have been made.
    People of Mendon can look forward to several more months of festivities that combine
    celebration, jubilation, reverence, and gratitude.

    Most certainly, Silas Dudley is looking down most favorably on the excellent work of his
    great, great, great grandson Jonathan, co-chairman Rudden, and their energetic,
    hardworking committee. The icy plunge into Lake Nipmuc on January 1st marked a splash
    into a new year and created a new ripple of pride in the history of our great town.

    The members of the 350th Committee and their agenda of activities are listed on their web
    site. To this group, we extend a sincere, “Thank you !!!!”

    Richard Grady     Mendon Historical Society     March 22, 2017

                                                                                        

Edward Dudley, son of Silas Dudley

    The Keith house - 26 Maple Street. It is
    now the home of Russ and Anne Dudley.

                                     Elisabeth and George Keith:  1770 Innkeepers

    Elisabeth and George Keith's inn provided a welcome overnight stay for weary Post Road
    travelers during colonial New England times.  Traveling from New York to Boston over dusty,
    bumpy roads in a cramped stagecoach was not a pleasant journey.  Mendon served as one
    of the stopovers for a good night's sleep and a hot meal.  The Keith Inn opened in the
    village center in 1770 at what is now ten Hastings Street (corner of Route 16 and Elm St.)
    and provided lodging for the next thirty years.

    Post Road is America's oldest interstate highway (1672).  It was divided into three parts:
    upper, middle, and lower.  Middle Post Road went through Mendon in a southwest-northeast
    direction a few hundred yards north of the village center.  (A stone marker is located across
    from Clough School.)  Travel was difficult and uncomfortable over a long distance, so inns
    were a pleasant place for relaxation.  The newly elected President George Washington
    toured New England by way of Post Road in 1789, and he concluded that if the new nation
    were to grow and prosper, then the roads connecting the cities had to be greatly improved.

    Keith's Inn had an interesting history.  On December 3, 1770, a town meeting being held at
    the Fourth Meetinghouse was moved to the inn because the meetinghouse was too cold.  
    George Keith died in 1774, so Elisabeth operated the inn by herself until she married John
    Hill in 1780. They ran the inn together until her death in 1802 at the age of 86. John sold
    the inn to Atty. Seth Hastings who used it as a residence. A few years later, Seth had the
    building moved to a new location  at 26 Maple Street and built a new brick building in its
    place.          
                                                                               
    The closing of the Keith Inn came at the same time that Middle Post Road was discontinued.
    The wider, smoother Hartford Turnpike opened in 1804, and segments of Post Road were
    sold as private property. New stagecoach lines continued to bring travelers to Mendon, and
    they stayed at another popular inn down the street owned by the Ammidon family. Mendon
    Village Center, with Seth Hastings' influence, soon grew and prospered. However, it was at a
    special time in our history, when our nation was being formed, that Post Road brought
    travelers from New York to Boston, and their journey was made more comfortable by staying
    overnight at a Mendon inn.

    Russell and Anne Dudley are the current owners of the George and Elisabeth Keith Inn at
    26 Maple Street.
                                   
    Richard Grady,  Mendon, MA

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