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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