NPS Tour brochure link
|When I took the tour
||Sep 2, 2009
||12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
|Walking Distances (miles)
|Parks, Cemeteries & Other
The Grafton tour is a fun short stroll around the common of a New England
village center that hasn't changed much in the past century. When I lived on
Route 140 in West Upton I rode a bicycle to the Grafton common many times for
exercise. Although I visited the common dozens of times I hadn't really noticed
how many interesting buildings are in this tiny hilltop village.
|The tour begins with
The Grafton Inn on the
corner of State Route 140. As the "open" flag being put up
highlights, this 200+ year old building is still an operating inn
with a restaurant and bar. This is the oldest building in the common
historic district (c. 1805) and across Route 140 is one of the
newest buildings the
(c.1928). The library isn't mentioned at this point in the NPS Tour
but I think it's worth looking at for its interesting early 20th
century public architecture.
Walking up South Street past the library I saw two interesting
buildings not mentioned in the tour brochure. The tiny pair have
historic building plaques naming them the Lovell Stone Houses c.
1830. The buildings are listed simply as dwellings on the
Historic District Commission map.
Next door to these nice
little buildings is the
also built in 1830. This is the least ornate of the three churches
around the common but to me it is the most significant historically.
As the NPS tour brochure points out, prior to the 1830's
Massachusetts actively repressed religions other than the State
established Congregational Church. The building of this Baptist
Church symbolizes the final end to the oppression of other religions
in the state. Since the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony, the Baptists in particular had been
imprisoned and even
whipped for failure to follow the official state religion.
Next up on the tour are the 50¢ & Dollar houses on South Street. Be
sure to take a short stroll down South street to get a good look at
these lovely homes. Comparing the style and size of homes on the
east vs. west sides of the street clearly illustrates the income gap
between the working and upper classes in Grafton during the 19th
Approaching the common area again take a good look at the
Anne style mansion of George W. Fisher (c. 1885). The
building is now used as offices for professionals which should keep
the exquisite condition of the building and its landscape intact for
decades to come.
On the small traffic island in South Street, just
north of the Fisher Mansion and the Baptist Church, stands the
statue. His invention of the Wheelock steam cylinder along with his
other ventures made him a very wealthy engineer. When he died in
March 1902 there was over
½ million dollars in his estate
($13 million in 2009 dollars). The name Wheelock made me think of
the Uxbridge village named Wheelockville. After researching his life
a bit I don't believe there is a direct relationship to the Uxbridge
mill owning Wheelock family for which Wheelockville is named.
The beautiful Grafton Common is the next stop on the walking tour. It's a
perfect spot to sit on a bench or the soft grass and soak up the atmosphere of
the town. The quaint bandstand is a common feature of New England villages but
in this case it's not a 19th century artifact. This
bandstand was built for the filming of the
of Eugene O'Neill's' "Ah
Wilderness!". The Grafton News
has posted a short clip
from the film showing the bandstand on their
The tour continues at the north end of the common but along the way
is the second of the three Grafton churches. The Congregational
Church with its large Willard clock has far more detailed
Revival architecture than the Baptist Church. On a traffic
island between the common and church is the town's Korean & Vietnam
Adjacent to the church is the H. Parker House c. 1830. From the
church side it is a very plain looking structure but look back as
you pass to see the decorative side. The last traffic island along
the west side of the common has the simple stone WWI Memorial.
Like the Parker House the next two buildings I photographed are not
mentioned in the NPS tour. The Jonathan Wheeler House built in 1806
and the 1850 School/Post Office. Mr. Wheeler built the western
commercial block known as the Flynn Block in 1806, this along with
his home are the second oldest structures around the common.
Although the home and commercial building are architecturally
Second Empire, given their age I suspect they where remodeled
sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Across Route 140 from
the Flynn Block is the Town House aka Warren Block built in 1862.
Given its date of construction I believe its Second Empire
architecture is very likely original to the building.
||Next to the Town House is the most ornate of the trio of
churches surrounding the common, the
Unitarian Church . Its
architecture is visually stunning.
traffic island across Millbury Street from the church has Grafton's
Civil War Monument. Erected in 1867 this marble pillar is holding up
fairly well with many of the fine sculptural details still intact.
The final building I photographed is the 1840 Greek Revival Bank
adjacent to the final tour stop, the Grafton & Upton Railroad. The
truck in the photo is a rail maintenance vehicle a common site now
that the G & U Railroad is
operating again. A
new owner has invested heavily in the line and now has it moving
freight from North Grafton down to West Upton.
|After I finished the Grafton tour I headed out of town on
Millbury Street and then south on Route 122 to the Nipmuc Indian
Burial Ground (just south of the Bruce St. intersection).
nearly 350 year old cemetery was opened shortly after
Eliot established the Hassanamesit Praying Village in Grafton,
some of the
Praying Indians were buried here.
The inscription on the large stone monument is un-readable and
the smaller gravestones also have no readable markings. Still it is
nice place to spend a little time remembering that the Nipmuc
Indians where here a long time before the Puritans came and how we
nearly obliterated their culture.
The Nipmuc Nation is
recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but was denied
Federal recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2004.
I had a fun time learning about the history of Grafton and I think its common
is arguably the best in all of the Blackstone valley. This hour long walking
tour was a good choice as a warm-up for the other tour I took on this day, the
Blackstone Canal walking tour. Grafton is the
shortest walking tour by distance and fourth shortest for time making it a good
choice when planning a multiple tour day in the valley.
There are many more places to visit in Grafton so I expect to come back many
more times. I plan to visit the Willard
House and Clock Museum, the mill villages of Farnumsville and New England
Village and some of the more than two dozen conservation and wildlife management
areas owned by the town and the
More Information about Grafton
Footsteps in History
Grafton Historical Society
Grafton History from The Grafton News
Grafton MA History, Photos and Info
Indian Burial Ground - Blackstone Valley News
The Grafton News Channel @
Grafton and Upton Railroad
G&U Map @ CSX.com
YouTube - Grafton & Upton RR
Some other attractions in Grafton
Grafton Land Trust
Hassanamisco Indian Museum
Hassanamesit Woods Historic Conservation
Willard House and Clock Museum