“Why is it called Walpole?”

Town Hall, Walpole, Massachusetts

Town Hall in Walpole, Massachusetts (Image Credit: Marc N. Belanger)

Last weekend, while the citizens of Caterpickles Central were driving around Massachusetts in yet another attempt to find good Mexican food, we passed through a little town called Walpole. The Four-Year-Old, who is rather fond of Rancho Chico, a Mexican restaurant in nearby Plainville where she was serenaded by a mariachi band, asked, “Are we in Plainville?”

Father: “No, we’re in Walpole.”

The Four-Year-Old: “Why do they call it Walpole?”

So we Asked the iPhone.

Turns out, when the Neponset Native American tribe ceded the land now known as Walpole to the settlers back in 1635, Walpole was actually part of Dedham. Before being chiseled down to its current size, Dedham boasted parts of 16 different towns, including Walpole, Norwood, Westwood, and Dover. Walpole split off from Dedham in 1724, after the saw mill industry had developed enough to make it prosperous enough to exist on its own. The new town was named Walpole, in honor of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.

We have spent many happy minutes imagining the phrasing on those permission slips.

This burst of good will toward the mother country was short-lived, however. The newly prosperous citizens of Walpole rather rapidly decided they didn’t like being subject to taxes from overseas, and sent some 200 men to fight in the various battles of the Revolutionary War (a number that becomes much more impressive when you consider that, according to Wikipedia, Walpole had “grown” to have 1,935 residents in 1860).

Today, Walpole boasts some 24,000 people, and one of my favorite signs in all of Massachusetts (shown at right). I like it almost as well as the “Thickly Settled” signs that invariably appear next to cemeteries in Boston.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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