The Founders of the First Parish

The founders of the Dover First Parish1 were a company of men who were descended from those who were identified with the beginnings of American history and who resisted what they believed to be tyranny in church and state. For this cause they crossed stormy seas and established a government here in accordance with constitutional liberty. The influence of a church covering more than a century and a half of active service cannot be measured, cannot be weighed. It is a silent influence which has left its imprint on the life of the inhabitants, instructing the children, training the youth, enriching the lives of the people, and withal making the town a better place in which to dwell...

The history of the church is the early history of the town. On the earliest plan that has come down to us, that made in 1794, the "meeting house," as the accompanying map shows, was the only building designated. This building was the centre of all activities.

In the years to come many persons will visit this parish to see where their ancestors, the founders of the following American families, set up their homes, namely: Henry Wilson, James Draper, Andrew Dewing, Thomas Battle, and Nathaniel Chickering, all of whom had original settlements within the present bounds of Dover. This little book will enable all such, as well as the descendants of the founders of the parish, to locate the early homes of their ancestors...

JOSEPH DRAPER was born June 3, 1699, on the original Draper homestead, which extended from Natick to the Medfield line, the house being located on the extreme southerly part of the farm. Joseph Draper was the son of John and Abigail (Mason) Draper, and was descended in the third generation from James Draper who came to America in 1650 and first settled in West Roxbury. About 1656 he settled in that part of Dedham which is now Dover, where he lived for many years. John Draper built in 1725 on the farm of the late William Slavin (Charles A. Knowles estate) on Farm Street. It is believed that the house now standing is the one built by Mr. Draper. He served on important committees; was one of the committee appointed to erect the first meetinghouse, and was also a member of the first precinct committee. He married, Jan. 27, 1725, Deborah, daughter of Samuel and Deborah (Lovell) Ellis. Children: Deborah, Hannah, Olive, Joseph, James, Sarah. He is buried in Dover, but the date of his death is unrecorded. The original James Draper estate included the farm of the late G. D. Everett...

James Draper built a house and settled the farm owned by the late William Slavin on Farm Street, in 1725. As his descendants have long since died or moved away, it is impossible to determine just when the present house was built It is, however, not improbable that the house now standing on this farm is the one first built here by Joseph Draper. Its situation, arrangement, and style of architecture is that of the 18th century. The brick used for building purposes in the vicinity-- the Benjamin H. Dorr and Irving Colburn houses with their brick ends-- was burned on the Draper farm. In settling his father's estate in 1753 Joseph Draper received "6 rods of clay ground." The fact that the lower part of the chimney in this old house was originally built of stone indicates that it was erected before bricks were burned on this farm. Slaves had a suffrage existence in the colony of Massachusetts Bay for many years previous to the Revolution. There can be no dispute that for more than a century before a slave set foot on the soil of Georgia, men, women, and children were bought and sold and held by leading citizens of this parish, and on the death of their owners they were mentioned in their estates as property. On this farm slaves once worked. Joseph Draper received from his father's estate a half ownership in his negro man. In this old house William Draper, who graduated at Harvard and later be came a prominent and distinguished citizen of Michigan, was born. Here two sons of Joseph Draper, Joseph, Jr., and James, both of whom took part in the Revolution, were born.

1This parish was established November 18, 1748, having been previously for nearly twenty years a precinct in Dedham. While a precinct the residents were assigned by the General Court to the churches in Medfield, Natick, and Needham, where they worshipped and paid their ministerial tax. The first meeting-house was raised August 30, 1750, and dedicated in December, 1754, although not fully completed before 1760. The church connected with the parish was organized on Sunday, November 7, 1762.

With Descriptions of All the Houses Now Standing which were Built Before the Revolution
by Frank Smith. Printed by the First Parish, Dover, Massachusetts, 1908.