Hellenic Hill

  Chickering & Sons Piano Forte Manufactory built in 1853, at 791 Tremont St. Hand colored steel engraving published by Lowell & Co., Boston, 1870.

Chickering & Sons Piano Forte Manufactory built in 1853, at 791 Tremont St. Hand colored steel engraving published by Lowell & Co., Boston, 1870.

In a recent history of Hellenic Hill, which overlooks Jamaica Pond, it was noted that the Goddard family had acquired the Hill's crown and down to the Pond's edge by 1807. The homestead-marked by a plaque on the road named for the Goddard's connects Jamaica Plain with West Roxbury and Newton.

In 1846, the piano manufacturer, Chickering, purchased five of their shore lots where he built a summerhouse "Sunnyside." Francis Parkman bought the house and land in 1854, and the consequent story has been chronicled before. With the Jamaica Plain connection, the Goddard tale itself deserves retelling.

The first of the family came to America from London in 1665 and settled in Watertown where the patriarch began teaching. His English-born son Joseph settled in Brookline and built a farmhouse in 1680. On this site descendants lived some three centuries later, as the town seal still proclaims. Brookline was then known as Muddy River and was part of Boston. Joseph and others succeeded in the creation of a town in 1708 and established a family tradition of performing a variety of public functions such as constable and selectman. His son John carried on at the farm until 1753 when he moved to Worcester, leaving it to his son, also named John.

The young member of the third generation to live on the ancestral land took down the first house, possibly incorporating its elements into his new home. This occurred in 1767 and explains the second date on the chimney, easily seen when passing, as the house is set down from the street. The house is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Brookline.

John Goddard completed his house before the storm of revolution broke in Massachusetts and, not surprisingly, was involved with the local Committee of Correspondence from the start. His great barn (since removed) was used as a supply depot, and on the night before Paul Revere rode, he hauled some cannon and ammunition to Concord for the colonists' use. He was an eyewitness to the Lexington fight and loaned his gun to a Brookline man. It was lost that day but recovered years later at the Wayside Inn. Somehow the British had missed the cache 80 near them, and after the events of April and June 1775 they were besieged in low-lying Boston.

Goddard's teenage son, Joseph, always remembered helping his father, who had 300 teams placed under his command by newly arrived General Washington. Determined to create a ring of fortified points around downtown Boston, Joseph and the other teamsters hauled artillery that had just arrived from Fort Ticonderoga, and other material to make the fortification at Dorchester Heights. That finally broke any British determination, and they evacuated Boston in March 1776. Washington had named John Goddard Wagon master General of the American Army, but when the war moved south to New York City, Goddard felt it his duty to stay with his farm on the home front.

John had also compiled a list of houses standing in the town. John and Hannah Goddard had 16 children. The oldest was a doctor, graduating in the Harvard class of 1777, which had been obliged to move to Concord for a time to make room for the American soldiers. Of the other sons, Nathaniel became a famed Boston merchant, whose memoir was published. Benjamin has left a diary (partially reprinted by the Jamaica Plain Historical Society), and his eulogy was printed. Like his father, the wagon master general moved out of the farm in 1797 and left it to teamster Joseph, who brought the place to its maximum 80 acres.

Joseph's son, Samuel, lived in England and continued the Goddard penchant for writing: letters both on the American Civil War for an English audience and on his memories of the town of Brookline-all from Birmingham, England.

In the 20th century, Miss Julia Goddard wrote for the Brookline Historical Society and got the plaque erected before the ancestral home in 1929. This is a still-existing family of duration, public service, and self record-ideal, all good reasons for telling their worthy tale.

Sources: R. Heath, "Hellenic Hill", Discover, Boston Urban Wilds, fall 1991. "The Goddard Homestead" in The Brookline Transcript, c. 1898. J. G. Curtis, History of the Town of Brookline, Boston, 1933. H. G. Pickering, Nathaniel Goddard: Boston Merchant, 1906. N. Little, Some Old Brookline Houses, Brookline HS, 1949. Brookline Public Library catalogue entries under Goddard.

By Walter H. Marx. Reprinted with permission from the October 4, 1991 Jamaica Plain Gazette.

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