From Fisk Farm to Fiske Street
From Walter McClennen; November 2019
How did that street get its name? Fiske St. is an interesting example to explore with much town history to tell. Through our many decades living at 432 Fiske St. (the old Eastern Nursery property), my wife and I saved historic deeds, documents and stories that told us much about the Fisk Farm and the earliest years of this Bogastow Brook section of town. I recently organized all I had learned about the expansive Fisk family farm and the twentieth century Eastern Nursery era. In so doing, I learned how Fiske St. got its name.
Let me start at the beginning. The Nipmucks and the Bogastow Brook and Weenakeening (Lake Winthrop) all start the story – First Peoples and a place of beauty. With the arrival of the English settlers in the seventeenth century, new names and a new language came to the Bogastow lands. David Fisk (1732-1817), son and grandson of Sherborn settlers, was a landowner with cow pastures and barns on the east side of our town. He was one of the many Fisk family members who through the generations wended their way out from Salem to Watertown, Natick and Sherborn, seeking farmland and other opportunities. This Ensign David Fisk fought in the French and Indian War in the late 1750s. He and his wife, Sarah Bullard Fisk, expanded their large farm situated between Lowland Street and the Sherborn town line. They raised a family of nine boys and two girls down in the old house that stands now at 268 Fiske St.
With all those male heirs, and living on prime agricultural land, Ensign David Fisk divided up his holdings and sold or gave good meadowlands and woodlands to his children. David Jr., John, Nathan, Timothy and Aner were the sons who continued as owners of the Bogastow lands. Streets had no names at this post-Revolution time in Holliston. However, this simple dirt pathway heading over the Bogastow Brook was becoming the “land of Fisks” (Holliston Fisks changed to the “Fiske” spelling during the nineteenth century.)
In the 1790s, the elder David gave the house that was to later become our house, and some surrounding land, to sons David Jr. and Timothy. Timothy later became a highly respected citizen in Holliston. He was the first solidly trained doctor of the town. He practiced medicine in the town from around 1801 to 1863 – a very long career, indeed. Although he lived in the center of town at the house currently bearing his name at the corner of Washington St. and Hollis St., he also owned the original Fisk house on the east bank of the the Bogastow Brook by the bridge. This was Dr. Fisk’s inherited “country house,” set well outside of the center of town. It burned down in a major Eastern Nursery fire on June 30, 1912.
The children and grandchildren of David, Jr., Dr. Timothy, and John and Nathan Fisk carried on in town in both farming and woolen goods, as well as serving as local town officials. Fisks were pillars of the local community. Then, between 1901 and 1911, Eastern Nursery bought different parcels of the 150 year old Fisk Farm holdings. Eastern Nursery was an outgrowth of a rising American interest in plant propogation and landscaping centered around both the developing Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain and Jackson Thornton Dawson and his adult children. The Fisks (now Fiskes) were beginning to move on to other areas of New England and the nation. Some died tragically in work accidents. Reuben Eames Fiske and son Albert I. Fiske lived in our house and continued farming near the Bogastow. By the end of the nineteenth century, this line of the Fisk Farm family was moving out of town or marrying into other family names. In 2005, my wife and I enjoyed a visit from Alfred Gifford Hayden, a direct descendant of this family line – a final chapter of the Fisk family in our house.
Dr. Timothy Fisk’s family, on the other hand, has had an impact on the town right up to today. His son Ferdinand also lived in the center of town. And grandson James Ferdinand Fiske founded Fiskes General Store in 1863, the same year as the death of his grandfather. Upon James Ferdinand’s death in the twentieth century, his daughter, Anne Louise Fiske, carried on with the store until her death in 1953. Fiskes – the store – remains today a vital part of our town, operated since 1973 by two dedicated generations of the Paltrineri family.
Starting with the farmers of the earliest colonial times, and continuing for 300 years, it only makes sense that the road down to the old Fisk farmlands by the Bogastow Brook became known as Fiske St. Also this family name is known to all in town today due to the business efforts of Dr. Timothy Fisk’s grandson and his great-granddaughter, Annie Fiske.
About the author: (This street-name history is based on the information included in Walter McClennen’s recent “Short History of the Fisk Farm.” Any historical errors will be corrected as any local historians hold forth with their comments/observations. After 44 years at their Fiske St. home, Walter and Carol McClennen recently moved to their new “downtown” home on School St. in Mudville.)