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.

“Images of America, Holliston,” page 65. (Holliston Historical Society, 1997):   a painting of
the original brookside “Fiske” house on Fiske St. – the one that burned down in 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. 

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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.)

The Publishers

3 Comments

  1. Lesley Kennally on December 5, 2019 at 9:19 am

    This is so interesting! Thank you Walter!

  2. Bobby Blair on December 5, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks Walter for the article and welcome to Mudville. As a teen in the 1960’s. myself and a few neighborhood friends from Prospect Street would hop on our bike’s with our shotguns placed over our handle bars and head off to Eastern Nurseries for a day of hunting. Pauline Hodgson as her sister operated the greenhouse on the property along with the grounds. The home was occupied by the Ghelli family, Fran & Betty (Kampersal) and their kids. We would hunt the entire area with Tommy & Don Ghelli. Bullard Street was still a dirt Road with no houses, the exception being the Sportmen’s Club. Sadly thereafter Tommy Ghelli would be killed in action shortly after his arrival in Vietnam on January 10th 1968. Times have certainly changed and I can’t imagine what would happen if a few teens were seen coming through the town center with a shot gun. Just different times I guess.

  3. David Stickney on December 6, 2019 at 10:12 am

    My name is Dave Stickney and my family moved from south Framingham to Fiske St in 1970 (#322) and have been there ever since. I moved out in 1991 when I got married and moved to Milford for 20 years. After mom and dad passed away we moved back to the family homestead on Fiske St in 2011. Living on Fiske Street in the early 70’s was very different than it is today. There was hardly any traffic (except when GM got out in the afternoon), and almost no houses after Bogastow and none across the street from us. Like Bobby, as kids 9-12 years old we spent much time hunting in the woods off of Fiske St, the difference being we had BB guns hunting little critters. I think the biggest thing we ever got was a frog, but it was lots of fun.
    Here is a story that happened to us in the early 70’s. We were getting ready to dive to my aunts house in Auburn when all of a sudden we heard a noise coming from the street. We listened more and kept hearing moooo, moooo. We ran to the front of the house and saw a cow walking down the street. My father went to the street to secure the cow. He took his belt off and wrapped it around the cows neck to hold him. He told my mother to call the police, so she did. When the officer answered she said my name is Shirley Stickney and I live on Fiske Street and there is a cow walking down the street. The officer replied, “are you sure its a cow and not your brother in law” (Dick). We all got a big laugh from that. The police came and walked the cow back to his farm in Sherborn. We have home movies of the episode.

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