John Frairy was one of the 13 settlers who left Dedham and founded Medfield in 1649. He was a cordwainer by trade, as well as a farmer. A cordwainer served a long apprenticeship and learned to make shoes from new leather, as distinct from a less skilled cobbler, whose job was limited to repairing shoes. “Cobbler,” at the time, also meant a person who was clumsy at work; a bungler.
It’s hard to imagine needing a five year apprenticeship to make shoes using a straight last (mold). There was no left or right shoe, but at least it encouraged the user to swap shoes from one foot to the other so they’d wear more evenly…like rotating tires.
Frairy lived on the street that now bears his name. He served as a selectman in 1651, 1653, 1654, and 1661. He died in 1675, a few months before King Philip attacked and burned a substantial part of Medfield. (Ironically, Philip, also known as Metacomet, is the only person to have two Medfield streets named for him.)
John’s sons, Eleazar and Samson, both moved to the Connecticut River Valley, settling respectively in Hatfield and Deerfield. Samson was the first Caucasian settler in Deerfield; alas, he and his wife were killed by Indians in 1704.
Some 50 of Eleazar’s and Samson’s descendants from all across the country gathered in Deerfield July 27 and 28 for their biennial reunion. They socialized, dined, and toured the historic town. They all spell their name Frary, even though our street is spelled with an “i” and Tilden throughout his history always spells the name Frairy.
There are many famous and accomplished members of the extended Frary family: the Bush family; Nelson Rockefeller and Levi P. Morton, U.S. vice presidents; Kate Upton, actress and model; George Eastman, Kodak founder; Frederick Upton, founder of Whirlpool.
Surprise guest speaker
The assembled Frarys had a surprise sprung on them by Lynn Frary, president of the association – Frairy Tales, a typically energetic lecture on John Frairy and early Medfield life by Richard DeSorgher, for which Richard received a standing ovation!
Richard will also present Frairy Tales at the old meetinghouse, First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, Monday, October 1, at 7:30 pm.
Here’s a link to the Frary Family Association.
Other Medfielders with family associations include:
- Wheelock – Rick Sullivan of Northborough, a direct descendant of Ralph Wheelock, Medfield’s founder, spoke at the historical society two years ago and shared a little of the results of his 20 years of family research. See Wheelock Genealogy
Morse – The society is based in Portland, Oregon. The Morse Monument occupies a prominent place in Vine Lake Cemetery. See Morse Society.
- Babson – Rob Babson, an historical society curator, is active in the Babson Historical Association.
Portal readers: Are there other Medfield family associations?