chapter  8
15 Pages

Back to Brookline: The Sixties and Seventies

WithJames R. McGovern

BROOKLINE retained in the 1860’s and 1870’s much of the natural beauty and quality of society which had caused a minister living there in the early nineteenth century to extol the community as a veritable paradise. It had become, of course, less rural and picturesque as it became a large town between 1865 and 1880 and began to expand and to provide the services required in a community where the population grew from approximately 4, 000 people to 9, 000. As for its “society,” it still centered in Rev. Pierce’s old church, the First Parish; its call to worship on Sunday morning turned out the solid gentry-merchant families who walked to church services in unostentatious elegance. But these people no longer made up the town exclusively; indeed, there were beginning signs of the disintegration of what had been a relatively homogeneous community. A nouveaux riches generated through the country’s rapid industrialization after the Civil War was seeking to establish its legitimacy by living in Brookline side by side with older wealth. And the community now had needs for numerous servants and servicers, such as blacksmiths, builders and storekeepers. This meant an immigrant population with attendant, and sometimes phantasied problems of crime, delinquency and corruption.