Dorchester celebrates its original settlement by English Puritans each year with a blow-out party and parade that we modern-day city dwellers know affectionately as Dot Day. The all-neighborhood celebration falls on the first Sunday in June— roughly marking the day that Pilgrim ships landed on the coast near Savin Hill.
But it took a few months for Dorchester and its neighboring communities, including Boston, to get better organized and officially named. A special commemoration of that momentous day —382 years ago — will be held on Friday, Sept. 7. Churches in Boston, Dorchester and Watertown will ring in the birthday at 4:30 p.m. when all the bells will toll simultaneously.
“The church bells ring at that time because we learned that 4:30 in military time is 1630, which is also the year it happened,” said Karin Turer, spokesperson for Boston Charter Day, which organizes events in commemoration of September 7, 1630.
A group of Puritans elected to abandon the name “Trimountaine”, the name they used originally to describe the three mountains on the peninsula of what we now call Boston. They chose the name Boston from a town inn eastern England. The settlers of Dorchester — which first was known by the Native name Mattapan— adopted its name from another town back home in England. And the towns on the Charles River became known as Watertown.
The participating Dorchester churches in Friday’s afternoon bell-ringing will include First Parish Church, All Saints Episcopal and St. Mark’s Parish.
“These churches represent different backgrounds,” said Will Holton, founder and president of the Partnership of the Historic Bostons, which hosts Boston Charter Day events. “Dorchester is a pretty big area, so the bells will be heard all over Dorchester.”
Bostonians are welcome to a free birthday celebration at Reader’s Park, which is the plaza across from the Old South Meeting House. It will feature a huge birthday cake donated by Roche Bros. The first 50 children to arrive will be given bells to ring.
A free guided walking tour of the Boston Founders trail will follow, but reservations must be made online at bcd2012friday.eventbrite.com. These activities will kick off a series of free weekend-long events taking place Sept. 20-24 when Boston Charter Day continues.
“History books go from the Mayflower to the Revolutionary War,” said Holton. “It’s as if nothing happened in between. Boston Charter Day events educate people on this forgotten time period.”
Echoed Turer: “Boston Charter Day is a way to tell these stories of when Boston was being settled by English people.”
She added: “Every year we have a theme for these events. This year the theme is Women in Early Boston. We’re celebrating women of the 17th century. This theme was inspired by Anne Bradstreet. She was a poet and quite outspoken. This year would have been her 400th birthday.”
The first event in the lineup is called “Bringing the Worlds of 17th-Century Massachusetts Women to Life,” which will feature two role players from Plimoth Plantation. They will perform in character as women from that time period. It will take place Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at First Church, Boston in the Back Bay. Reservations are required at bcd2012thursday.eventbrite.com
“I’m really excited for the event on Sept. 20,” said Holton. “It will portray what it was like to be a rich woman and a poor woman, what it was like to deal with the men, to take care of the children.”
“A 17th-Century Walking Tour of Women’s Boston” will take place on Sept. 22. This guided walking tour will be led by the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail Association. It was specially created for the Boston Charter Day celebrations. This tour is most appropriate for teenagers and older. Reservations are required online at bcd2012saturday.eventbrite.com. Space is limited to 20 people per tour. Tours will take place at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
A nondenominational service at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23 will feature a sermon titled “Women’s Roles in the Religious Life of Early Massachusetts” by associate minister Rosemary Lloyd at First Church, Boston. It will be followed at 1 p.m. by a guided walking tour of the Boston Founders Trail, which will be led by Will Holton. The tour will cover individuals and places of importance in the early decades of Boston’s history. Reservations are required at bcd2012sunday.eventbrite.com.
Finally, at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 24, a panel discussion called “Stirring the Pot: Women in Early Massachusetts” will explore the special role of women in creating and sustaining community. Panelists are Charlotte Gordon, author, poet and assistant professor of English at Endicott University in Beverly, Mass., and Cornelia H. (Nina) Dayton, author and assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. The moderator is Jonathan L. Fairbanks, director of the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass. and curator Emeritus of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The panel discussion will take place at the Old State House on State Street in Boston. Reservations are required at bcd2012monday.eventbrite.com.