What’s in a Name?

I love driving around town reading street names. Some names are easy to figure out; Church Court, for example, used to be the location of the Methodist Church (the one Jessie Foote climbed). Others are family names of important people from Ashland’s history; Higley, for example, but who was he? Then there are the street names that are a total mystery; Where are the olives on Olive Street? Where is the Fountain on Fountain Street?! Is Greenwood named after young firewood? Let’s take a look at a few of these puzzing street names and learn a bit of history, while we are at it!   

Higley Road is located on the east side of town near Cedar Street. It was named after, Judge George T. Higley, a lifelong resident of Ashland who’s contributions shaped our town. Higley was born in the family farmhouse on Cedar Street. He graduated from Amherst College and moved west to teach. Higley fell Ill while in Chicago and moved back to the family farm in Ashland. In 1864, Higley and his brother, Wakefield, enlisted in the Calvary. Wakefield died of Typhoid while Higley became ill and returned to Ashland.

Higley dove into affairs of town. He was on the school committee for 17 years, the committee for the preliminary survey for public water works, the committee to procure the town vault, and the Wildwood Cemetery committee, just to name a few. His efforts for town improvements did not stop there. He pushed for Ashland to have a Public Library and even hand picked the first books. His efforts for acquiring Stone Park is still enjoyed by the community today. He also was a founder and first president of the Ashland Historical Society. His historical documents about the town- it’s industries, streets, and the people who lived and worked here are a valuable asset to our history. He died after a long illness in his home on Alden Street on June 5, 1912.

Fountain Street, authorized in 1709, it is one of the town’s earliest roads. The road started at the farm of Savil Simpson, the first settler of the area. The Simpson farm was located on what is now the corner of Union and Homer and ran to the meeting house in Framingham Center (near the current location of the Framingham Historical Society). Remember, in 1709 Ashland did not exist. There was no railroad or reservoir to get in the way of the early road.

Now that we have our bearings, where is this fountain?! 136 Fountain Street, was built in 1850 by George Edward Cutler. George’s brother, Henry lived here for many years. It was Henry who installed a fountain on the property which gave the street its name. Sadly, there is no longer a fountain on Fountain Street!

Olive Street, authorized in 1725, this one has always puzzled me! I have never seen any olives on Olive Street and Olive isn’t a typical Ashland Family name, so what is the deal?! Dexter Rockwood was one of the first selectman for the newly established town of Ashland (1846). Rockwood Drive is named after him. So who was Olive? Olive was Rockwood’s step-mother. So sweet!

Greenwood has nothing to do with firewood, it is actually a family name. The road was authorized in 1925 and is likely a nod to the entire Greenwood family and their contributions to the town. However, I drive by it and say ABNER in my best Mrs. Kravitz impression (the nosey neighbor from Bewitched). Abner Greenwood, was a local businessman who gave generously to the town. Have you noticed the three story brick building on Front Street next to the library? That building is known as the Greenwood Block. At the time the building was completed in 1882 it was considered the “look of the future” for downtown Ashland!

One last fact about Greenwood. When the town was looking for a location to build the library, it was Greenwood who donated the lot next to his building! Way to go ABNER!

I hope I have recruited a few more street name investigators, I cannot be the only one asking these important questions!   

Jennifer Lecesse

Ashland Directions

May 2018


Ashland Directions, Judge George Higley, Kay Powers, September 1980

History of the Town of Ashland, 1942

Historical Commission Survey, 136 Fountain Street, 2010

Ashland Directions, The Greenwood Building, Steve Leacu, April 2011