Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Express Browsing:

Mon-Thurs: 10-8pm

Fri: 10-5pm

Sat: 10-4pm


Lists the resources in the Newton Free Library's local history collection known as the Newton Collection.

Frequently Ask Questions [FAQs] about Newton, Massachusetts

Over the decades there have been a number of frequently asked questions about Newton and or her residents.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are those questions that have been asked at least 10 times.

While most answers were researched by Georgina Flannery,  Public Services: Reference Librarian/Special Collections, every person who helped to research a FAQ is credited.


Georgina Flannery M.S.  (GJF) 12/20/2017 update 2/20/2019; 4/8/2919

How did Newton get it's name?

In 1639 John Jackson, his wife and their fifteen children became permanent settlers of an outlying area of Cambridge, known as Cambridge Village.  By 1645 a small community of 135 people had been established.  In 1688 Cambridge Village officially separated from Cambridge and became an independent township.  The township known by several names, Cambridge Village, New Cambridge, Newtown, and New Town was on December 15, 1691 granted the name Newton with the assignment of the brand mark 'N' by the General Court of Massachusetts.


Source: Newton, Massachusetts, 1679-1779 : a biographical directory / compiled and edited by Priscilla R. Ritter and Thelma Fleishman. -

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

How did Newton get the second name of the Garden City?

In the book, Newton Massachusetts 1688-1988, a Celebration of Three Hundred Years by Theodore D. Mann, Mayor (at the time) and the Newton Tricentennial Corporation, 1988, there is the statement:
"It is in the 1880s that the term 'Garden City' began cropping up in speeches, administrative reports and promotional literature, and the movement for setting aside open space for public use gained momentum." (p.65)
The references seem to be informal. With two references 1874 and 1875 made in newspaper advertisements to Newton The Garden City.
We have not yet found any official statement, ordinance or proclamation establishing Newton as
the Garden City.
Researched  2000  by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections Updated in 2011 by GJF and CBB; Updated 2020 - GJF


What's in a geographical location?

A lot!  Newton, Massachusetts, Newton, Ohio, etc/ There are 11 other cities and towns with the name Newton, in the United States and one in Canada - Newton, British Columbia

Newton, MA: 

Longtitude  West 710 12'

Latitude North 420   20'      

Elevation: 300 feet  (highest) 10 feet (lowest)

Newton, MA has seven hills.   " In respect to hills, Newton claims the mystic and fortunate number of seven, like ancient Rome.; and these bear the names of Nonantum Hill, Waban Hill, Chestnut Hill, Institution Hill, Blad Pate, Oak Hill, and Mount Ida."  Source: King's Handbook of Newton by M.F. Sweetser 1889 p. 30-31

Direct link to the book King's Handbook of Newton



Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Request for Public Records

How can I find out who my street is named for?

There is no definitive listing of how streets in Newton are named. Thus, this is a hard question to answer.

Some of Newton's street names recall lost veterans.( Newton Tab November 7, 2001 p. 11) while other streets and roads were named for prominent Newton citizens; i.e. Ward Street  for Charles Ward, a descendant of the early settlers, and a Civil War army volunteer who was killed in the battle of Gettysburg, while other streets were name for and by the  housing developers of the city.

"Newton simply doesn't record the origin of street names"  Ken Bresler, article November 7, 2011 p.11 Street names recall lost veterans.


Source: Newton Tab November 7, 2001 p.11; Darrell Azure Newton Engineering Department           

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Why is Centre Street spelled wrong

Center  vs. centre

Center is the preferred 21st Century spelling in American English, and centre is the more favored spelling in varieties of English from outside the U.S.  Since  Newton was settled in 1630 by British settlers it is assumed that our founding fathers used the British spelling centre for the main road in the settlement at the time.  The city continues with this tradition.   Except for the United States Postal Service.

"Commuters come to Newton Centre but mail comes to Newton Center, all because of the whims of a local civil servant. . . Postmaster Guilfoyle "preferred the direct approach, the Americanized spelling" and stubbornly wote Center in his correspondence with Washington, says P.O. manager Ed Weyland.  The US Post Office has struck by Guilfoyle's preference and resisted subsequent public petitions and attempts by other postmasters to officially restore Newton Centre.  Source: The Villages of Newton 1977 p. 64


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections Updated 7/10/2018 by GjF

Exactly how many villages are there in Newton?

The number of villages has varied through the decades, for example Newton at one time had 11 villages (Auburndale, Chestnut HIll, Lower Falls, Newton, Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, Newtonville, Oak Hill, Upper Falls, Waban and West Newton) (Refernce Fire Alarm Booklet).  As of  September 20, 2013 , the correct answer is 13 villages. The village names are as follows: Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Newton (Corner), Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newtonville, Nonantum, Oak Hill Park (includes Oak Hill Village), Thompsonville, Waban, and West Newton. 



Click on this link to the Curious Genealogist for an in-depth account of the number of villages throughout the years.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections 1980, 2014 and VEA 2010

Is each village a separate city or part of Newton

The City of Newton is comprised of a number of villages, ( i.e. Newton Centre, Nonantum, Newton Corner, West Newton  to name a few. 
Each separate village was and is a part of  the town and now city of Newton,  Massachusetts.

To understand this concept:  1. think of Newton as a jigsaw puzzle in which you need to insert  all the villages, to make the whole city or jigsaw. 2. think of the villages for example, West Newton, Newton Corner etc. as geographical names.

King's Handbook of Newton on p.32  names the early 10 villages of Newton.  "Newton contains ten villages, named as follows: Newton, Newtonville, Nonantum (or North Village), West Newton, Auburndale, Riverside, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newton Highlands and Newton Centre;" . . .

 Source: King's handbook of Newton, Massachusetts
Sweetser, M. F. (Moses Foster), 1848-1897.

Moses King corporation | 1889

The Newton Free Library has a circulating copy of this book. Also there is a direct link to Google books for this title should you care to read more.
Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Chestnut Hill actually encompasses three different municipalities; part of the town of Brookline, the city of Boston—Brighton and West Roxbury—, and the city of Newton. Here is an in depth discussion of where Chestnut Hill is located by Anna Whitham, Conservation Assistant, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

How many Newtons are there in the World?

Click on this link for the answer.

Who are the Nobel Prize winners from Newton

The following people from Newton Massachusetts have received Nobel Prizes.

David H. Hubel, MD - 1981     In Physiology or Medicine.      Further information on Dr Hubel is avaiable from the Nobel Prize organization.

Bernard Lown, MD - 1985        Peace Prize .                         Member of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.  

                                                                                               Further information on the IPPNW is available from the Nobel Prize organization.

Susumu Tonegawa, PhD  - 1987    In Physiology or Medicine.   Further information on Dr. Tonegawa is available from the Nobel Prize organization.

Phillip A. Sharp, PhD -        1993    In Physiology or Medicine.    Further information on Dr. Sharp is available from the Nobel Prize organization.

H. Robert Horvitz PhD -      2002    In Physiology or Medicine.     Further information on Dr. Horvitz is available from the  Nobel Prize organization.

Roger B. Myerson, PhD  -   2007    In Economic Sciences.         Further information on Dr. Myerson is available from the Nobel Prize organization.

Rainer Weiss, PhD            - 2017    In Physics                             Further information on Dr. Weiss is available from the  Nobel Prize organization.

Michael M. Rosbash PhD   - 2017   In Physiology or Medicine.   Further information on Dr. Rosbash is available from the  Nobel Prize organization.


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections 1981. Updated: 1985, 1987, 1993, 2002, 2007, 2017

The Great International Walking Match

The Great International Walking-Match Of February 29, 1868.  The eminent English novelist Charles Dickens visited Newton Centre in 1868 on  a walking match  between two of his friends.  The route was from the Mill Dam to Newton Centre and back. Those who participated were Charles Dickens, George Dolby, James R. Osgood, James Thomas Fields, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Charles Eliot Norton.




Source: Newspaper Card Index - under Biography Dickens Charles.

Graphic 3/28/84 p.4 Dickens in Newton Centre

Graphic 4/4/84 p.5 Revising Dickens in Newton. [Letter to the editor]


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

The cookies called Newtons are they named after your city?

Yes, the cookie Newtons produced by Nabisco is named after Newton, Massachusetts. 

Newtons were a cookie filled with fig jam, and introduced in 1891.  Fig Newtons, as they were renamed shortly after being introduced, were called “cakes” on packaging until the 1980s, when they became “chewy cookies.”  A machine invented in 1892 made the mass production of Newtons possible. The Kennedy Biscuit Works   mass-produced the first Newtons  (Fig Newton Cookies) in 1892.

Originally, the Newtons were just called The Newton. The cookies were named after the Massachusetts town of Newton, which was close to Kennedy Biscuits. Kennedy Biscuits had a tradition of naming cookies and crackers after the surrounding towns near Boston. The name changed from The Newton to Fig Newton, after the original fig jam inside the cookie gained good reviews.   Fig Newtons, were called “cakes” on packaging until the 1980s, when they became “chewy cookies, and called Fig Newton Cookies. With other fillings like strawberry, raspberries, blueberries, and triple berries being added, the name was changed to just Newtons.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections in 1988 & updated 2014



Did Brigham's Ice Cream originate in Newton?

Brigham's was founded by Edward L. Brigham in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.[1] Mr. Brigham opened a shop, in 1914 in the Highlands, where he sold ice cream and candy, which was made in the back of the store.


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections in 12/21/2017

How many mayors have their been in Newton?

There have been 30 different persons holding the position of Mayor in Newton.  There have been 31 Mayoral positions, Edwin O. Childs served two non consecutive terms.

Ruthanne S. Fuller is the current 31st Mayor of the City of Newton. 2018 -


James F.C. Hyde, a Massachusetts politician served as  the first mayor of the City.  1874– 1875.

Edwin O. Childs  has been the only Mayor to serve two non consecutive terms. 1914- 1929 and  1936 to 1939

Theodore D. Mann held the office of Mayor for the longest period of time and died  while still in office April 9, 1994.  1972 - 1994.

Thomas Concannon, Jr. was never elected to the office .  At 11:40 p.m.  on  April 10, 1994, Thomas B. Concannon Jr., president of the Board of Aldermen, was sworn in as acting mayor.  In November 1994 Concannon offically became Mayor of Newton  1994- 1997

Mayors of the City of Newton, Massachusetts

1874 to the Present

James F. C. Hyde

1874 - 1875

Alden Speare

1876 - 1877

William E. Fowle

1878 - 1879

Royal M. Pulsifer

1880 - 1881

William P. Ellison

1882 - 1883

J. Wesley Kimball

1884 - 1888

Herman M. Burr

1889 - 1890

Hermon E. Hibbard

1891 - 1892

John A. Fenno

1893 - 1894

Henry E. Bothfeld


Henry E. Cobb

1896 - 1898

Edward B. Wilson

1899 - 1900

Edward L. Pickard


John W. Weeks

1902 - 1903

Alonzo R. Weed

1904 - 1905

Edgar W. Warren

1906 - 1907

George Hutchinson

1908 - 1909

Charles E. Hatfield

1910 - 1913

Edwin O. Childs

1914 - 1929

Sinclair Weeks

1930 - 1935

Edwin O. Childs

1936 - 1939

Paul M. Goddard

1940 - 1947

Theodore R. Lockwood

1948 - 1953

Howard Whitmore, Jr.

1954 - 1959

Donald L. Gibbs

1960 - 1965

Monte G. Basbas

1966 - 1971

Theodore D. Mann

1972 - 1994

Thomas B. Concannon, Jr.

1994 - 1997

David B. Cohen

1998 - 2010

Setti D. Warren

Ruthanne S. Fuller





Listing compiled with the assistance of Ms. Mary Morgan,

Executive Assistant, Office of the Mayor (1998 -2010)

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections Updated 12/19/2017  GJF

Does Newton have a local newspaper?

Newton has had many local newspapers, sometimes running concurrently. 

The first newspaper the Newton Journal was printed in 1866.

The longest running newspaper was the Newton Graphic 1882 to 1997

The Newton Graphic is available  digitally from 1886 to April 1978 on line here 

In September 2016 a new local newspaper The Newton Voice started publication but folded after just a few editions.

The current Newton newspaper is the Newton Tab owned by Gannett Media


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections Updated November 7, 2016, Feb. 21, 2019

Newton Free Library a Short History

The Boston Herald of April 15, 1865, reported that "a spirited meeting was held in Newton last evening to take steps at establishing a free public library in that town."  

Construction of the building began in August 1868, and  the Newton Free Library was dedicated on Friday June 17, 1870 and opened to the public July 1 , 1870.


The spirit of community involvement that began in 1865 is alive and well in 2015. For example, Newton's library in Newton Centre circulates more materials than any other library building in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has become a true community center. 

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Information on the Inventors of the Stanley Steamer

The Stanley twins Francis and Freelan lived in Newton,  as did their sister Chansonetta.  The Stanley Steamer factory however was located in Watertown, MA.

Francis Edgar Stanley  died in 1918 and is buried in the Newton Cemetery.

The Newton Graphic Vol. XLVI  No. 46  8/2/1918 p.1 Fatal accident: Mr. F.E. Stanley almost Instanly killed in automobile accident.

Town Crier Vol. XV. No. 44  8/2/1918  p.1 Owner auto kills inventor;

 Newton Circuit Vol. 27 No.31 8/2/1918 p.1 Killed in tip-over.


Freelan Oscar Stanley (President of the Stanley Motor Co.)

Residence 317 Waverly Ave Newton MA

Summer Residence Estes Park, Colorado

Freelan was involved in an auto crash in 1934 when he was 85 years old.  Graphic 10/12/1934 p.1

[Newton Graphic    Digitized 1886 - 1972.]

Additional information to Freelan O. Stanley in Colorado  can be found  by clicking on this Link .

See Newton Card Index in the Special Collections room  for more information.

N.B. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company factory was always located on Maple Street in Watertown, MA.

"  . . . on Maple Street was the Stanley  Dry Plate Company, which soon developed into the Stanley Steam Automobile Company, makers of the first successful cars in the East.  Watertown was treated to the novel sight of seeing the Stanley brothers try out their first horseless carriage in 1897. " From  page 104 Great Little Watertown 1630-1930; A Tercentenary History by G. Frederick Robinson and Ruth Roinson Wheeler, 1930.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Working Boys Home

The Working Boys Home was an orphange managed by the Xaverian Brothers until the 1970s. The Xaverian Brothers provided housing for homeless boys in exchange for a share of their earnings.   There seems to be two addresses -333 Nahanton Street Newton, Massachusetts and 601 Winchester Street in Newton Highlands for this institution.

The Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center now owns the property.

In 1987 the Working Boys Home in 1987 moved to Danvers, MA, address is Working Boys Home, Box A, Danvers MA 01923.

Further information may be found  in Wikipedia  National Register of Histoirc Places in Newton.

There are newspaper articles in the Newton Graphic.  Please see the card file under Associations - Working Boys Home for the citations.

Also a 2011 blog post with maps and images of the children for the Working Boys Home. Also included are comments from relatives of boys and the boys themselves who lived there.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections


Fatal Crashes/ Drownings

2015Gregory Morin, 32 and Eleanor Miele, 57 died at the scene of Sweet Tomatoes, in West Newton, when a car hit the restaurant and killed them immediately

2001: Eight residents of Newton, Massachusetts lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001: Mark Bavis, 31; Paige Farley-Hacket, 46; Nicholas Humber, 60; Aaron Jacobs, 27; Stuart Todd Meltzer, 32; Richard Barry Ross, 58; Rahma Salie, 28; Amy E. Toyen, 24.

2001:  Four Newton, Oak Hill Middle School children, Greg Chan, Stephen Glidden, Melissa Leung and Kayla Rosenberg die  on April 27th in a bus crash in New Brunswick, Canada.

1964: Ulick Kelly, of Ireland dies swimming in Crystal Lake. Graphic Sept 3, 1964 p.4

1918: Francis Edgar Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer car was killed in an automobile tip over.






Sources: Newton Newspapers

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Where do I find an obituary for a person who died in Newton, Massachusetts?

With an exact death date (Day, Month and Year) you can check the microfilm of the Newton newspapers published 1866 to present. You can also check the microfilm of the Boston Globe from 1980 to present.

There are two Newton indexes to Newton, Massachusetts people these indexes may have the obituary citation for the person you are looking for.

From 1866 to December 1999.  There is a card file in the library's Special Collections Room which can be checked for obituary citations. This is an incomplete and very subjective listing of obituary citations.

From January 1999 to present there is a more complete electronic index  that can be checked for you by one of NFL's reference librarians.

A digitized version of the Newton Graphic 1886 - April 1978 can be viewed here: 

Please note that many times obituaries for Newton people were printed in the Boston newspapers.  You can check the BPL's Obituary Database. Currently, this database includes obituaries published between 1932 and 1941 and between 1953 and 2010.  The Newton Free Library has the Boston Globe on microfilm from 1980 to present and currently subscribes to back electronic issues through ProQuest.

The Boston Public library has all of the Newton Newspapers on microfilm





Did Newton have any Titanic survivors.

Two known Titanic survivors with ties to Newton.

1. Edwin Nelson Kimball Jr. who died in Newton, MA on April 6, 1927. He is buried  in the Newton Cemetary (West Newton).

2. Gertrude Parsons Kimball, who was Edwin N. Kimball Jr's wife. Gertrude died in Wellesley, MA on March 21, 1962. She is buried in Newton., MA.

Edwin Nelson Kimball, Jr.  Obituary Newton Journal  4/8/1927 p.1 and Probate Court Notice Graphic 4/29/1927 p.14.


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections and R. Capeless 8/4/2000

Did Newton have any 9/11 victims?

Residents of Newton, Massachusetts who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001:

Mark Bavis, 31;

Paige Farley-Hacket, 46;

Nicholas Humber, 60;

Aaron Jacobs, 27;

Stuart Todd Meltzer, 32;

Richard Barry Ross, 58;

Rahma Salie, 28; her husband Micky, and their unborn child.

Amy E. Toyen, 24.


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections Updated 9/17/2020 GjF

Finding Death Notices



From October 28, 2009 - April 8, 2015 - there is an electronic list by surname  of those who were listed in the Death Notices printed in the Newton Tab. This in-house  electronic index can be searched by the library's Special Collections Librarian for a name. The Tab stopped printing death notices on April 8, 2015.  The  listing of the death notices was done by  Henrietta Dilyock, a very dedicated Newton Collection volunteer.   

Source: Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections


Who is Rainer (Rai) Weiss

Rainer (Rai) Weiss is a physicist,  and a professor emeritus at MIT. " He had a wild notion for how to detect gravitational waves, one that many dismissed.  But one day last year, there it was, loud and clear."  . . . . . . . this month Weiss and his team won both the $500,000 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.  Many predict a Nobel Prize will follow.  - Eric Moskowitz article Boston Globe May 15, 2016.

2017 - Rainer Weiss wins Noble Prize in Physics.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Who is Adelaide B. Ball

The first woman elected to the Newton, Board of Aldermen was Adelaide (Buckingham) Ball.  She was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1898.  Died in 1983.

Additional information:

There are 16 citations to newspaper articles in the local Newton newspapers.  Articles start in 1971.  See both the hardcopy card index in the Special Collections Room under Biography Ball, Adelaide and the electronic Newton NewsIndex

Of special interest in the Newton Tab May 5, 2004 p.3 article  -21st anniversary of the death of Newton's first lady (Adelaide Ball).

Oher resources:

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Who is Florence Rubin

Florence Rubin, member of the League of Women Voters, ( from the early1960's until her death in 2008), Trustee for the Newton Free Library, worked tireslessly with then Director Virginia A. Tashjian to get the 1991 Newton Free Library at 330 Homer Street built.  Florence was a tireless community activist.


Additional information:

1994 oral history transcripts from member Florence Rubin;


Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections

Who is Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller, author, composer, conductor, and teacher

Passed away June 21, 2015 . He was a resident of Newton Center and former president of New England Conservatory.


"Mr. Schuller, a resident of Newton Centre, Mass., is survived by his sons, Edwin and George, both professional musicians. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Schuller was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1991; the William Schuman Award, from Columbia University, in 1989; a Jazz Masters Fellowship (for advocacy) from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008; and a lifetime achievement medal from the MacDowell Colony this year. “As a composer and teacher,” the composer Augusta Read Thomas, the chairwoman of the selection committee for the MacDowell award, said at the time, “he has inspired generations of students, setting an example of discovery and experimentation.”.  From the NYT obituary written by 

He believed jazz and classical were equally worthy and fused them into his music.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections


Obituary New York Times: 2015/06/22

Auburndale, a village of Newton, MA

Did you know that Auburndale, Flordia founded in 1880  by Frank Fuller was renamed Auburndale at the suggestion of settlers from Auburndale, Massachusetts.

Source:  Morris, Allen (1995) Floriday Place Names. p. 15.

Researched by GjF/Reference Librarian - Special Collections





What's Happening In Newton