By Judy DePue, a resident of Pond Meadow.
One of the original investors in 1662 from Dedham, for the area called Wollomonopoag, was Edward Hawes. He registered Lot #31, which encompassed the East Street land on which the Pond Home and the Community at Pond Meadow now sit. Wollomonopoag would become Wrentham in 1673, and soon the town was engulfed in King Philip’s War. Following the war, it was Edward’s son, Daniel Hawes, who rebuilt on this site in 1677. Then, it was Daniel’s grandson, Colonel Benjamin Hawes, a Revolutionary War veteran, who in 1790 built the house that is now the front part of Pond Home. Imagine all that this house has seen since 1790!
In 1926, William Sweatt and his wife Lizzie moved from Norfolk and purchased this house on East Street. William Sweatt owned the very successful American Felt Company, based in New York City. Mr. Sweatt was apparently a car collector as well. In the barn, he kept a Rolls Royce, two Pierce Arrows, and one of the first Packards that were manufactured. Unfortunately, Mr. Sweatt’s time in Wrentham was brief. In May 1929, at age 73, he died suddenly while vacationing in Italy. He was generous to Wrentham, however, leaving a $200,000 trust fund
for public improvements in town. Lizzie was very distraught over her husband’s death. In 1931, she took her own life with a pearl-handled revolver while visiting his grave at Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. She was also very generous. In her will, she gifted her home, plus other property and $100,000, to the Kings' Daughters and Sons Home for the Aged of Norfolk County, situated in the part of Wrentham and Norfolk known as Pondville. The Pond Home, as it was called, had outgrown its setting. Lizzie was likely aware of this. The Sweatts had already taken an interest in Pond Home, giving them a fully equipped Ford Sedan in 1925. In Lizzie’s will, she stated her belief that as people age, they should be in home-like settings, as opposed to large institutionalized facilities. She thought her home would be a good site for the Pond Home, as it was closer to the center of town. Also in her will, Lizzie envisioned that the property behind her home might be used to build a group of small houses for the elderly. It was important, she thought, that residents would still feel part of the world and not shut off from it. Her ideas were clearly ahead of her times.
Who were the Kings' Daughters and Sons? And what was the Pond Home at this time? To weave in this history, we’ll briefly take our attention away from the East Street site. The Kings' Daughters’ “sisterhood of service” was formed in 1886 by a group of 10 women in New York. They took their name from the Bible, Psalm 45:13, “In His name, the King’s Daughter is all glorious within.” Their scriptural motto was “not to be ministered unto, but to minister to.” In 1891, they became the King’s Daughters and Sons. Their charitable work quickly grew internationally and includes homes for the aged, homes for boys and girls, summer camps, hospitals, schools, community centers, and much more.
In 1899, the Kings' Daughters and Sons sought to support a home for the aged in Norfolk County. They wanted an alternative to the town’s poor houses for needy elders without
families to care for them. Virgil Pond, of Foxboro, learned of this and donated his parents’ home in Pondville. The house, built in 1825, was vacant with 20 fully furnished rooms. Virgil Pond was a manufacturer of wooden boxes that were used to package the popular straw hats produced in Wrentham. After renovations, the Pond Home for the Aged was dedicated on June 2, 1902, with the Rev. Edward Everett Hale giving an address to over 600 guests. Five men and women moved in that day, applying a one-time fee of $300. The capacity was 15.
Back in Wrentham, in September 1931, the Pond Home Trustees voted to accept Lizzie
Sweatt’s gift of her Wrentham property. Renovations included three additional wings. The barn would be used for storage and would be the site for picnics and barbecues. The new Pond Home in Wrentham opened December 1933, with a new capacity of 25, including 15 who had transferred from Pondville. Over 1000 people attended a formal dedication for the new Pond Home on East Street. Over time, further renovations would modernize and expand capacity at Pond Home.
In 1998, the long-range planning committee decided on a bigger expansion, to offer an independent living community on the property behind Pond Home. This would pick up the vision of Lizzie Sweatt to build additional houses for elders on the land she gave. The Pond Home’s management company, Rogerson Communities, would be the developer for what would be called The Community at Pond Meadow. Construction began in early 1999, and the final phase was completed in early winter of 2000, with a total of 66 clustered single-floor homes. The barn was converted to a new community center.
In May 2019, Pond Home completed its most recent renovation and expansion, adding another 700 square feet and modernizing its supportive nursing section. This brings the capacity at Pond Home to 43. This all brings many more people contributing to the history on this site.
What does this history mean? It includes the making of many memories: of laughter, sadness, friendship, caregiving, and comfort. It also includes the wonderful grounds and being part of the Wrentham community, as Lizzie Sweatt envisioned. Today, we are grateful for the foresight of the people who came before us. May we help continue their vision.
For more information about the original Pond Home and its move to East Street in Wrentham, see "Pondville: My Home and Neighborhood, My Personal Search for its History" by Elizabeth Whitney, 2011. Available at Norfolk Public Library. Other information was gathered from Pond
Home records and Ancestry.com.