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History Lesson: Andrew Square

Andrew Square – we’ve all driven, biked or walked through it, maybe you even live there, but why is it called Andrew Square? Is this Andrew a person, a place, or a thing? No, we are not gearing up for a game of charades but it is time for our next History Lesson!!!

First we have to go back in time to understand the geography of Boston. All of South Boston used to be part of Dorchester (What!?! I know, but it’s true!) which was its own town. In 1804 Boston annexed most of South Boston which was called the “Little Neck” part of Dorchester. The dividing line was West Ninth Street and East Eighth Street. On one side you now had Boston and on the other you had Dorchester, a completely different town. 

The part of Dorchester that touched the newly created part of Boston, our beloved South Boston, was called Washington Village. In May of 1855 the Washington Village portion of Dorchester was annexed by Boston and joined the South Boston neighborhood. The line between South Boston and Dorchester was moved to Dorset Street. 

So to sum up: what we think of as Andrew Square, was called Washington Village and didn’t join Boston until 1855. It continued to be called Washington Village until 1870 when it was renamed Andrew Square to honor Massachusetts’ 25th Governor John Albion Andrew. 

Ah – ha, we have finally found our Andrew! John Andew (1818- 1867) was a fierce abolitionist who, as governor of Massachusetts during the Civil War, was one of the Northern “war governors.” He participated in the Loyal War Governors’ Conference in 1862 and supported the Emancipation Proclamation.

Governor Andrew also thought that black men should be able to fight for the Union (not a popular position!). Governor Andrew had to repeatedly ask the  Secretary of War for permission to form an African American regiment. The War Secretary finally said yes but with the caveat that all the commissioned officers had to be white. Governor Andrew wasn’t thrilled but he accepted the compromise, he made sure the officers were abolitionists, and in May of 1863 the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, under Robert Gould Shaw, was formed.  If you haven’t seen the movie “Glory,” you should; it’s all about the 54th!

Governor Andrew served Massachusetts from 1861- 1866. Other things that made him popular: he did not enforce Prohibition laws that were on the books here in Massachusetts, he didn’t hate Catholics (he signed the charter for the College of the Holy Cross) and he founded, what would become, the State Police.  He dropped dead after drinking tea in 1867. He was 49 years old. Three years later, part of South Boston was renamed to honor him! 

So there you have it!

Image via Wikipedia 

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Anna White

Lower End homeowner since 2005. Mom of three BPS kids. Friend to all except those who don’t clean up after their dogs and/or who put their trash out in kitchen bags (seriously, people, it’s not that hard to use a barrel). Queen of the Nerds (okay that one is only in my dreams).