Portrait of Augustus Hemenway

Canton Local History Blog

Patty Ryburn, Local History Librarian at the Canton Public Library, will periodically share her research into town history, library history and genealogy.  Feel free to email her any questions you may have at caill@ocln.org!

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Jun 11

1855 H. F. Walling map of Canton, donated by Edward D. Galvin

Posted on June 11, 2021 at 2:42 PM by Patty Ryburn

(Photos taken May 2021 of Walling map hanging in local history room, CPL).

1855 H. F. Walling map of Canton, 

donated by Edward D. Galvin

In the summer of 2011--ten years ago as I write this--Canton native Edward D. Galvin donated from his personal collection of Canton memorabilia (and generously paid to have professionally framed) a large wall map of emerging industrial Canton.  This now 165 year old early accurate sketch of our community provides a glimpse of the roads and rivers, locales and landmarks--including resources both natural and manmade-- which create the backbone of a town that has since increased tenfold in population and now supports hundreds of businesses and organizations.  In the Local History Room of the Canton Public Library this most generous donation hangs on the wall to the right of the entrance and includes a small plaque of dedication to Galvin’s parents whose early roots in Canton provided him a lifetime connection to and affection for the town.

Edward D. Galvin (1939- ) comes from an early Canton family whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland. His maternal great-great-grandfather John O’Neil came to Canton in 1834 and worked as a navvy on the construction of the (now historic) Canton Viaduct and remained as an employee of the Boston & Providence Railroad for the rest of his working life.  In 1847, Galvin’s great-grandfather Patrick Grimes immigrated to Canton from County West Meath, Ireland. He was employed at the Revere Copper Works for fifty-three years until it ceased operations in Canton. Patrick Grimes married John O’Neil’s daughter Mary Ann.  

In 1909, Patrick Grimes’ son Charlie Grimes purchased land and buildings in the Ames Avenue area from the Kinsley Iron & Machine Company (KIM Co.) and Galvin grew up in a small house at the end of Ames Avenue that a few decades earlier had been the KIM’s watchman’s cottage. The neighborhood was steeped in history and industrial archaeology; the Stoughton Branch Railroad (built 1844-1845) primarily served the KIM Co. and was no more than ten yards away from the Galvin home. As a young boy, Ed recalls easily uncovering the odd railroad spike or short piece of rail in his family’s yard.  

William H. Galvin, Edward’s father, was Superintendent of the Canton Public Schools from 1959 to 1976. At his retirement, he had worked a total of 44 years in the school system since his start in 1932.

c. 1964 Ed was elected by the members of The Canton Historical Commission to serve as its Chair.  Following his graduation from Boston University, Ed married Pamela J. Barletta and was recruited as a management trainee with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.   The photographs that he took over the spring and summer of 1965 document the change to a wide variety of buildings and local landmarks as Canton was then going through a period of rapid growth.  (To view this digitized collection at the Digital Commonwealth website, click here).  

In 1970, Ed and his family moved to Brunswick, Maine, where he served in several management positions with the Maine Central Railroad.  He held a senior Labor/Employment Law management position at Bath Iron Works before retiring in 2002. Since then, Ed and Pam have spent part of his retirement living in their home in County Kerry, Ireland and traveling throughout Europe. Ed is a founding member of the Society of Industrial Archeology as well as its Irish counterpart The Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland. Along with family genealogy, another favorite pursuit is aviation photography. Ed has written articles for many publications but is perhaps best known for his comprehensive book “A History of Canton Junction,” published in 1987 which is available for circulation from the Canton Public Library’s collection.

* * * *

Henry Francis Walling, civil engineer, surveyor and cartographer of the Canton map (and many others) was a Rhode Island native, born in June of 1825.  As a young man working at the Providence Athenaeum, Walling’s talent for mathematics and surveying quickly surfaced and he eventually established himself independently.  His precision, efficiency and ambition combined to move his career along rapidly; he was named Massachusetts’ “Superintendent of the State Map” at only 29 years old after crossing state lines and achieving early success first in Bristol County.  Walling moved on to survey and publish maps of at least 48 towns in eastern and central Massachusetts and another dozen in other New England states in less than a decade, before relocating to New York City as his business flourished.  

Social and economic factors of the 1850s alongside the technological advances of the time provided mapmakers the perfect confluence of events to fulfill the new demand for individual maps of New England towns.  Only 200 or so such maps had ever been published prior to that time but during the decade of the 1850s at least 200 more were produced.  Henry Walling alone was responsible for a quarter of this local cartographic output and the scale of his maps had been formerly reserved only for large American cities--between 1:12,000 and 1:15,000.  Such an increase of scale allowed for the inclusion of boundary lines, topographical features such as woodlands and wetlands, roads and railroads as well as individual buildings and--significantly--the names of local landowners.  

Walling’s methods relied heavily on the use of the previously performed surveys of the 1830s, mandated by the Massachusetts legislature, thus saving him the expense of two chainmen and a surveyor who were employed only when the existing data was incomplete or obviously inaccurate.  He also made good use of the free or inexpensive U.S. Coast Survey sources--then the most sophisticated mapping organization in the country--whose work was accurate to inches over many square miles.  Acreage data was superimposed over this basic framework as Walling tapped into commissions from local governments to supply this information for tax assessment, thus performing the work for town authorities and later publishing separately for himself.  He added signature embellishments as well--detailed inset plans of building footprints, pictorial vignettes of local landmarks, and decorative borders with attractive designs finishing all with a bright pastel wash.  

Thus the town map once considered a luxury became both affordable and attractive particularly to the individual landowners whose names graced its surface.  Walling’s winning combination of cost effectiveness, visual appeal and irresistible overture to the vanity of local landowners combined to help him create a body of work that spurred a career of noteworthy innovation and accomplishment.  American mapmaking was elevated and improved by his contributions. Walling's work set a higher cartographic standard and the scope; the quality and sheer volume of his work has yet to be matched.  

Henry Francis Walling, accomplished 19th century American mapmaker and innovator, died just short of his 64th birthday on April 8, 1889 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  As current pandemic restrictions allow, plan to make a trip to the Canton Public Library to view the work of this renowned cartographer and appreciate the generosity of one very generous Canton benefactor.