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400  Years of History

The City of Chelsea, Massachusetts is located in Suffolk County directly across the Mystic River from the City of Boston. Chelsea was first settled in 1624, established itself as a town in 1739 and was incorporated as a city in 1857.

Metacomet

Pawtucket People, also know as the Pawtucket Confederation of Aberanki Peoples or the Naumkeag: The Pawtucket were a federation of bands of 10-50 people identified through their distinct dialect and shared ancestry. They migrated seasonally throughout their territories in present day Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

hands breaking chains

Massachusetts was the first colony to authorize slavery but went on to lead the national effort of abolition. In 1842, George Latimer had fled enslavement in Virginia but was caught and imprisoned in Boston. Despite legal efforts and public outcry, he is released only upon the purchase of his freedom. His case sparked the state’s 1843 Liberty Act, dubbed the "Latimer Law," preventing Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive enslaved people and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects.

archive land map of chelsea

Chelsea was the traditional land of the Pawtucket people and a place of meeting for other tribes including the Massachusett, Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Pennacook, Passamaquoddy and others. The first decades of colonization in this area brought devastating epidemics and violence that completely annihilated the Pawtucket tribe as a distinct people. 

old postcard of chelsea ferry

Over the centuries maritime transportation, industrial development and waves of immigration shaped this neighborhood, but it all began with the key site of Winnisimmet.

 

Winnisimmet was the area of Chelsea roughly from present day Chelsea Square to the waterfront. It had long been an important site for Native people because of the natural spring here and its geographic importance as a key access by water from areas throughout the north shore and those on the other side of the Mystic River.

governor bellingham portrait

Richard Bellingham was born in Boston, England in 1592. He was a lawyer and a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter company. He emigrated to Boston in 1634 and in 1635 was made deputy-governor. In 1641, he was elected governor, in opposition to Winthrop, by a majority of only six votes. 

chelsea tobin by Deb Cronin

Historical Timeline for Chelsea and view the Historical Archives Guide.

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Who was Lewis Latimer?

After his parents fled enslavement in Virginia in 1842, Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea.  At age 15 he served in the US Navy during the Civil War. Returning home, he learned drafting and engineering while clerking at the patent law firm of  Crosby & Gould. He went on to develop a number of inventions himself and to collaborate within the top industrial pioneers of the time. Working with Edison, he revolutionized the world by developing the filament that makes the electric light bulb possible.  

Presented by the Lewis Latimer Society.

Robbins Memorial Flagstaff in Arlington

Who was Saunkskwa of Mysticke?

She was the primary authority among the native people of the area now called Chelsea when Samuel Maverick builds his fort on the shores of Winnisimmet. After the death of Nanepashemet the Confederation fractured with some of the bands in extended territories breaking off. Nevertheless, Saunkskwa Mysticke oversaw significant areas along the Charles and Mystic Rivers and up the North Shore. Through a time of extraordinary upheaval, Saunkskwa Mysticke led her people, building alliances with other tribes through the marriages of her children and with the English settlers through the strategic deeding of land.

Excerpt from Chelseaprospers.org

Helen Gilson Archive Portrait

Who was Helen L. Gilson?

Helen was born in Chelsea in 1836. She began her career as a nurse and went on to become a nurse during the Civil War. "Hundreds of black men in blue from the Ninth Corps numbered among them. Upon their arrival, they were removed to a makeshift hospital separate from the whites. There were little if any resources. Stories of their suffering reached the nurses, many on the brink of exhaustion due to the overwhelming numbers of patients. No one volunteered to help the African-American troops. Finally, a slight woman with a resonant voice, dressed in gray flannel, stepped forward. Fellow nurses pleaded with her not to go. They told her she would not survive. Helen replied, according to one source, “that she could not die in a cause more sacred,” and set out alone to aid the neglected men. This was quintessential Helen, who often went where no others dared to go."

Essay By Ronald S. Coddington, historian and editor of the magazine, Military Images. Highlighted by the Library of Congress.

Who was Harry Siegel?

He came to Chelsea from Romania when he was 18. At the end of World War I, he had saved enough money to bring over his mother, two sisters, and brother. By chance he found a job in a friend's photography store. During the warm months Harry took photographs on the streets of Boston's West end; in the winter he worked in the photography studio. In the 1930's he began taking pictures on Broadway. 

For 40 years Chelsea residents have pasted a Harry Siegel's photographs in their family albums. He originally made tintype portraits but remodeled the old camera several times as he changed techniques. 

Photograph by Susan Roberts

Who was Chick Corea?

Chick Corea was born in 1941 in Chelsea, where he attended elementary through senior high school. He was an acclaimed pianist and composer, with a special flair for his own distinctive Latin-flavored jazz-rock.

Photograph courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Armando J. Corea.

Record Staff. "Appreciation: Chick Corea left his heart in Chelsea." Chelsea Record. February 18, 2021.

"A DownBeat Hall of Famer and NEA Jazz Master, 27-time Grammy winner, and keyboard virtuoso, Chick Corea has attained living legend status after five decades of unparalleled creativity and an artistic output that is simply staggering.

Chick is one of the most-nominated artist in the history of the Grammys, with 71 nominations. He's also earned 3 Latin Grammy Awards, the most of any artist in the Best Instrumental Album category."

Discography on ChickCorea.com

Who is John Ruiz?

"John "Quietman" Ruiz became the first Latino heavyweight champion by dispatching Evander Holyfield in their second of three bouts, March 3, 2001. He is also the first Latino resident in Chelsea's history to have a park in his name. The site is steps from where Ruiz was living on Orange Street when he won his first title, and holds sentimental value. "

Written by Recupero, Lorenzo. "Heavyweight honor for Ruiz from Chelsea: Park will be named for former champ." The Boston Globe, July 2, 2013.

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"They Lived Here"
Read more about other famous Chelsea Residents at City Hall West Wing

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