Colonial Period to the Revolution
View of Mount Wollaston as it appeared in 1840, virtually unchanged from the time of initial English settlement in 1625. The central part of this sketch was adopted as the seal of Quincy.
Massachusett sachem Chickatawbut had his seat on a hill called Moswetuset Hummock prior to the settlement of the area by English colonists, situated east of the mouth of the Neponset River near what is now called Squantum. It was visited in 1621 by Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish and Squanto, a native guide. Four years later, a party led by Captain Wollaston established a post on a low hill near the south shore of Quincy Bay east of present-day Black's Creek. The settlers found the area suitable for farming, as Chickatawbut and his group had cleared much of the land of trees. (The Indians used the name Passonagessit ("Little Neck of Land") for the area.) This settlement was named Mount Wollaston in honor of the leader, who left the area soon after 1625, bound for Virginia. The Wollaston neighborhood in Quincy still retains Captain Wollaston's name.
Upon the departure of Wollaston, Thomas Morton took over leadership of the post, and the settlement proceeded to gain a reputation for debauchery with Indian women and drunkenness. Morton renamed the settlement Ma-re-Mount ("Hill by the Sea") and later wrote that the conservative separatists of Plymouth Colony to the south were "threatening to make it a woefull mount and not a merry mount", in reference to the fact that they disapproved of his libertine practices. In 1627, Morton was arrested by Standish for violating the code of conduct in a way harmful to the colony. He was sent back to England, only to return and be arrested by Puritans the next year. The area of Quincy now called Merrymount is located on the site of the original English settlement of 1625 and takes its name from the punning name given by Morton.
The area was first incorporated as part of Dorchester in 1630 and was briefly annexed by Boston in 1634. The area became Braintree in 1640, bordered along the coast of Massachusetts Bay by Dorchester to the north and Weymouth to the east. Beginning in 1708, the modern border of Quincy first took shape as the North Precinct of Braintree.
Following the American Revolution, Quincy was officially incorporated as a separate town named for Col. John Quincy in 1792, and was made a city in 1888. In 1845 the Old Colony Railroad opened; the Massachusetts Historical Commission stated that the railroad was "the beginning of a trend toward suburbanization". Quincy became as accessible to Boston as was Charlestown. The first suburban land company, Bellevue Land Co., had been organized in northern Quincy in 1870. Quincy's population grew by over 50 percent during the 1920s.
Among the city's several firsts was the Granite Railway, the first commercial railroad in the United States. It was constructed in 1826 to carry granite from a Quincy quarry to the Neponset River in Milton so that the stone could then be taken by boat to erect the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Quincy granite became famous throughout the nation, and stonecutting became the city's principal economic activity. Quincy was also home to the first iron furnace in the United States, the John Winthrop, Jr. Iron Furnace Site (also known as Braintree Furnace), from 1644 to 1653.
In the 1870s, the city gave its name to the Quincy Method, an influential approach to education developed by Francis W. Parker while he served as Quincy's superintendent of schools. Parker, an early proponent of progressive education, put his ideas into practice in the city's underperforming schools; four years later, a state survey found that Quincy's students were excelling.
Quincy was additionally important as a shipbuilding center. Sailing ships were built in Quincy for many years, including the only seven-masted schooner ever built, Thomas W. Lawson. The Fore River area became a shipbuilding center in the 1880s; founded by Thomas A. Watson, who became wealthy as assistant to Alexander Graham Bell in developing the telephone, many famous warships were built at the Fore River Shipyard. Amongs these were the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2); the battleships USS Massachusetts (BB-59), now preserved as a museum ship at Battleship Cove in Massachusetts, and USS Nevada (BB-36); and USS Salem (CA-139), the world's last all-gun heavy warship, which is still preserved at Fore River as the main exhibit of the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum. John J. Kilroy, reputed originator of the famous Kilroy Was Here graffiti, was a
rivet inspector at Fore River.
Quincy was also an aviation pioneer thanks to Dennison Field. Located in the Squantum section of town it was one of the world's first airports and was partially developed by Amelia Earhart. In 1910, it was the site of the
Harvard Aero Meet, the second air show in America. It was later leased to the Navy for an airfield, and served as a reserve Squantum Naval Air Station into the 1950s.
The Howard Johnson's and Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chains were both founded in Quincy. Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys got its start in the city's Wollaston neighborhood in 1996. Quincy is also home to the United States' longest running Flag Day parade, a tradition that began in 1952 under Richard Koch, a former director of Parks and Recreation, who started the "Koch Club" sports organization for kids and had an annual parade with flags.