Stoughton Chapter from
Louis A. Cook, History of Norfolk County Massachusetts 1622-1918
(New York, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1918), 1: 265-271.
TOWN OF STOUGHTON
on the southern border of Norfolk County, about midway between the Atlantic coast and the State of
Rhode Island, is the Town of Stoughton. It is bounded on the north by Canton; on the
east by Randolph and Avon; on the south by Avon and Plymouth and Bristol counties; and on
the west by the Town of Sharon. The central portion is the most elevated, the streams
rising in this section
flowing in different directions, some northward into Canton and others
southward into Plymouth County, Ames Pond, in the southern part, is the
largest body of water. York Pond, which receives the waters of Beaver Brook,
is on the boundary line between Stoughton and Canton, and in the northwestern
portion there is a chain of smaller ponds drained by Mill Brook, which
flows in a northerly direction and finally reaches the Neponset River. Being
less hilly than some of the other towns, the soil is better adapted to cultivation,
and some of the finest farms in Norfolk County are located in Stoughton.
territory now comprising the Town of Stoughton is a part of the extensive
tract known as the "New Grant" to Dorchester, which was made in
tract extended from "ye Town House to ye Plymouth Line." Its north end
was near the present village of Readville and its south end was on what is now
the southern boundary line of Norfolk County. The average width was about
December 15, 1715, the region embracing the present Town of Stoughton, and
some of the adjacent towns, was organized as the "Dorchester South Precinct."
Part of this precinct was set off to Wrentham in 1724, and on December
22, 1726, the territory now embraced in the towns of Canton, Sharon, Stoughton
and the greater part of Foxboro was incorporated as a town by the name of
Stoughton, taking its name from Gov. William Stoughton. On July 2, 1740,
by an act of the General Court, that part now included in Foxboro and Sharon
was established as the Second Precinct.
This precinct was made a district called Stoughtonham on June 21, 1765. Foxboro was incorporated as a
town on June 10, 1778, Sharon followed on February 25, 1783, and the Town of
Canton (originally the First Precinct of Stoughton) was incorporated on February
23, 1797. These changes reduced Stoughton to its present dimensions and
boundaries. The first town meeting in Stoughton was held on January 2, 1727.
The records of that meeting are not available, but it is known that George Talbot
was chosen as one of the selectmen. Joseph Tucker was the first town clerk.
man for whom the town was named was born in Dorchester in 1631, and was
a son of Israel Stoughton, one of the Dorchester proprietors. He graduated at
Harvard College at the head of the class of 1650, and soon afterward went to England,
where he enjoyed a fellowship at Oxford and completed his studies for
the ministry. In 1662 he returned to Massachusetts and followed the profession
of a clergyman until 1671, though he never was pastor of a regularly organized
society. In 1686 he became the head of the colonial courts, which position
he held until the arrival of Governor Andros. Judge Stoughton was named
as a member of the council under Andros and by his acceptance he lost much
of his popularity. He regained the confidence of the people to some extent in
1689, when he was the first to sign the petition to the king demanding that Andros
surrender the reins of government.
Under the new charter he was made lieutenant - governor under Sir William Phipps, and when Governor Phipps instituted a special court of Oyer and Terminer for the trial of the witchcraft cases, Judge Stoughton was appointed chief justice. Barry describes him as "a Puritan of the commonwealth mould; of phlegmatic temperament; rigidly attached to the Puritan creed; thoroughly versed in the knowledge of men; knowing how to accommodate himself to a variety of circumstances, yet superior to all; he was one who, in any situation, was calculated to succeed."
the witchcraft trials by the special court of which Mr. Stoughton was chief
justice, nineteen persons were convicted and sentenced to death. Concerning
these trials and convictions, Barry says: "As the excitement subsided the
prominent actors in the terrible tragedy began to reflect, and a few made public
acknowledgment of their error. . . . Stoughton alone refused to retract, and to the day of his death
never regretted the part he had taken."
When the Superior Court was organized
he was made chief justice, his commission being dated December 22, 1692. His
commission was renewed in 1695 and he continued as chief justice until only a short time
before his death, also holding the office of lieutenant-governor at the same
time. Upon the removal of
Governor Phipps in 1694, Stoughton became Governor and served until the arrival
of Lord Bellamont in June, 1697. Lord Bellamont died in March, 1701, and
Stoughton again became governor, somewhat reluctantly on account of his age
and the state of his health, and served until his own death on July 7, 1701. Governor
Stoughton was a benefactor of Harvard College. Before his death he erected
at his own expense the building known as "Stoughton Hall,"
and in his will be left a
legacy of a thousand pounds to his Alma Mater.
the first half century of Stoughton's corporate existence little out of the
ordinary took place. The people were busily engaged in building better houses,
developing their farms, establishing schools for their children, opening highways,
etc. With the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, the, dawning of the spirit
of independence began to be felt. Early in 1773 a letter from the Boston Committee
of Correspondence was sent to all the towns of Suffolk County. At a
town meeting in Stoughton on March 1, 1773, this letter was read and it was voted
to send a reply, setting forth the opinion that the rights of the colonists had
been seriously infringed upon, violated by arbitrary will and power, and that
the people of Stoughton were apprehensive that in the future this might prove
fatal to them and their posterity by reducing them to a state of slavery.
the Suffolk Congress met on August 16, 1774, at Doty's Tavern (then in
the Town of Stoughton) several citizens of the town were in attendance, but it
does not appear that they were chosen by any action of the voters of the town.
meeting was opened with a prayer by Rev. Samuel Dunbar, pastor of the First
Parish Church—a prayer which Bancroft says "breathed forth among them
the spirit of liberty, and the venerable man seemed inspired with the most divine
and prophetical enthusiasm." The action of that meeting acted as a spur to
the people of Stoughton, for on August 29th, at a town meeting called for the
purpose, it was
That a Committee be chosen to Represent ye Town in a County Convention
of ye Towns and Districts of this County to be holden at ye house of
Richard Woodward at Dedham on Tuesday ye 6th day of September next with full power of adjourning acting
& Doing all such Matters & things in said Convention or in a general
Convention of ye Countys of this Province as to them appear
of Publick Utility in this day of Publick and General Distress.
That five persons be chosen for this Purpose & also that John Withington,
Theophilus Curtis, John Kenney, Jedediah Southworth and Josiah Pratt
be this Committee; That this Committee be directed to Endeavor to obtain a
County Indemnification for all such Persons as may be fined or otherwise have suffered
by a non-compliance with a Late Act of ye British Parliament intitled 'An Act
for the Better Regulation of the Government of the Massachusetts Bav in
North America.' That this Committee be also a Committee of Correspondence to
advise and Correspond with ye other Towns in this Province about all such Matters
& Things as may appear to them likely in any way to affect the Publick."
On May 22, 1776, six weeks before the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, that event was foreshadowed by a town meeting in Stoughton, which declared by an almost unanimous vote, "That if the Honourable Continental Congress should for the safety of the Colonies declare us independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, we the Inhabitants of Stoughton will solemnly engage with our lives and fortunes to support them in the measure."
September, 1776, the General Court sent out to the various towns of the state
a communication relative to the formation of a state constitution and the inauguration
of a new form of government. On the last day of the month a town
meeting was held in Stoughton to take action on the communication. John Kenney,
Christopher Wadsworth, Jonathan Capen, Abner Crane and Elijah Dunbar
were appointed a committee to draft the town's reply. Following is the report
of the committee:
the subscribers, being chosen a committee by this town at a town meeting
legally assembled at Stoughton on the 30th of September last, to draft a vote
upon and article in ye town warrant respecting chosing ye present Gen'l Court
to form a plan of Government for ye
State have attended to that Service & Beg leave to report the following resolutions viz:
"1 - Resolved That good Government is the basis of liberty & absolutely necessary
to the safety & Wellfare of a People.
- Resolved That as the end of Government is the Happiness of ye people so ye
sole Power & Right of forming and establishing a plan thereof is essentially
in ye People.
- Resolved That as this State is at Present destitute of a fixed & Established
form of Government it is Absolutely necessary that one Immediately be formed
Agreeable to the recommendation of ye Grand Congress.
- Resolved That as the present House of Representatives have passed a resolve
to see if ye Severall Toens in this State would empower them, the said House
of Representatives together with the Council, to enact a plan of Government
for this State it appears to us unadvisable & Irrational & a measure
that ought not by any means to be
Complied with for these reasons viz—That we are totally unacquainted with the Capacities & Patriotism & Character
of ye members that compose ye said House & Council excepting our own
member Also because they were Never
elected by ye people for that purpose & also because the
present Embarrassed State of our Publick Affairs calls for the steady attention
of every member of ye said House and Council.
- Resolved That it is the Duty & Interest of this Town immediately to choose
one or more members to join with the members of the Other Towns in this
State to form & Publish a plan of Government for said State.
- Resolved That in order to Carry ye foregoing Resolutions into Execution as
soon as ye Importance of the matter may admit it appears to us best that the
members of ye Severall Towns in this State Chosen for ye express purpose afore
said should meet together by Them selves or by their Committee in a State Convention
or Congress & compare the severall forms of Government together whereby
the Wisdom of the whole State may be collected & a form of Government
- Resolved That it appears to us Absolutely necessary for the Liberty & safety
of this State that the plan of Government when formed and Published should
not be Established till ye People of this State have had time & Opportunity
of thoroughly examining the same & shall consent that it be established by the
said State Convention or Congress.
"All of which is humbly submitted
"Stoughton, October 2d, 1776."
Such was the idea of the people of Stoughton regarding a state constitution and the manner of its formation and adoption. If the reader will now turn to the chapter on Bellingham and note the action of that town on the same subject, he will be impressed with the similarity of the theories advanced by those two towns, and that without any collusion between them. For years the town meeting had been educating the people to the notion that government in any form should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed — a sentiment which found expression in the Declaration of Independence and has been the dominating idea in the formation of all our state constitutions.
Gunpowder was quite an item in 1776, and at a town meeting in Stoughton on March 4, 1776, an article in the warrant was "To see if the town will take any method to encourage the manufacture of saltpetre." At the meeting it was voted that a committee be appointed to begin the manufacture of that article. Adam Blackman, Jonathan Capen, Esquire Dunbar, Samuel Osgood and George Crossman were appointed as the committee. . These men set to work upon the project and in June their factory was ready to begin operations.. The first saltpetre from this committee was sent to the powder-mill in Milton about the time of the adoption of the above resolutions, or perhaps a little earlier. (See also the chapter on the Revolution.)
first move toward providing a water supply for the inhabitants of Stoughton was made on May 28, 1886, when
the governor approved an act of the
Legislature incorporating "John. G. Phinney, Charles W. Lunn, E. Morton
Elmes, Charles W. Welch, Charles E. Parker, their associates and successors, as the
Stoughton Water Company."
10 of the act provided that the Town of Stoughton might "at any time
purchase of said corporation its franchise, corporate property and all its rights
and privileges, at a price which may be mutually agreed upon," etc., whenever
two-thirds of the voters give their assent thereto, and in the event of such purchase
the town was authorized to issue bonds in any sum not to exceed $100,000,
to pay for the same.
1887 the Stoughton Fire District was organized. It was incorporated by the
act of April 30, 1888, with power to purchase the rights and privileges of the Stoughton
Water Company, provided that the Town of Stoughton did not within one
year exercise its right of purchase under the act of May 28, 1886. This stimulated
the town to action and before the expiration of the twelve months it was
voted to issue the necessary bonds and acquire the franchise of the Stoughton
Water Company. The town was also given the right to acquire the franchise and
property of the Stoughton Fire District, in the act incorporating said district.
the act of June 3, 1892, the town was authorized to issue bonds to the amount of
$150,000 for the completion of the waterworks and the extension of the mains to
all parts of the town, with the provision that a sinking fund should be
established to guarantee the payment of the bonds when they became due. The
sinking fund provision was changed by the act of March 17, 1893, which gave to
the town the privilege of making annual payments on the water loan instead
of establishing a sinking fund. Under the liberal legislation of the above mentioned
acts, Stoughton has a system of waterworks second to none in Norfolk
to the report of the water commissioners for the year ending on December
31, 1916, the total cost of the works up to that time had been $352,193.73, and
the net expense for maintenance, $184,675.35. The total income from bonds was
$303,407.28, and from water rates $222,506.23. During the year 126,564,000 gallons
of water were pumped and distributed through nearly thirty-one miles of mains
to 1,528 families, 3 hotels, 18 factories, 19 business buildings and 330 street hydrants.
The amount received for water rates was $14,688, exclusive of meter rentals
and the $6,600 paid by the town for the use of hydrants in case of fire. During the year the bonded debt was reduced $17,000, leaving the amount of
bonds outstanding at the close of the
fire department is in keeping with the' town's general progress. The board of
fire engineers for 1916 was made up of James J. Pye, chief; Henry M.
Bird, first assistant and clerk; James E. Reilly, second assistant; Cornelius Healy,
Jr., George W. Pratt and George E. Malcolm.
From their annual report it is learned that the department consists of four
companies, to wit: Stoughton Steamer Company, in connection with which is kept the auto combination
truck, numbers sixteen
men; Washington Hook and Ladder Company, ten men; North Stoughton
Hose Company, six men; West Stoughton Hose Company, eight men, a
total (including the six members of the board of engineers) of forty-six men. The
cost of maintenance for the year 1916 was $6,150.51, considerably more than half
of which was used in paying the salaries of the members of the department.
During the year fifty-six alarms were answered, sixteen of which were forest
fires. The fire alarm system consists of twenty-two boxes, stationed at convenient
places in all parts of the town, so that no time need be lost in calling
is a list of the principal town officials at the beginning of the year 1917:
George W. Pratt, Cornelius Healy, Jr., and George E. Malcolm, selectmen
and overseers of the poor; Cornelius Healy, Jr., George W. Pratt and James E.
Reilly, assessors; George O. Wentworth, clerk and treasurer; Henry Fitzpatrick,
tax collector; George P. Curtis, G. A. Sprague, Jr., Ernest E. Randall, water commissioners;
John W. Wood, Edgar F. Leonard and Dennis W. Toomey, school committee;
Jerome F. Murphy, Ralph S. Blake and Arthur R. Jenkins, auditors; Daniel F. Vaughn, highway surveyor; George H. Coward, Michael
F. Powers and Arthur L. Holmes, park
commissioners; Richard Vanston, Anson L. Favor, James J. Pye and Daniel F. O'Connor, constables.
Between the years 1910 and 1915 the increase in population in Stoughton was 666, the United States census of the former year giving the town a population of 6,316 and the state census of the latter year reporting 6,982. The assessed valuation of property on April 1, 1916, according to the report of the assessors, was $4,747,017, an increase over the assessment of the preceding year of $525,585. Stoughton has a bank (the Stoughton Trust Company), two weekly newspapers (the News and Sentinel), eleven public school buildings and employs thirty-three teachers, Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Methodist Episcopal and Universalist churches, a number of thriving manufacturing establishments, well-stocked stores that handle practically all lines of merchandise, good roads and sidewalks, and many handsome residences. The town is lighted with electricity by contract with the Edison Company and recently an effort has been made to have the Brockton Gas and Illuminating Company extend its lines into the town. Two divisions of the New York, New Haven & Hartford unite at Stoughton Junction. The railroad stations in the town are North Stoughton, West Stoughton, South Stoughton and Stoughton. Electric railway lines connect the town with Brockton, Randolph, and East Sharon, where other lines are connected, so that the transportation facilities are unsurpassed.
New Home of the Stoughton Trust Company 
School, Stoughton 
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