Stoughton Historical Society Newsletter  


                                                   VOLUME XXXVI  NO. 20                                                  

Presidents Report

On Sunday, March 11. I gave a presentation on the Hodges tavern store at the Easton Historical Society.  It was nice to have Brian Daley, Joe Kessel, Donna Hodges, and Joan Bryant there from our society.  Brian helped me with the presentation and the lugging out of equipment and documents, while Joan was poised to sell our maps, but Easton , being part of the Taunton North Purchase is not included in our Maps.  They stop at the Old Colony-Easton line.  The Easton Historical Society has a much different rhythm from ours.  Their train-station headquarters is open one Sunday a month and they have quite a few regulars and visitors who attend.  We are open nine or ten times a month and have our regular crew, who are always there to work, and maybe the same number of visitors, spread out through the month, that Easton gets in one day.  Anyway, their reaction was very supportive.  I included some new information I had just gotten on the Tavern-Store’s role in recruiting for the War of 1812.

    I had just received from an anonymous donor, with the help of Greg Galer at the Stonehill Industrial Museum , a gift to the Society of a 200 page leather-bound volume of copies of letters written and received  by Samuel Hodges Jr., copied in his own hand,  between 1809 and 1813.  During the War of 1812.  the political animosity between the Federalists and the Republicans appears to have been worse than our current differences over the War in Iraq .  The New England states, to the extent that they were Federalist,  were seriously considering seceding from the Union , until the Hartford Convention at the end of 1814, decided for compromise and constituitional amendments, rather than secession,  This volume of letters, which I am just beginning to explore is a wonderful boon to the research into the Samuel Hodges Jr story.  A year after this volume ends, he will take a job in Stoughton at the Gay Cotton Manufacturing Company for a dollar a day, and eventually, with the help of his younger brother Leonard, buy out the company as it goes bankrupt.  Samuel will leave for his ill-fated Cape Verde venture, and enventually Leonard will make the business a huge success, and sell it to French and Ward at the end of the 1850’s,  the records of which we have in our Hodges Collection of business accounts.  I have compiled a booklet which covers some of this material entitled “The Culture of the Samuel Hodges Tavern-Store” which is available in our lobby or at the Easton Historical Society.

 At our meeting at 2:00pm March 18,  The Great War in Stoughton and France,” we heard presentations on various aspects of Stoughton 1900-1920, including a fashion show of some dresses put together by Emily Guertin, Joan O’Hare, and Ruth McDonald, recollections written by Kenneth Bird, and items related to World War I, the flu epidemic, and the schools and industries of the period.  Subsequent research has revealed that the soldiers seen training in the Willis scrapbook were members of 93rd Company of the Massachusetts State Guard, Stoughton’s “Home Guard,” commanded by Captain Edwin S. Ross.    One newspaper account from August of 1917 describes their camping/guard duty at Farrington’s Field on one of the hottest weekends of the summer.  Among the sixty men who were members of this Company are Henry Bird, Edgar Mardon, Harold Paul, George W. Wade, H Elliot Willis, and Harry H Willis.  It is the presence of these Willises, which undoubtedly led to the pictures being taken.  The soldiers seen in the Willis photographs dated 5/30/17 in front of Webster’s Ice Cream Store and also shown marching back toward Stoughton Center with our building just visible in the back ground, are apparently from Brockton’s 10th Company of Coastal Artillery, who were supposed to march in the Memorial Day Parade, but arrived too late to be in the parade,  However, they apparently were in town later in the day, as revealed by the long shadows in the photograph.  The 93rd Company had not yet been formed on that date.   I am working on putting together a booklet on this unit including items relating to its formation as directed by the “Committee for Public Safety” which was formed just as the United States was declaring war on the Central Powers in April of 1917. 

     Forrest Bird has kindly sent along four pictures of his father, Morton Bird; one shows Morton in “his first car, a 1906 Pope Hartford .”  The other three pictures show Morton in the Army Air Corps.  Within his commentary, Mr Bird included another picture, a Waco 10 GXE, shown the “ Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center ” in Idaho .  This particular plane is three serial numbers away from the plane which Morton Bird keep at Attleboro Airport during the 1930’s and on which Forrest Bird soloed on his fourteenth birthday, after he had been flying with his father and his Morton’s pilot partner for a number of years.  Within the next few years, Forrest would land the plane in the field behind the Clapp-Libby-Starosta property across the street from his home on West Street .  He adds, “One day when the wind was right, I landed and took off from the old extended high school sports field, which did get attention..”

    We have the pictures Mr Bird sent and his complete three-page letter on display at the Society. We thank Mr Bird for his reminiscences and hope to hear more of them.  For anyone visiting the area, it sounds as if his Museum in Sand Point , Idaho is well worth a visit.

 We will be holding our yard sale on Saturday, June 16,  Please bring your household items to the Society but NO skis, stuffed furniture, or electronic equipment.  Items which have sold well in the past are jewelry, baking dishes,, lamps, small tables and chairs, toys, recent books, and small rugs.  We could use extra help for set-up at 7:00 that morning.

    We are planning to set up a trip to visit  The Samuel Slater Mill  just over the border in Pawtucket , Rhode Island , possibly on Thursday,  June 28th.  We will be driving ourselves with some car-pooling, unless we get a large sign-up.  Admission to the museum is $9.00 (8.00 for seniors) and there is dining area where food may be purchased for lunch.  Please let us know if you would be interested.  We have chosen a weekday to avoid crowds, but you may indicate if a Saturday, or a Sunday would work better for you.  If a substantial number of people would go on a weekend, but not on a weekday, we will change the date.

    On,  March 28th and 29th,   I visited the Swan’s Tavern neighborhood.  On the first day, I took pictures of RR embankment next to a part of Salisbury Brook to the east, below Central Street and acquainted myself with the neighborhood, which includes Peter McGarvey Park and Roy Marden Square and Street.  Both men were WWI Vets who appeared in the pictures we have been displaying for the Stoughton 1900-1920 exhibit.  As many of you may know, the rest of the neighborhood contains some wonderful old historical Houses, the Wallace Capen House on Turnpike St, which was the Post Office,    the Battles house with its circular driveway and surrounding fields,  which I have since learned is owned by Robert Millay, and the Samuel Capen House.  Howard Hansen had told me that if I drove exactly seven miles in either direction on Turnpike Street I would find another tavern, and sure enough, seven miles away on Turpike Street in Easton , I found the Tavern.   I returned on the next day to share a presentation with several Solomon Shecter teachers and their 7th grade students. .  I met Richard Waldman, the social studies teacher at Schecter, who, as it turns out,  had graduated from Newton South, where I spent thirty seven years teaching;  Mr Waldman graduated the year before I came.  He and I went outside to look at the old picture of Swan’s Tavern,  taken from the railroad bridge, which Dave Lambert had emailed me and we tried to line up our current understanding of where the railroad was with the bridge in the picture.  I envy those of you who can remember where both bridges were at that location, as I am still having trouble putting the pieces together.

    I took the students on a brief walk to the sites mentioned previously and then we returned to the Tavern to see the name written in the window glass, “Saml Williams. October 26, 1811,” the many fireplaces in the building, the outlines of the ballroom upstairs,  the wide pine floor boards in some of the rooms, and some artifacts which had been dug up by Schecter students at recess over the years, including half a spoon, a skeleton key, pieces of china, and a Hood milk bottle, the latter clearly an artifact of a much later time.  I showed the students a few pages from the Hodges tavern-store daybook, giving them some sense of tavern life of the era and showed them samples of the straw braid from the Foxboro Historical Society Exhibit box. 

      I also acquired some  new information from Sandy Specter, one of our members who works at Schecter.  She related the story of a a former boarder, a Mr Everett Hadley had visited them in 1999 and related how he spent his high school days as a foster child with “Uncle Joe”and “Aunt Mary” Caddell at their 63 acre farm.  He showed them his room and shared other memories with them.  Does anyone remember Everett Hadley at Stoughton High School?

 At our April 15 meeting, we were presented with the Nominating Committee’s recommendations of Officers for the next year.  The current slate of Officers was nominated for next year.   President – Dwight Mac Kerron: Vice-President – Brian Daly;  Treasurer – Joan Bryant;  Secretary  - Evelyn  Callinan. We then heard and watched a slide/lecture presentation on “The Historic Quincy Milton Quarries”-The Indian Quarries to the First Commercial Railroad in the USA, and the Granite Industry” presented by David Hodgson from the Blue Hill Adventure and Quarry Museum.  Despite the stormy weather and the absence of six of our regulars, we had a respectable showing with the addition of a few newcomers.

 Tuskeegee John “Jimmy” Fischer, a graduate of Stoughton High School Class of 1942 (along with Joe Devito’s sister Mary) was honored along with a group of his comrades with a presentation at the White House in March.  His front-page story with picture in the Brockton Enterprise alerted us to the fact that he is currently living in Brockton.  Historian Howard Hansen and his mother, Ruth have spoken on the phone with Mr Fischer.  Howard writes, “Jim's mother was a member of the Historical Society.  Jim grew up in Glen Echo neighborhood. He gave my late oldest brother flying lessons.”   We hope to honor him in a future event, 

 Welcome to new members;   Please encourage anyone you think might be interested to join our society and make sure your 2007 dues have been paid for 2007; 15.00 for individual, 25.00 for a family. 

 On May 20 at 2:00pm, we will have a special rededication of the Civil War flag of the 12th Massachusetts Regiment, which was given to the town by four surviving veterans of the Regiment in 1903.  The flag was displayed at the Town Hall for many years, until it eventually found its way into the attic, from which it was recently retrieved by Hank Herbowy, who convinced the Town to give it to us.  Our ceremonies will include Civil War re-enactors and an honor guard from the VFW.

 Archivists Report – We have done research on the former Denison Farm on Plain St. for the new owner, searched our records for the names of all the Principals of Stoughton High School, searched for pictures of the double railroad bridge near Swan’s Tavern, catalogued more documents donated by Donna Hodges, located documents for the WWI exhibit, and are now searching for Civil War documents.  Evelyn Callinan and Millie Foss have been updating our obituary card file. – Jack Sidebottom

 Curator’s Report   We are in the process of cataloguing and relabeling  our collection of Indian artifacts, which include projectile points, scrapers, and stone axe heads from Muddy Pond, West Street, and Glen Echo.  We are also looking for Civl War artifacts for exhibit at the time of the flag rededication.  Recent acquisitions: An Elmhurst Dairy, Stoughton Mass. 1/2 pint milk bottle,  a McNamara Farms milk bottle

 Clothing Curators Emily Guertin, Ruth McDonald and Joan O Hare are preparing dresses to accompany the Civil War exhibition on May 20th


Volunteering at the Stoughton Historical Society  by Jeremy Blumenthal, Ally Di Censo, Jeff Fish

  Starting in November of 2006, we, as members of Stoughton High School’s History Club, have been volunteering at the Historical Society.  Our job consists mostly of converting the archives (which are currently on index cards) into the PastPerfect Cataloguing system on the computer, to make it easier to access the files.  Sometimes, though, we help the Historical Society transfer their videos into DVD’s so that they will last longer and have better quality.

     Working at the Society has provided us with many great opportunities to learn about local history.  One of our most memorable experiences was when Dwight Mac Kerron showed us the diary of Alfred Waldo, a Civil War soldier from Stoughton. It was amazing to see the words and emotions of someone who had participated in such a pivotal event in American history come to life.

      On an average day here, we usually visit the current WWI exhibit, and we enjoy looking through the collection of SHS yearbooks from the 1940’s to the present, where volunteer Jeff Fish has been able to find his grandmother’s 1951 yearbook.  Of course, we often discover insightful, amusing, or surprising little facts about Stoughton’s past in the index cards and videos with which we work.  Working at the Historical Society has been one of the most worthwhile activities in which we have participated during our high school career.


 If you have an email address, please send it to us at and let us know if it is permissible to send you the next newsletter via email.  Our printing cost at CopyInks has gone up from .06 per two-sided page to .10.  Even if you do not want your newsletter sent via email, it will be helpful to have your address for communications sent out between the period of the newsletters.  We thank the more than thirty people who have given us their email address and receive this newletter via email.


                                      Calendar of Upcoming Events

May 12       Old Stoughton Musical Society Concert            8:00pm

May 20       Rededication of the Civil War flag                     2:00pm

June 4        Annual Dinner (send in reservation form)          6:00 pm

June 16      Yard Sale at the Society                                      8:00am-2:00pm

June  28 (tentative) Visit to Slater Mill in Pawtucket Rhode Island.


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