Stoughton Historical Society Newsletter  

October - November - December 2007


President's Report:  It has been a busy three months. The staging for the roof replacement went up at the end of August and it came down the first week in December. Joe and I got a guided tour of the roof from the tin-knocker who did all the copper work. At one point, Gilbert and Becker had asked us for an old picture of the building so that they could design the copper drainage conductor boxes in the shape and size which they originally were. Done! Let's keep our fingers crossed that our shiny new copper work, especially the downspouts will remain attached to the building in these days of disappearing copper. There were several hundred slate shingles left over from the roof work which sit in our basement, awaiting a creative use. Our next major task (and major expense) will be to take estimates and have the needed repairs made to the interior walls and ceilings of the Society, which have suffered significant water damage from the leaks in the old roof. ---Many members responded to our "personalized" requests for the payment of dues. Thank you. Of special note:The Peter and Patricia Barbato family of Hingham, who no longer live in Stoughton paid for two $200 life memberships in gratitude for their many positive memories of Stoughton. Feel free to send along your dues for 2008 at any time; they will be greatly appreciated. ---On September 10, we enjoyed the Harvest Supper at the French Room at the Library. Thank you's to Joan Bryant, and her daughters Debbie and Danielle for ordering and putting out the food from Bertucci's, and also to Jeanne DeVito and Evelyn Callanan for organizing and running the fund-raising raffles. ---That same week the Archivist, at Stonehill College, Nicole Tourangelou let us use their scanner to make digital images of thirty five glass negatives of scenes from Stoughton at the turn of the century, recently given us by Linda Weiler. The pictures were from the collection of Sid Weiler, longtime Railway Express agent at the train station is Stoughton. We plan to print out some of these pictures and possibly have a presentation at a future meeting. ---Early in October, the Morley Safer interview with Forrest Bird and his wife, Pam (finally) appeared on "60 Minutes." It was a fascinating piece on this 86-year-old man of genius and charm. We hope to get a copy of the picture of young Forrest and his uniformed father, Morton Bird, who taught Forrest how to fly, after having served himself as an airman in WWI. ---On Saturday, October 13, we had a successful Holiday yard sale on a cool, but beautiful day. It was gratifying that we not only made more than $1000 from the sales outside, but also that we sold a number of maps and books inside. A big thank you to Denise Peterson, who put in many hours sorting and tagging items for months ahead of time. Thank you's also to Donna Hodges, ably assisted by Joe and Jeanne DeVito, Brian Daley, Joan and Jacob Bryant, Jack Sidebottom, Pam Poillucci , Maureen Gibbons, Helen Hansen, Mary Kelliher, Evelyn Callanan, Effie Noren, and Dwight Mac Kerron. Also a thank you to the Universalist Church for lending us tables and to John Boulanger who did yeoman's service helping us move them. ---At the beginning of November we prepared a WWI display of artifacts and photographs to be shown at the Library along with the WWI posters, which had been collected after the War by the Stoughton Public Library, when it was housed in our building. Head Librarian Pat Basler had more than ten of the posters enclosed in sealed plastic several years ago at an expense of more than $2000. They are wonderful posters, which are stored at the Historical Society when not being displayed. There are more than 150 in the full collection, one of the best collections in the country. More of them need to be protected, but we hope to be able to do it with the use of poster-sized mellinex "envelopes, which, although expensive, $8-12@, are considerably cheaper than the almost $200 per poster that was paid Northeast Documents to preserve the first batch. ---During the morning of Veterans Day, November 9th, we hosted ten veterans, seventy five middle school students and a number of teachers and parents, including Middle School Assistant Principal David Guglia. David, along with Joe DeVito has been instrumental in making this day work. The students divided into two groups and while one group stayed to listen to the Vets and ask them questions, the other group followed me on a walk to the Railroad Station, Faxon Park, and the WWI Exhibit at the Library. At noon, everyone went to the VFW for a luncheon, which was enjoyed by all. It was nice to see David Lambert's daughter, Brenda, one of our youngest members, among the visiting students. We also thank Sam Stein, Thomas Hunt, Joe DeVito, Hank Herbowy, and Jack Sidebottom for adding their uniforms, photographs, or artifacts to our displays. ---On Sunday, November 11, we had close to sixty people attend our program "Stoughton; the Home Front" and almost half of those present contributed their memories of the period, yielding enough material to justify putting a booklet together to commemorate the occasion. All agreed that there was a community effort supporting the war and each other that is so different from today's events related to the Iraq War. Here is a sampling of a few contributions from my notes; Evelyn Callanan read a V-mail message that her brother-in-law Michael had written home, ONE DAY before he was killed. It seems that v-mail was written on a special form, after which photographs were taken of the messages and stored on long reels of film, to be flown across the ocean, developed and delivered to the soldier or the the citizen at home. Some of the letters had words or phrases blotted out by the censors, who read everything going each way. Joe DeVito sent a letter home from his squadron, "Saying how is Aunt Menden? Since he had no such Aunt, his family finally figured out that he was giving them a clue that he was in Mindinao. Before he enlisted, he was a high school student, contributing his money to "buy a jeep for the army, when a certain amount was reached. He got a little disillusioned when a soldier showed up in the shiny jeep that they had bought, but then asked the direction to neighboring towns; turned out, of course, that it was also "their jeep" too. People were supposed to save their fat, which was collected and used for soap and/or gunpowder (there was a difference of opinion on that.) Ruth Hansen said that they couldn't buy nylons, (or rayons) and often had to paint the seams on their legs to make it look as if they were wearing stockings, because the "WACs needed them," a statement, denied by two 90+year-old WACs present( Mary Guertin and Mary Daley), who said they wore COTTON socks. A uniformed vet there, affirmed that the nylon was needed for parachutes, not WAC's stockings.

---Thirty two students from Stoughton High School, the highest number yet, submitted entries to the Voice of Democracy Contest. After many hours of deliberation, judges Joe and Jeanne DeVito, Brian Daley, Jack Sidebottom and Millie Foss determined that the winner was Zachary Weed, younger brother of Kelly Weed, a Stoughton winner and eventual state champion last year. The thirty-two submissions, an all-time high for Stoughton, meant that second place winner Samantha Pickette and third place winner Zachary Schwartz could also go on to compete in the competition in the District. Congratulations to Zachary, Samantha, and Zachary and many thanks to the judges for all the time they put in. The students received their awards at a ceremony at the VFW on the snowy evening of December 21st. ---In the August Newsletter, we posed a question on the identity of Daniel Sullivan, the historian who in 1955 had written the commentary in the framed documents which accompanied the Civil War flag when it was displayed at Town Hall. We have since found in our archives a framed picture with commentary written by Daniel Sullivan of the statue at the Gettysburg Battlefield of Rev Father Gorby, who addressed "The All Irish Brigade" before they took their positions at the Bloody Angle and played a key role in repulsing Pickett's Charge. On the display is printed: "To my good friend, the father William A Gunn, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church of Stoughton, by me for the eternal memory of those men of Gettysburg and elsewhere in the Civil War who did their utmost for us the living, of today and all times. The picture is presented on March 7th 1952 as a St. Patrick's Day present." (signed) Daniel Sullivan On the back of the frame is a picture taken of Daniel Sullivan at Spangler Spring, when he toured the Gettysburg Battlefield in July of 1951. We are still seeking more information on Daniel Sullivan

Candy Cerri put up the Memorial Christmas Tree at the Society with the labeled ornaments from many members. If you have an old ornament that you would like to have represent you and/or your family in future years (a tradition begun by Candi some years ago),please bring it to us and make sure to include your name with the ornament. Also on display are pictures of the Colorado Blue Spruce, which was growing in Millie Foss's yard on Oakland St, until she donated it to the City of Boston where it became the official Christmas tree in 2001, a year in which the Christmas tree from Nova Scotia did not get sent to Boston for reasons apparently related to a "change of the Canadian government." The tale of this spruce, which was purchased in the 1960's as a tiny tree from a cottage industry nursery run by George Wise on the Sharon side of Bay Road, across from the Hezekiah Gay house, and where some of its compatriots still grow, would make for a great illustrated little Christmas book. Since there was no Holiday Parade, and hence no December Open House, and December's record snowstorms have greatly curtailed our activities, we will keep our Christmas items, including the tree, up until at least the end of January.

Corrections; The bequest to the Society mentioned in the last Newsletter was from the estate of Former President of the Historical Society Thomas Chestnut, not William, as previously stated.

Welcome to New Members: Pat Gray, Anita Brennan. If you are a new member and have NOT been mentioned in the Newsletter, please let me know at 

Archivist's Report - We have continued to catalogue the Hodges-Belcher photographs and documents and responded to inquiries on the Greb Machine Company, which made gear pullers in Stoughton from 1921-9. After much searching, we found the Greb Machine sign that Howard Hansen believed that we had. We found early fire department photos for the Holmes and Husseys, pictures of the State Theater for David Lambert, and items for the WWII Home Front program. Joe DeVito is putting together scrapbooks of pictures of town organizations and events of past events and celebrations of the Town of Stoughton and the Historical Society. Donations: From Ruth McDonald; documents and photographs on the Crimmins Elastic Web Company on Park Street, which earlier had been Triple K Shoe, where Nicola Sacco worked: (Note from Dwight, I have just purchased, inexpensively, of course, from Amazon three lightly used books on the Sacco-Vanzetti case, including the letters written by Sacco from prison.) From Arthur Lavas; a photograph of Troop 57 of Boy Scouts in Stoughton in the 1940's, including leaders Reuben Willis, Roy Malcolm, James Williams Sr, and Peter McGarvey, Copies of Time Magazine Jack Sidebottom

Curator's Report - We are in the last phases of the inventory and are adding a few new items: sunglasses from the desk of James Lehan from Charlie Ward, badges and nameplates of the Stoughton CD Auxilary Police from John Fernandez; dog tags, ID cards, photographs, documents, and GI-crafted jewelry given by Mary Daley from her tour in New Guinea with the WACs in WWII. Purchased on ebay; a colored number game manufactured by FC Phillips, Stoughton, Mass. Hank Herbowy

Clothing Curators On display are a number of items for the Stoughton; the Home Front program, including a typical high school girl's sweater and skirt, a Civil Defense outfit, and a two-piece burgundy velveteen dress-suit worn at a marriage in 1942. Continuing on display are cotton remnant quilt petticoat bags nearly two hundred years-old, made by several women including a Lucy Ha(y)ward (1783-1819) of Easton around 1805-1815. (Dwight Mac Kerron continues) These bags date to the period the period when cotton yarn was first being factory-spun in the area at the James Beaumont (1804-Canton), Otis Briggs (1806-Sharon), and Lemuel Gay (1813-Stoughton) cotton factories and cotton cloth was being sold by Captain Samuel Hodges in his Easton store-tavern (1811-1812). These bags, which I did not know we had until they were put on display, are a wonderful example of how we are always finding more pieces of the puzzle of our local history, whose outlines are constantly shifting, at least as this neophyte historian perceives it. Is Lucy Hayward connected to the Jonathan Hayward who buys a "gill of sling .08" from Captain Samuel Hodges in Easton, February of 1812, or the Jonathan Hayward jr, who buys "1 gill gin .06, "1 pr hengers 1.25" and " 1 curry comb .54" during the same period? Or is she connected to any of the other numerous Haywards mentioned in William Chaffin's History of Easton? How did our society come to possess the cloth productions of this Easton woman? The search continues

February 10 at our meeting at 2 pm, we will hear of events in the town and region and share our memories of the Blizzard of 1978. Bring, or better still, give to us before the event, pictures, articles, or any other related memorabilia. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of that memorable storm. This may also be an appropriate time to revist the mid-seventies, when we celebrated the 250th anniversary of Stoughton's Incorporation. We will put on display some items from that celebration.

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