Stoughton Historical Society Newsletter Online

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Upcoming Events


May 22 - Stoughton “Take a Hike” Day at the Bird St. Conservation Area 10 A M.-2 P.M.  The Stoughton Historical Society will have a table set up with maps, trail guides, commentaries on the Bird St. land and many of our other publications available.  At 11:15, Dwight Mac Kerron will lead a 1 ½ mile walk featuring stone walls, the Myron Gilbert quarries, and tree identification. There will also be presentations on birds of prey, reptiles, biodiversity, and more. See ad in upcoming Stoughton Pennysaver for more information.

June 7 -  6:00 pm Election of Officers and Dinner at Foley’s Backstreet Grille; see back of Newsletter to make your reservation and select your meal.  The Nominating Committee has selected for the upcoming year:  President –Dwight Mac Kerron, Vice President – David Lambert Treasurer -  Joan Bryant Secretary – Evelyn Callanan,  Archivist - Richard Fitzpatrick, Curator –Brian Daley, Historian – Howard Hansen,  Membership – Mary Kelleher

Board of Directors -  Denise Peterson;  Ruth Fitzpatrick will finish out the term (2012) of Richard Fitzpatrick, who will take over as Archivist. Other board members and the year their term will expire:  Joe Mokrisky (2011),  Joe De Vito (2011) ,  Jeanne De Vito (2012).

June 12 -- Spring Yard Sale 9:00 A. M.-2:00 P. M.  We need strong backs at 7:00 A. M. to help us get out our merchandise.   Please drop off your donations at the Society during the day on Tuesdays or Thursday evenings before 8:00 P. M. 


President’s Report  -  We are sad to report the death of our beloved, recent Archivist John O. “Jack” Sidebottom.   We were privileged to work with Jack for almost seven years; he   was an upright man of integrity, who would tackle whatever job needed to be done.  So much of our building, the Lucius Clapp Memorial, bears the fruits of Jack’s labor; whether they be things he built, the items he repaired, or the materials that he recommended we purchase.  He was a humble man; whenever he would give the Archivist’s Report at our meetings, he would begin by saying,  Well, we haven’t been doing much,” but those of us who worked here, knew that he had been doing a lot.   Jack was also an invaluable liaison between the Historical Society and the First Universalist Church of which he was a life-long member, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and President or Chairman of many other important committees over the years.  Jack was a well-respected member of the community, sharing his eighty-plus years of knowledge and experience of our Town’s history with anyone who sought such information.  More than $700 worth of donations have been given to the Historical Society in Jack’s memory.  Thank you to all who contributed.   Among the items we plan to purchase are two large plaques; one will be titled “The Jack Sidebottom Award for Service to the Stoughton Historical Society.”  On it will be listed the names of members of the Historical Society, other than the Presidents, who have served meritoriously in some capacity for at least ten years.  We plan to have at least seven names to add by the Harvest Dinner and will appoint a committee to study the minutes and newsletters of our organization since its inception and select more names. If you have names, which you wish to recommend for consideration, please contact us.   A second plaque will display the names of the Society’s Presidents, replacing the framed document, which currently serves that purpose.

  We have experienced three successful presentations since the last Newsletter:


  On  February 21, we had a full house for the program on the Battle of Saratoga, which included a video presentation of the Battle and the events surrounding it.   Our own colonial re-enactor Sandy Spector, discussed the varied roles of camp followers in both armies, including fascinating stories of two women with the British in the Saratoga campaign; Baroness Von Reidesel and  Lady Jane Acland.  Two Stoughton high school students, Sarah Nitensen and Kelly Hickey, were honored for their help in editing and typing the Upham-Tilden manuscript onto a Word Document, which was an essential step in the publication of the Ezra Tilden diaries. 


  On March 21, we joined with the Canton and Sharon Historical Societies at Sharon’s building, for a standing room-only look at the period of time when our three communities were all a part of Old Stoughton. Canton’s Wally Gibbs brought over a display on Colonel Gridley, which included some of

Gridley’s actual hair, but the real treasure was one of the immense scrapbooks created by D. T. V. Huntoon, in which were pasted hundreds of the original town documents from the early 1700’s.   Fortunately the paper in these folio-sized, leather bound scrapbooks has held up reasonably well.  Sharon’s David Nelson presented a brief study of several of the entries in the 1762-1783 Account Books of Benjamin Hewins, a Stoughtonham merchant, focusing on entries charged to the Town for items bought for the poor, and many examples of payment by the exchange of goods or services in the Ichabod Clark account.  The Clarks purchased a variety of items from the Hewins’ store and paid by weaving cotton, linen, and woolen cloth for Hewins.   We provided the original tax lists from 1727, and a variety of projected images and posterboard displays, including an outline of  large triangle of Old Stoughton placed over four spliced modern topo quadrangles.  More on “When We Were One Town,” later in the Newsletter. 


    On April 11, we had another full house for David Lambert’s presentation on George E. Belcher, his industries, his ornithology, and the famous house, which he renovated and refurbished.  David had gathered many wonderful images, which he computer-projected onto our screen.  Our projector presentations are so much more effective, now that we can adequately darken the room with the new shades.  We saw images beginning with a young Belcher, working for other companies, blown-up images from the Stoughton Center 1890 house and building map, excerpts from the census, supplemental period pictures of the Civil War and the Titanic, images of specific patents on the shoe lasts, and many photographs from inside and outside the home and factory, showing the changes in both over the course of more than a century.  Our audience provided edifying anecdotes and questions.  Norma Raymond, a former Belcher employee contributed her memories and brought in several artifacts.   Howard Hansen recalled a newspaper story in which a former Belcher employee traced the progress of a maple block from the time it came into the factory to its eventual emergence as a finished shoe last.  When the factory was later converted to elderly housing, several former employees lived in the apartments, some of them very near the same area (somewhat changed, of course) in which they had worked for many years. The program served as a compelling introduction to our upcoming exhibits and programs on Stoughton’s industries.


    Two days earlier, on April 9, a contingent of more than ten members of the Historical Society had attended the honoring of David Lambert and Sarah Ann Lynch  at the Academic Hall of Fame ceremonies at Stoughton High School.  David shared that his coming to the historical society as a child was an important shaping experiences in his life.  Special thank you’s to our members Joanne Blomstrom and Ruth Fitzpatrick for their important roles in the process.  For more details on the ceremony check  


   During March, I visited the Canton Historical Society to do research for the “When We Were One Town” program and learned that they have a collection of WWI posters, even larger than the one we share with the Stoughton Public Library.  They have never exhibited theirs, but we look forward to a simultaneous exhibition of both our posters at a future Veterans Day celebration or the Centennial of World War I, which will be coming up in the latter part of this decade. 


   On a Tuesday late in March, we had a couple of interesting conversations at the Society regarding the WWII era.   Over lunch, Joe DeVito talked about being at Bikini Atoll after the war, having been assigned to move out the natives before the testing of the atomic bomb; they had been told they could soon return, but have never been able to do so.  Brian Daley had recently learned that the water and coral at Bikini are now radiation-free, but the land is still hot.  Joe had become a carpenter’s mate and remembered cutting a piece of oak from a barrel to fit into the coral-damaged bottom of their boat, then using oakum, dipped in tar to make the patch watertight, leading me to recall that Ezra Tilden had been assigned to gather oakum at Fort Ticonderoga.  In the afternoon, Paul Bishop visited, inquiring if anyone know the location of Highland Park in Avon.   Various opinions were expressed. But the matter was settled when Richard Fitzpatrick checked Richard Hanna’s History of Avon and determined that Highland Park was on West Main Street, which is the last right on Harrison Blvd before Rt. 28.  Paul also recalled that there was a large hall on Page St (or Old Page?) at the Stoughton-Avon border to which the returning WWII vets marched after some celebration at Highland Park.  Does anyone else remember this building?


     During the preparation for the meeting at the Sharon Historical Society, I decided to check the west side of Bay Road for more stone markers like the one we had found in the woods, marking the wedge of land which remained Stoughton, while the rest became Sharon.  I was excited when I found two more stone markers with a S on them, but a former Town Engineer of Sharon, who was attending the presentation, informed me that those may simply be relatively modern boundary markers, marking the Sharon border which runs along Bay Road all the way from Cobb’s Corner to the Easton line.  I also found a stone slab, lying on its side on a pile of rubble, a few yards from the road, which looked similar in shape to the ancient Bay Road mile markers.  I need to return with a crow bar in order to be able to check the side against the earth for any distinctive markings.


     The Board of Directors decided that we should explore restoring the Mortimer Lamb pastel, “The Last of the Snow,” which hung over the fireplace in the office for many years, and determine the cost to repair the mold spots which had appeared on it.  Howard Hansen agreed to deliver it to Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, and they subsequently estimated that it can be restored for  $1500-1700.  Fortunately, it may be possible to get financial help from the Stoughton Public Library, which has a trust fund set up to preserve its impressive collection of Mortimer Lamb paintings.           


       A number of people have visited the society recently including two generations of a family doing research on their ancestors, the Curtises and Littlefields; (Moses Curtis moved to what is now Avon before 1727.)  When David Lambert was assisting these people, he fortuitously found in the dusty files a drawing from a photograph of Alfred Waldo, the young man, who kept the detailed Civil War diary written in pencil, which we published two years ago.  His picture can now grace the next edition.


      We received a gracious thank-you note from Shirley Schofield of the Sharon Historical Society for our presentation there.  We also received a packet of more than twenty letters written during WWII by John Stiles and Ruth Burnham to Stiles’ cousin, Esther Hussey of Ashland.  Wilma Slaight recently gave a presentation of these letters to the Ashland Historical Society, and we had sent her some Stiles information to supplement her knowledge of the soldier who was writing these letters.  In return, she graciously sent us copies of all the letters, both on hard copy and scanned images on CD, complete with abstracts and an overview of the collection.  Hank Herbowy is now reading the letters and will be attempting to link some of the places mentioned with Stiles’ six military albums of small pictures, most of which (unlike his Stoughton pictures) have no captions.


     In other activity at the Society: Brian and Carol Daley placed the pansies in the flower urns in front of the Society, and Joe DeVito transplanted more Blue Rug juniper bushes. Richard Fitzpatrick purchased and installed a new holder for our “OPEN” flag; Hank Herbowy installed the new cable box for the television.  Joan Bryant’s daughters and daughter-in-law (and their agents) donated and delivered five carloads of leftovers from their Avon Walk for Breast Cancer yard sale; Joan Bryant, Denise Peterson, and I helped deliver and unpack the goods and Denise has now begun sorting and pricing items.  Jeanne DeVito and Mary Kelleher update the mailing list and record the dues which are sent in each week; Jeanne writes thank you notes to people who make donations of money, documents, or artifacts

Archivist’s Report – With the transition from the late Jack Sidebottom to Bob Viola to Richard Fitzpatrick, we had developed a back-log of items to be catalogued.   Richard is persistently chipping away at the pile of items on the Archivists’ desk. Tony Alfano and Bob Viola continue their pursuit of the names of ALL Stoughton selectmen, with Bob now checking the Town Records from the 1700’s.  David Lambert has been taking digital pictures of many of our photographs and documents and has stored them in files on the computer.   Shelly Obelsky, a new member and valuable addition to our work crew, has installed the back-up hard drive for all our documents on the computer, including our new Past Perfect 4.0 system, which has had the contents of the Past Perfect 2.5 migrated to it.  Shelly is studying the 4.0 manual and beginning to make new entries from the two boxes (of four) from the card catalogue which have not yet been entered.    Ruth Fitzpatrick has returned to her work retrieving many of the John Stiles pictures from disintegrating albums and placing them in  new, archivally approved albums with appropriate captions.

Items received:  A scrapbook of portraits of Talbots, Capens, Gays, Frenches Porters, Holbrooks, Lambs and other familiar names plus many unidentified portraits circa 1900 from James Husson-Cote of Provincetown; a map of North Stoughton from Sandy Barber, a large box of letters, receipts etc.1900-1920 of Stoughton selectman, water commissioner and insurance agent George Wentworth; a copy of the History of the Old Stoughton Musical Society, donated by Eugene Flynn of Sharon; a new copy of a reprint of A History of the Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers (Webster Regiment) by Benjamin Cook and James Beal from Ken Albin of Baton Rouge, LA.;  a Bible from the Lamb family from Norma Raymond;  a photograph and commentary on WWII Vet Andrew Thomas from his son, Larry Thomas; a packet of documents on the JW Woods company, including a number of copies of the company newsletter, “The Shuttle” from Lou Hurley in Georgia; town reports (1894, 1924) a 200th Anniversary program (1926) and a Stoughton Cook Book (1889) from Mary Malcolm of Brockton; a box of documents relating to wetlands and sewage issues in Stoughton circa 1960-1970 from the family of Edmund Atkinson.

Curator’s Report -Since the last newsletter, we have received six items from different people:


 1.  A wooden object, believed to be a form used to repair boots, possibly a primitive show last, found in the old Atherton home on Central St., donated by Allan Rowbotham.  It is vaguely in the shape of a plow hook, but the wood is too soft for it to have served that function.  2.  Several metal name-tags for the Gill Machine Co. of Stoughton. (We failed to record the names of this donors; if you know who gave the metal tags, please let us know.)  3.  A Perfection Water Cooler given to us by Pat Byron and family.  Pat said it belonged to his father who took it to local ball games years ago.  Perfection was purchased by Atwood L. Boggs, who moved the company from Haverhill, Massachusetts to Boston and in 1912 established the plant in Stoughton. The output of the plant was shipped all over the world. Their product was of the highest standards for coolers.    4.  A brick, given by David Lambert, from the old Gas & Light Works that was on Rose St.  It was built in the late 1880’s and was torn down just this past March.  5. A gavel given to the Stoughton Grange in 1901 at the IOOF fair from Norma Raymond. 6.  A Vulcan plastic last made for the Belcher Co. from Norma Raymond

                                                                                                                        Brian Daley – Curator

Clothing Curator Janet Clough has begun to consolidate some of our many military uniforms into the last available clothing box.  Soon, decisions will have to be made regarding our over-supply of certain uniforms, beyond our capacity to preserve and store them.


The following is a summary of some of the recent research for the presentation in Sharon and the beginning of a longer piece on the topic:


                        When We were One

      In 1726  Stoughton was incorporated, as one town with one church (at Canton Corner), and therefore one Precinct.  Despite the fact that the Dorchester South Precinct had extended all the way to Attleboro, the town records at this time appear to pertain only to freeholders who lived within the bounds of the current Canton, Sharon, Foxborough, Stoughton, and Avon, ALL of which were named Stoughton.


     The 1727 tax records reveal that there were two districts; a northern one, comprised primarily of the current Canton, with 165 households, whose taxes were collected by Constable John Shepherd and a southern district of 107 households, with taxes collected by Constable Ebenezer Healy/Hooley.   A few Stoughton names do appear on the northern list, including Moses Curtis, who was the sole settler in the SOUTHEAST corner of the Town, now Avon.  Pigwacket Road (now Page St.) apparently connected Curtis to the more distant northern section of town more efficiently than any east-west road connected him to the closer southwestern settlers, an issue which would explain Avon’s subsequent and long-standing attempts to separate from Stoughton.   Further research may reveal that we need to change our map of people who lived in the current Stoughton in 1726.  The tax records show that Hezekiah Gay and Zachariah Lyon were paying taxes in the southern half in 1727, whereas our map indicates that they did not come until 1734.   It also would be interesting to determine which of the households listed in the southern half lived as far west as the current Foxboro. 


     In the 1730’s, areas of Old Stoughton were annexed to Dedham and Walpole.   In a document given to the Sharon Historical Society in the early Twentieth Century, Stoughton Historian Loring Puffer, quotes another Stoughton historian Newton Talbot as having estimated the following populations of the current town areas in 1739:  Canton 415; Stoughton (and Avon) 525; Sharon (and Foxboro?) 415.   We do not know what data our esteemed President Talbot drew upon for his figures, but whatever the respective populations, Sharon-Foxboro petitioned to become a separate precinct, and their petition was accepted by the General Court in 1740.  Soon thereafter they had their minister Rev. Curtis and church in place.   Stoughton’s petition to become the Third Precinct was accepted in 1743 and “we” had our Church built and the Rev. Jedediah Adams in place by 1744.   In May of 1745, a letter signed by six men in the Second Precinct informed the Town fathers that they had hired two female school teachers to instruct the children in reading and writing.  They request money to pay these teachers and remind the town that they have not yet received any money from the proposition which had passed to raise money for the schools.  Such issues may have contributed to what occurred twenty years later.


    In 1765, the Second Precinct petitioned to become the “District” of Stoughtonham.  Once their petition was accepted, they chose their own selectmen, and collected their own taxes, but had to share  ONE representative to the General Court with the Town of Stoughton.  Districts were somewhat more than a Precinct, but somewhat less than a Town.  The Third Precinct, the current Stoughton, then became the Second Precinct of the Town of Stoughton.  Responsibilities for the poor had to be divided up between the new District and its mother town.  A certain part of the receipts from the sale of the School Farm had to be sent to Stoughtonham, after first going to Stoughton.  As we  have written previously, the Bay Road boundary between the Second and Third Precincts was adjusted so that the wedge of land on the west side of the road in the Dry Pond area would remain in Stoughton.  Ironically, it remained the Second Precinct, although everything else shifted about it.


     In a Feb. 28, 1766 document, pasted by Huntoon into one of his scrapbooks, we learn of the conclusions reached by a Committee of three Stoughton men; Hezekiah Gay, Nathaniel May, and Joseph Billings, and three men from Stoughtonham; Thomas Randall, Daniel Richards, and Job Swift.  Their charge was to determine “the futer maintenance of the Poor that were Released by the Town at the time when the District was set off.”  Apparently, Stoughton had stopped paying for all of the people subsequently named.  The following poor became the responsibilities of Stoughton: “Nathaniel Somers & his wife and three of their Children (viz) John Abigail & Patience; Edward Pitcher and his Wife the Widow Abigail Jordan; (who may have lived in the westerly wedge at Dry Pond), the Widow Abigail Clap & the Widow Mary Horton…and be no further charge to said District of Stoughtonham.  And that Stephen Holland & his Wife & their three youngest Children the Widow Rouse & Bethiah Hubbard be Supported by said District; and be no further charge…etc.”  Three other people are named as being in the process of having guardians appointed for them by the Selectmen; Silvanus Wentworth, Sarah Somner & Deliverance Somner, and should any of them “come to be chargeable that Said charge be borne by Said Town & District in proportion.”


    Stoughton also agreed to pay to Stoughtonham “the Sum of Eight Pounds three pounds and eight pence thereof to pay for schooling in Said District the last year and the other four pounds Nineteen Shillings & four pence to pay a part of the Charge of Supporting the Districts part of the Poor in time past.”   It was a final settlement but “nothing is to be understood or intended by this report  to Cut Short or Deprive the Said District of their proportionable part of the yearly Wrents or Incomes of the School farm nor of Said Districts part of ye yearly interest of ye school money or bonds the Effects of the Sale of the School Lands all which is to remain good to Said District as before.” (to be continued)

Welcome to New members:  Heather McKinley,  Sheldon Obelsky, and Richard Pratt