Stoughton Historical Society Newsletter Online
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VOLUME XL N0.3 Jan-Feb-Mar 2011
February 20 2 P. M. - "Hank Herbowy Presents" Hank Herbowy, long-time curator and recent recipient of the Jack Sidebottom Award will present a collection of pictures he has taken of events at the Society and around town over the last twenty years. Hank will also give his reminiscences over forty five years as a member of the Stoughton Historical Society. When Hank joined, one had to be recommended by a member.
March 13 - 2 P. M. The Dedication of "A Stoughton Timeline 1629-1895" We will unveil and dedicate our new two-panel timeline display of Stoughton's early history, a project funded in part by a grant from the Stoughton Cultural Council. We will also present a program which addresses some of the lesser known dates listed on the time-line.
April 3 - 1-4 P. M. A Visit to the Foxboro Historical Commission/Society Before Foxboro was incorporated as a Town in 1778, East Foxboro was part of Stoughton's Second Precinct, which became the District of Stoughtonham in 1765 and the Town thereof in 1775. This program will include members of the Canton, Sharon, Foxboro and Stoughton Historical Societies and focus on the shared history of the four towns. It will also be a chance for us to visit their wonderful Memorial Hall, which was built in 1868. It has the feeling to me of a small castle, but is not large enough to hold our joint meeting for which Bob Hicks has reserved the Andrew Gala Conference Room at the Town Hall at 40 South St., a two minute walk from Memorial Hall. Weather permitting, at 1:00 pm there will be a short walking tour from the Town Hall to two nearby sites; the 1795 Paine Schoolhouse and the Reservoir on Powder House Hill. At 2:00 we will meet together in the Andrew Gala Conference Room, and at the end of the meeting we will visit Memorial Hall. If the timing of any of these activities should change during the next two months, we will communicate via email, announce it at our March Meeting and put a notice in the Pennysaver.
Just getting inside our building has been a challenge for much of January, and although we have remained closed once or twice, when storms were taking place or had just finished, most of the time, our narrow path up the steps has been kept shoveled, and many productive things have transpired since the last Newsletter. A thank you to David Lambert for doing considerable shoveling to widen our path last week..
At our Open House, the day of the Holiday Parade, we had many visitors coming in to view the "Stoughton Businesses" exhibit and we sold several of our publications, maps, and reproduced copies of aerial photos from 1953. There were also articles on the exhibit in the Enterprise and Journal,
which included a good picture of Joe DeVito and Evelyn Callanan in front of the exhibit from their father's store.
We have continued our search for more information on Camp Whispering Willows, at the site of the current Camp Westwoods at which the Magnusen sisters spent more than a year with Josephine Crawford and her "campers." David Lambert located several articles which ran in The Brockton Enterprise on and just after December 19, 1952 on the late night-early morning fire, which took the life of fifteen-year-old Anna Slade, whose father owned a well-known restaurant in Boston. Originally, the death toll was believed to have been higher, but several young women, who were unaccounted for, appeared a few hours later, having been socializing elsewhere at the time of the fire. Camp Director Josephine Crawford was already making plans to rebuild. We have also have acquired two pictures of Camp Whispering Willows, an outside view (compliments of George Comeau of the Canton Historical Society) which we believe was the barn which was expanded after the fire destroyed the main building and an interior view of a fireplace entitled "A Corner of Bluebird Lodge: Camp Whispering Willows, Canton, Mass." Both of these views are from postcards, and both are mislabeled Canton. In the edition of the Enterprise, which had a follow-up story on the fire was an article relating that the FBI had just carefully searched the Specs O'Keefe property at Glen Echo for money stolen in the Brinks robbery. Copies of these newspaper accounts of the fire and the newly acquired pictures are on display at the Society.
We received a request for information on Ellis Drake, inventor of the baseball cover from, Donald Tate, an author of illustrated children's books. In the subsequent research, I realized that this Drake is the Ellis referred to in Erastus Smith's journals circa 1856. The Smiths and the Drakes were neighbors and Erastus, Ellis, and Mrs. J. E. Drake sang and performed amateur theatricals together in the old stone Dry Pond schoolhouse at the corner of Plain and West Streets. Mr. Tate plans to include Ellis Drake in an upcoming book on young inventors and wanted to know what life would have been like for a young man of that period. We sent along both the journals which Erastus Smith kept at age 12-14 and the following information on the Drake farm of 1850 from our documents on the Productions of Agriculture and Industry in 1850: John E. Drake -Boot Manufacturer, Capital Invested $350, Quantities 200 calf skin, Value $300, 50 sides, Value $150 Power-hand, Workers Male - 2, avg monthly cost $65 female 1, Avg monthly cost $8 Quantities 6.00 pairs of (600?) Values 12.50
Productions of Agriculture - Acres Improved 40 Acres unimproved 12 Cash value of farm 1,000 Value of farming implements and machinery $10 Horses x Asses and Mules, x Milch cows - 3 Working oxen Other cattle 2, sheep x Swine 1 Value of live stock 100 bushels of Indian corn 20
On a Sunday in the middle of November, Howard Hansen and I embarked on a two-man expedition to explore the route Ezra Tilden might have taken to get from his house on what is now Indian Lane in Canton over to the mile-marker on Pearl/Pleasant St. from which, according to Howard, he began recording his mileage for the trip to Claverick/Albany in 1779. We explored a cellar hole on Indian Lane, just north of the Canton line, which although it contains cement and other signs of a much later period, based on several old maps may also be the site of the Tilden house. There are stone walls nearby, which indicate the presence of an early dwelling. If Ezra had taken the shortest route to the marker on Pleasant St., he would have crossed a wetland, to what is now Rt 138 near the Town of Canton's well and small pumping station. Next, we stopped at Bill Sievers' house at the intersection of Indian Lane and York St near the site of the Elijah Tilden dam. Ezra's father and brother were named Elijah. As we admired the ancient foundations in his yard, Bill related some of the history of the property.
Then we drove to the end of Meadowbrook Lane, where Howard believes that a daughter (who married an Upham) and grandson of Tilden lived; we found ancient stone walls and a wetland, but
the old foundation has most likely been covered by one of the several houses which have been built along both sides the Lane. We drove out to 138, turned right and a few hundred yards down the road parked at the entrance to the Canton pumping station. We walked east, down into the wetlands until we reached the small pumping station. Getting one foot slightly submerged, I managed to cross a small stream and enter an area which had a well preserved park-type bench and soon met a landowner, who inquired what I was doing trespassing in her back yard. I talked to her about Ezra Tilden and Howard, (who was back on the other side of the stream) until she accepted my presence, and began to complain about the extra run-off which had been coming from the Stop and Shop Plaza across Pine Street to the South, threatening to flood their back yard. After I recrossed the stream, Howard and I found evidence of considerable fill having been removed for a variety of reasons including the construction of the road which leads to the well, but no particular evidence of a place where it would have been convenient for Tilden to cross.
Howard's theory remained that Ezra would have crossed over to Wardwell Road, which runs off Pearl/Pleasant St not far from the mile marker. We drove back, headed west on Central St. and north on Pearl, until we reached Wardwell Road, just over the Canton Line. We drove to the end of Wardwell and walked back on gravel roads to the east. It turned out that we would have saved considerable effort by heading along the southern edge of the large fields associated with the Irish Cultural Center, but instead we followed dirt trails meandering up and down small but steep hillocks, on which we were passed several time by young men on ATV's. We never quite made it back out to 138, although we did get far enough to see it below us. Beginning to feel some fatigue, we retraced our steps and drove out to the mile marker on Pleasant St., which I had never seen before. Whatever route Elijah Tilden took to walk to the marker in 1779, I am fairly certain that he got there in less time than we did. But from that point, Tilden and his comrades set out for Foxborough /Wrentham, where after walking the nineteen miles, they spent the night in at Mr. Alby's Tavern.
We are still searching our old Town documents for the report from a Selectmen's meeting at which, Ezra Tilden gave an accounting to the Selectmen regarding the expenses incurred on this trip. Howard recalls that Ezra had a role in the recruiting of some of the soldiers and was asked to justify his expenses to the Selectmen.
Meanwhile Stoughton High School Senior Marissa Petersille, who is working with the Tilden journal has discovered that the songs in his journal, which we thought were Tilden's original compositions, were actually copied from previously existing poems and songs which Marissa was able to find in a Google search. I have re-aggregated the entries into a chronological version, and we anticipate that we will be publishing this last 1779-1781 journal, some time before the end of the year.
Hank Herbowy and I have been reviewing past secretary's reports and Newsletters in preparation for his presentation on February 20. One important fact we discovered, which, alas, will greatly affect what we tell people about the Sen. Charles Sumner desk, is that earlier research by Ed Meserve indicates that it was a desk from the House of Representatives, which was purchased by Sumner, after the House had installed new desks. Apparently, it is NOT the Senate desk at which Sumner was sitting when he was attacked by Preston Brooks. David Lambert had already noted some discrepancies between our desk and the ones which appear in pictures of the Senate from that year. The desk remains a wonderfully crafted piece work of workmanship in oak, and Senator Sumner's story remains the same, but we can no longer (sigh) in good conscience tell people that this was the desk at which he was sitting when attacked.
Other events in November and December included a visit from a group of cub scouts and their parents and several visits from local residents researching the background of their houses. These visitors included new members, Ami and Matt Cecil, who recently purchased the Zebulon Waters House near the Dry Pond Cemetery on Bay Road. Since the house is on the west side of the road, they are actually residents of the Town of Sharon, but the house is within the area which remained Stoughton for many years after all of the rest of the land west of Bay Road had become the Second Precinct, then Stoughtonham and then Sharon. Deborah Sampson may have stayed in this house (or the house which stood on this spot.) However just to complicate identification, in "Strolling through the Dry Pond Neighborhood of My Youth," Ernest Gilbert places the Zebulon Waters house on the east side of the road, but he may have misspoken and meant the Asa Waters house. At that time, (1952) Benjamin Clapp of the Popcorn Factory Smith, Clapp, and Gay, Clapps, owned the house in question, but Gilbert claims that the house had not been lived in for many years.
I have scanned and edited the aforementioned Ernest Gilbert's original type-written document, "Strolling through the Dry Pond Neighborhood of My Youth," which he gave to the Society after he delivered his presentation in 1952. By Fall, we will publish a new edition, with added pictures of the Smiths, the Gilberts, and even a rare photo of the Bay St. Chapel, which was on the corner of Mountain St and Bay Road in Sharon and which marks the southern extent of Gilbert's walk. His father-in-law, Erastus Smith was one of the moving forces in this chapel and the Society owns a small ledger in which the Secretary and Treasurer's reports from the Chapel were kept.
We attended the ceremonies at Town Hall at which were dedicated the panel showing all of the Stoughton Selectmen from 1950 to the present. Much of the research was done by our Tony Alfano and Bob Viola, and the original idea for this type of display panel came from Joe and Jeanne DeVito. Current selectmen John Anderson and Steve Anastos were also moving forces in the creation of the panel. Our own time-line panels on the History of Stoughton through 1895 are nearing completion and as mentioned above, will be the subject of our March meeting.
We had an inquiry via email from Bill Powers, a historian from Rutland, Vermont, who had seen a picture in Ancestry.com of Adeliza Capen and her daughter Flavia in front of their house in northern Vermont. The picture was attributed to the Stoughton Historical Society. We soon found the picture in one of our four Capen family boxes. On the back was written in pencil, "Home of "Mountain John" Capen, Mrs. Capen (Aunt Adeliza) and daughter Flavia. Forestdale, Vermont." We sent along this information to Mr Powers, who in return, emailed us a thirty-page article he had written on the Capen Family of Northern Vermont, which included letters to and from the Stoughton Capens. In it, we learn that Nathan Capen, son of John Capen and Patience Drake was born in Stoughton in 1786, and eventually moved to Goshen, Vermont in1810. His grandson was 'Mountain John," who exchanged letters with his cousins Frederick and Jonathan, who lived in Stoughton. John served in the military with a Vermont Regiment and eventually attained the rank of Colonel. In 1847, he married Adeliza and in 1848 was elected to the Vermont legislature as a member of the newly-formed Free-soil Party. For unknown reasons, Adeliza visited Wisconsin in 1855, where she received a number of letters from John, stating his wish that they be re-united. It is not known when Adeliz returned, but she was back in Vermont to bear and lose their first child in 1859. In 1862 Flavia was born. After a life of many land purchases, mortgages, and sales, saw mills erected and operated and other occupations as well, John died in 1878 at age 59. Adeliza lived another 29 years, and the picture, which led to this interchange with Bill Powers, shows Adeliza and Flavia at their home in the 1880's. A subsequent email from Bill reveals that this house is still standing and is located in the center of Forest Dale, Vermont. It will be interesting to see what other material we can find in our Capen files of the Stoughton Capens' communications with or comments regarding these Vermont relatives.
The Stoughton Historical Society leases the Lucius Clapp Memorial for $1 from the Town of Stoughton, and the ten-year lease will be expiring in November of this year. Given a new town policy, all such leases must be voted upon by Town Meeting. We trust that the transaction will progress smoothly and the process may permit us to communicate to the Town Meeting members, many of the things which we do. The Town pays for exterior repairs, lawn mowing, and utilities; the Historical Society pays for interior repairs, archival and copying supplies, phone, and internet. Our greatest resource is our all-volunteer work force, who also do the cleaning and snow-shoveling. The Historical Commission has been holding its meetings in our building and four of its five members are also members of the Historical Society: Sandra Spector, David Lambert, Heather McGinley, and Dwight MacKerron.
In 1976, in conjunction with the Town's 250th Anniversary, considerable information on local historical resources was sent to the state by Alice Petruzzo, Bertha Reynolds, Dot Woodward, Clyde Holmes and others. The amount of work these people did, some of whom were members of the Historical Commission, some of the Historical Society and some of both is impressive (and frankly quite humbling to someone like myself, a relative newcomer to the preservation our Town's worthwhile past.) Through the recent initiative of Jennifer Goldson, consultant to the Community Preservation Committee) this data has been incorporated into a layered GIS map put together by Eman Sayegh of the Town Engineers Office. Apparently, Stoughton is one of the few communities in the state, which has had their historical data entered into the state's computer program. This map has many layers, including Conservation and Recreational resources. The historical layers reveal plots of land with historical significance such as the Gilbert Quarries and points/houses. For example, one can click on the icon of one of forty or so small houses, which appear on the map and learn from a table that it is the Hansen Store, the Lucius Clapp Memorial, the Capen-Reynolds house, or Swan's Tavern etc. Also included is known information regarding first owner, current owner etc. The good news is that we have a lot of valuable information in the program; the daunting news is that there is lot more data which should be added or corrected. Eman Sayegh has set up a program by which we can add to the map in increments from the Historical Society's computer and also has given us (one representative each from Conservation, Recreation, and Historical Commissions) two hours of training with more to come. Computer literate volunteers to help us with this task would be much appreciated.
Also on the warrant for the Town Meeting will be a proposal to repair the collapsing brick wall in stairwell at the rear of the Lucius Clapp Memorial, which leads to the boiler room. We anticipate that funds from the Community Preservation Act will be used to pay for the repairs.
On December 23, 2011, we lost one of our oldest members, Ruth Hansen, (1915-2010) who died after a brief stay in the hospital. Ruth served as our recording secretary from 1995 to 2005. Ruth faithfully attended all our meetings , accompanied by her son Howard, our Former President and current historian, and we were privileged this past September to make her one of the recipients of the Jack Sidebottom Award for Exceptional Service to the Stoughton Historical Society. In his eloquent eulogy for his mother, "Mother's Dash" (the dash between the dates of one's birth and death) Howard recalls that as recording secretary, his mother would never sit at the Sumner desk because of the beating that Sumner had allegedly taken while sitting in it. Ironically, we now know that she would not have had to be concerned. At her memorial service on January 2, at the First Parish Universalist Church, eulogies were delivered by the Minister Jeff Symynkywicz, Town Manager Francis Crimmins, and Howard Hansen along with other tributes from members of the family and the community. Howard's eulogy is too lengthy to be included here, but should be attached to the email version of this Newsletter.
Also leaving this vale of tears was former Conservation Commissioner, WWII Vet, and life-long Stoughton resident, Roy Robinson (1919-2010). Roy and former Town Engineer, Charles Starkowsky, were instrumental in purchasing several of the large plots of land which now comprise the Bird St. Conservation Area, including the 500 acre C. W. Welch parcel. Roy was an avid outdoorsman and several years ago, we honored him by designating the Roy Robinson Trail off
Palisades Circle. The trail which Roy used many times to feed the wildlife and plant trees, runs over land formerly owned by his father, and is now marked by a sign memorializing Roy.
We thank Chris Peduto and Charles Starkowsky for their memorial donations for Ruth and Roy, respectively, and Dolores Rodrigues for her gift in honor of the late Anthony Jar din, a long-time member of our Society.
Sandee Lemasters and I have begun exchanging documents, maps, and drafts for the upcoming edition of the 1821-1845 letters from the Drakes in Stoughton to Asa Drake, who immigrated to Strongsville Ohio in 1821. Sandee is including considerable background material on the history of Strongsville and I will send along relevant information on the Drakes of Stoughton, Easton, and Sharon. In Nathan Drake's first letter to his son in Strongsville, he addresses part of the letter to his new daughter-in-law Charlotte, whom he has never met, as Asa married her in Pompey, New York, just before he left for Ohio. Nathan writes as if he will never get to see his son's wife, but fortunately, he will.
Our thanks to Town Veterans Agent Mike Pazyra who supplied us with a new American flag to fly in front of the Society and replace the one which had suffered greatly in storms early in the winter.
Archivist's Report - Richard Fitzpatrick Acquisitions: A loose-leaf binder of the Lane Family Story (Stoughton Lanes include Leroy, Elmer, Edgar etc.) donated by Virginia Lane Stansfield of Rockport, Maine;
-An Anniversary Booklet from the Diamond Jubilee of St. Mary's School 1883-1958, contains lists of graduates from many years), donated by Helen (Cataldo) Lewis;
-Family and police department related items relating to William A. Hodges, donated by Donna Hodges;
-A 1973 Stoughton HS Jacket and a 1951 political postcard relating to Mike Dykeman's running for selectman, donated by Barbara Parks and delivered by Alan Cline;
-A very small picture album (3" x 1 3/4") believed to contain early photos of the Belcher family from an anonymous donor;
-A series of photographs of Stoughton landmarks circa 1995, Christmas and Mother's Day cards from the early 1940's, and a 1948 calendar donated by Janet Clough;
-A scrapbook relating to Charles N. Chase, a local historian and member of our society. It contains clippings of newspaper articles written by Mr Chase on the 26th Maine Regiment of Volunteers, A History of the ministers of the Congregational Church, The Life of William Stoughton, and the History of Stoughton Town Hall; also an article on a party for his 80th birthday, three death notices, and a tribute to Chase written by John Flynn for the HS and submitted to the Stoughton News Sentinel by Bertha Reynolds. This scrapbook was acquired on eBay after a heads-up from Dave Lambert. -A photograph via email of the nine-year-old Louis Holmes, posing with a group of boys. Janet Yuse believes that this picture of her Uncle was taken in Stoughton around 1930
Curator's Report -We have worked on the labels for the Indian artifacts on display at the Society, including a full-grooved axe; a celt wood-cutting tool; a pestle, probably a beach stone used to crush items in a mortar; a gouge, made of quartzite, found in the Glen Echo area in 1966; a celt half broken, found at the Talbot farm in 1905; two light-colored knife blades; a shaft abrader, used to straighten arrow shafts by rubbing the shaft in a groove; a notched hoe made of granite. We also have a selection of Indian arrow-heads. They are made of light and dark quartz, quartzite, and felsite. We know the locations where some of these were found, but the source is unknown for many of them. We are updating our labeling and identification of these artifacts; if anyone has any knowledge or interest to contribute, we would appreciate the help. - Brian Daley
Welcome to New members: Rick McCabe, Tony Macaluso, Joe Canning, (see his ad on the advertising page), Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, Ami and Matt Cecil
Your dues for 2011 are now due.
Consider giving a gift of Stoughton History:
Historical Maps of the 12 (1695) and 25 (1726) Divisions - each map $15 (non-member) / $10 (member) (a ten page booklet of commentary, free, when you buy both of these beautiful colored maps.)
October Stories by James Barber - $13.00
The Drake Letters from Stoughton to Strongsville by Sandee LeMasters - $20 (non-member) /M15
"Exult O Americans and Rejoice": The Revolutionary War Diaries of Ezra Tilden - $15.00 (non-member) / $ 10.00 (member)
A Stoughton Sampler: 1895-1995. $15.00 (non-member) / $10.00 (members)
The Civil War Diary of Stoughton Private Alfred Waldo - $20.00 (non-members) / $15.00 (members)
Images of Stoughton or Postcard Images of Stoughton both by David Allen Lambert. $22.00 (non-members) / $20 (members)
Booklets: Price for each copy: $ 3.00 (non-members) / $2.00 members
Updated color-coded trail/topo maps of the Bird St. Conservation Area - $2.00
Large topo map of Bird St Conservation Area, showing stone walls and lot lines - $10.00
If you wish to order by mail, add $5.00 to your total purchase. For the large maps, add $8.
Address all requests to: The Stoughton Historical Society, Box 542, Stoughton, MA 02072
Please pay your dues for 2011, and 2010 if you have not already done so.
Those who have not paid for 2009, will not be receiving this Newsletter nor the email with it attached. Mail dues to Stoughton Historical Society, Box 542, Stoughton, MA 02072
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