Stoughton Historical Society Newsletter Online

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Upcoming Events

November 21 2 P. M. –  We will have a slide presentation: A Race out to Boston Light and Back: the Harvard Boston Aero Meet of 1910”  which was only the third international air meet held anywhere in the world. The 1910 meet featured the earliest aviators including the Wright brothers' exhibition team, Glenn Curtiss, and the British flyer Claude Grahame-White (who won the $10,000 Boston Globe first prize) as well as many others flew at the event. Boston Mayor John  Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald flew for the first time mentioning how "safe" planes were since they landed on grass. Over 500,000 people were said to have witnessed the flights - most for the first time - as the shorelines near Squantum were filled allowing people to see the aeroplanes and to see the race out to Boston Light and back. President William H.Taft and future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were among the many prominent spectators viewing these early flying machines.  Frederick Morin, VP of Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society, will present the slide show highlighting these "firsts" and explaining their significance in aviation history. Fred is an aviation historian and researcher with a particular interest in local military aviation. He is also the VP of the Naval Airship Association, a national group dedicated to gathering, perpetuating and disseminating Lighter-Than-Air expertise and knowledge that has been accumulated during the U.S. Navy's long involvement and employment of LTA principles in military aviation.  Mr Morin is also knowledgeable about our local airports in Canton-Norwood, Easton, and Taunton and will answer questions on any of those facilities.  We will also have some of John Stiles pictures of aircraft, aviators, and airports from the 1920’s on display.

December 11 - Holiday Parade and Open House at the Historical Society.  Stop by the Society, partake of some light refreshments, and pick up some holiday gifts from our publications, maps, and t-shirts. 

President’s Report   Fifty of us gathered at the Library in September for another successful Harvest Dinner at which we honored the first five winners of the Jack Sidebottom Award for exceptional service to the Stoughton Historical Society.  I assisted Norma Sidebottom in presenting the awards to Ruth McDonald, Ruth Hanson, Emily Guertin, Hank Herbowy, and post-humously to Ann Petterson.  Our thanks to Joe and Jeanne De Vito for arranging the purchase of the large plaque with the names of the award winners, which is now on the wall, next to the sign-in desk at our building along with another plaque which lists the Presidents of the Stoughton Historical Society and the years they served.  Joan Bryant set up the catered meal with Bertucci’s and supplied the mums for the table centerpieces, which became prizes in the raffle which was run by Evelyn Callanan and Jeanne DeVito.  Student Intern Marissa Petersille described some of her work transcribing the Ezra Tilden Journal.  There were also displays showing activities at the Society during the summertime, including composite pictures of the Ames Pond, West Street, and Plain St areas recreated from 1953 aerial photographs, a display on the Magnusen sisters at Camp Whispering Willows, pictures of work done by Joe De Vito in putting together our displays on Stoughton Businesses, and a sample of the work done by Tony Alfano and Bob Viola compiling a list of Stoughton Selectmen from 1726 to the present.


   On October 17, we opened our display, “Stoughton Businesses” with a program featuring slide presentations from David Lambert and yours truly.  We dedicated the meeting to Henri Johnson, the third President of out Historical Society, serving from 1905-1922.  According to Howard Hansen in A Stoughton Sampler, there were a number of lean years in our Historical Society between 1916 and 1922 as the membership aged together, but “then in 1922, President Henri Johnson in his eighty-eighth year, sent an appeal to members begging them to remember their heritage as the Town’s 200th anniversary was only four years away.”  His appeal inspired Judge Oscar A. Marden to reorganize the Society and soon evoked an enthusiastic response in the Town to celebrate the 200th.  Henri Johnson appears in the Memorial Booklet for the 200th as a member of “An Old Quartette” consisting of Maj. George Dutton, 90; George Goward, 92; Erastus Smith 93; and Mr. Johnson, 90 (or that would have been their ages in 1926.).  For those of you who have not yet purchased a copy of A Stoughton Sampler, you will find many references to Stoughton businesses over the years.


   This summer’s visit by the Magnuson sisters, Barbara Campbell and Shirley Ruane to the “orphanage” of their youth, the current Camp Westwoods and Packard Manse led to newspaper articles and photographs in the Enterprise and Journal.   In our search to learn more of the history of Camp Whispering Willows, we located an aerial photo, taken by John Stiles in 1927, upon which he had (decades later) later inscribed the location of “Dr Packard’s House” and “Miss Crawford’s “Whispering Willows Camp.” Dr. Packard died in 1936, and Josephine Crawford’s name appears at 808 West Street in 1940.  It is odd that although Dr Packard’s House was built before 1920, there was no 583 Plain St (the current address of Packard Manse) listed in the Town Directory until after the house was sold to a church group and became the Packard Manse in the 1950’s. Years after Sgt Earl Russell Magnusen left his daughters in the care of Josephine Crawford in 1942, he worked for Stop and Shop and became good friends with Orrin Hanson.  Howard remembers that his father attended Earl Magnusen’s funeral.  Ruth Fitzpatrick recalls that Dr Willis Pitts (the last NL erroneously mentioned a Dr Watts) would take the Stoughton High School Drama Club to Camp Whispering Willows for a yearly outing.  Dr Pitts’ wife, Frances was Josephine Crawford’s partner in running the camp.  Diane Smith Bowman brought in a copy of an extensive resume of Dr Pitts and his brothers, which she had typed for him many years ago.  She recalled that when the Pitts sold the Whispering Willows property (after obtaining it from Josephine Crawford’s estate?) to Camp Academy, they reserved the right to send one camper of their choosing each season to the new camp.


   Former Town Engineer Atkinson’s daughter, Mary Gateward brought in two boxes of his old materials including aerial photographs of Stoughton in 1953, plans for Haytot Farm on the Easton - Stoughton Line near the tracks, and a map drawn up by Walter Pratt and copied by Charlie Starkowsky, showing early owners of the lots of land in the Bird St. Conservation Area.  This map identified the Robinson lot land off Palisades Circle, which contains many stone walls near the Easton line as having belonged to Jefferson Jones, whose house and barn were on West Street. In our copies of the Vitals and Products of Agric from 1850 we find regarding the Jefferson Jones farm: 20 acres improved, 60 unimproved.  8 children, two of whom are listed as bootmakers and a 67 yr old mother in law, probably Letitia Gay living with them.   The Jones family is also mentioned three times in the Drake letters to Strongsville Ohio, referred to elsewhere in the Newsletter.  On May 26, 1829,  Nathan Drake Jr. writes to his brother Asa in Strongsville Ohio;   “On the 15th February, Ebenezer (their brother) had a boy born.  It weighed 9 ¾ lb.  His wife was as smart as common for two days, then she grew more unwell and a fever came on and increased so that she died on the 25th.  Some think it was owing to not taking physic enough that caused the fever; others, that it was owing to a stoppage, but I believe that we do not any of us know.  Her mother Sampson came the second day and stayed while she lived so she had the best of care.   It was a very blocked up time with snow so that they could not get different doctors as they otherwise would.  The boy, they call Aron Sampson, it underwent much with the canker and we thought it was uncertain whether it lived or not for some time, but it has got well.  It is now kept at Jefferson Jones’s.”


  On October 6, we hosted thirty eight sophomore AP History students from Stoughton High School, accompanied by their teachers,  who walked down from the high school in rain  for a two-hour midday program.   Joe De Vito and I split them in half; he presented his groups with an overview of the Stoughton businesses display in the Pierce Room and I talked about maps and the early history of Stoughton in the Clapp Room.  Marissa Petersille, our aforementioned student intern, and a senior at Stoughton High School led the students in group exercises.  In one, they had to decipher a page copied from the original Ezra Tilden journal and make their own lists of the items Tilden carried with him to Claverack/Albany in 1779.  Then they had to trace his route on copies of modern road maps, which Barbara Greenwood at the Town Engineering Department reproduced for us.   The program concluded with a showing of the video from the Saratoga battlefield.  When the students left to return to the high school, the heavens opened, but they were most likely, given the wonders of modern fabrics and footwear, better prepared to walk in rain than was Ezra Tilden on his long marches during the Revolutionary War. 


    As Marissa Petersille is completing her work on the Tilden Journal, Howard Hansen is contemplating an Ezra Tilden tour which will begin at the site of Tilden’s home near Indian Lane and follow the route of his first day’s march on November 1, of 1779, when he makes it as far as,  Mr Alby’s Tavern in Wrentham where I lay all night, on the floor: &C…&, that night , sed Alby, charg’d us, 18 d. L. m. per man, for our Lodging on the floor. & C. &, that night, I swopt coats with Butterfield, one man, that was with us: &; John Haws, junr. & Saml. Capen, the 3rd. Bro’t in for him to give me 21 L.L. m. 70 dolrs to Boot: but, he seem’d to think hard to give that. This he stood to their judgement: &, so, I gave him, in 10 dolrs. &, ¾ of what they bro’t in: &, I took an ordr.   Figuring out the complexities of the economic transaction described here may be more difficult than retracing his route.  We will likely publish this installment of the Diary some time in the Spring with an accompanying program.  If you would be interested in taking the Tilden tour, contact Howard or me.  I recently attended a presentation on the Crown Point Road at Fort #4 in Charlestown, NH.  The next day, we drove to Weathersfield, Vermont and took pictures of one of the original mile markers in the woods and then to Cavendish to the Coffeen cellar hole, a location which Tilden mentions in his journal.  Some of these pictures are posted on the Stoughton Historical Society Facebook page.  We will also try to put together a tour by bus next fall, following Tilden’s march to Fort Ticonderoga via the Crown Point Road.  We would, if possible, visit Fort Independence, Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and finally the Saratoga Battlefield on the return trip. 


   We have applied for a Cultural Council Grant to publish a Stoughton Edition of the Drake family letters, which have been transcribed by Sandee Lemasters of Spencer, Ohio.  Sandee, who gave us a copy of the complete letters when she visited two summers ago, has agreed to create a Stoughton Edition, including many letters from Stoughton patriarch Nathan Drake, to his son, Asa, who had emigrated to Strongsville, Ohio.  Nathan reported to his son many things which were happening in Stoughton between 1821 and 1845 including births, illnesses and deaths in Stoughton, the varying prices of commodities which they raise, sell, and buy, religious affairs in town (three consecutive generations of Nathan Drakes were deacons in the Methodist Church) including the Great Mason controversy, events such as  The Methodists have sold their meeting house and built another near the old meeting house in Stoughton.  Lenard Hodgers bought the house and is fitting it up for a large dwelling house.  Ammace and Consider Southworth are digging cellars for two large houses between the road to Nathan’s and the Buring place, so you will see how thick we are here.”  As with recent past practice, the grant should result in our giving a number of copies to the Stoughton schools, at least one program at the Society. We thank Sandee for her enthusiasm regarding this undertaking.


     We are in the process of setting up a joint meeting of the Stoughton, Sharon, Canton, and Foxboro historical societies in Foxboro at sometime in the spring. A significant part of the town, including East Foxboro, was once part of the Second Precinct of Stoughton, which became the District of Stoughtonham in 1765.  In 1775 Foxboro was incorporated, and in 1783, Stoughtonham was renamed Sharon.  I have sent Foxboro journalist and town historian  Jack Authelet a list of Stoughton taxpayers in 1727 and he is planning to identify the Foxboro names and also working on making the meeting happen.  According to Jack, a number of people in East Foxboro voted against incorporation, preferring to stay with Stoughtonham, the details of which should provide one interesting topic for our meeting. 


    On November 6, we held our fall indoor yard sale.  Despite unpleasant weather and a relatively light turnout, we managed to take in more than $800 from donated items, the sale of maps and publications, and one lifetime family membership.  Thank you’s to Denise Peterson for many evenings of work.  Also: Maureen Gibbons, Jeanne and Joe DeVito, Dwight, Joan, and Calvin Mac Kerron, Mary Kelleher, Ruth and Richard Fitzpatrick, Bev Fox, Brian Daley, Pam Poillucci,  John and Barbara Anzivino.  Also thank you’s to all who donated. 


   On Nov 10, a group of veterans including  Joe DeVito, Charlie Large, and Charlie Wade went to the O’Donnell Middle School where they were interviewed individually by students who then introduced them to all of the eighth grade at a large assembly.  On Veterans Day, after the parade, a number of us gathered along with Norma Sidebottom, the rest of the Sidebottom,  and many town officials at the corner of Central and Talbot Streets to observe the unveiling of the sign at John O. Sidebottom Square.   Our Jack would have been proud.


    The following, accompanied by a number of pictures, will compose the time line up to 1900 to be displayed in large lettering at the front of our Society.  A few of these dates may be removed as space limitations dictate:


 1735 -  First school erected near the Meeting House in Ponkapoag. Mr. John Withington hired for a year (£ 21, 15s. salary).

1741 Second Precinct (now Sharon, E. Foxboro, and parts of Wrentham) incorporated.  - A school was taught at Isaac Stearns house on West St.

1743  Third Precinct, or Parish, was incorporated (now largely present towns of Stoughton and Avon).

1744  The First Meeting House in present day Stoughton was raised in Stoughton Square.

1765  The Second Precinct declared the District of Stoughtonham

1768 The first schoolhouse in present Stoughton erected on this site.  See plaque outside.

1774 (August 16) - Meeting at Doty's Tavern, Stoughton; the first of three meetings to formulate the Suffolk Resolves, carried by Paul Revere to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and becoming an important influence in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. 

1776-1785  Revolutionary War Many Stoughton men, and one woman, disguised as a man (Deborah Sampson) served in the war including Captain Asa Waters, Pvts. Ezra Tilden,  James Capen, and Lemuel Smith.  Stoughtonham (now Sharon) became a separate town in 1778.

 1786 - Old Stoughton Musical Society oldest Continuing Choral Society in the world founded at the home of Robert Capen (corner of Park and Seaver Streets).

1806 Franchise granted by General Court to Stoughton Turnpike Company  and to the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike Company the next day.  Turnpike franchise, Washington Hotel (aka) Swan's Tavern is built.

1813   Gay Cotton Manufacturing Co. begins production of cotton thread.  Stoughton’s first factory, incorporated by Lemuel Gay and others in 1814 included female workers, who boarded near the factory on Mill St. (picture)

1818    First post office in Stoughton at Wallace Capen Place, 769 Turnpike Street. Aaron Gay, first Postmaster.

 1822 - Majority withdrew from Church of Christ (which became Unitarian/Universalist) and formed Congregational Church.  This great schism happened in almost every town in Massachusetts.

1823   First cotton cord ever made in Massachusetts by water power at factory of Col. Consider Southworth.

1836    Patent leather developed for shoe trade.    Nathan Tucker & Bros.

1845 (April 7) The first railroad car ran between Stoughton and Boston.

1857 Woolen Industry greatly expanded in two mills by French and Ward;  Col. Charles H. French, and  Henry Ward.

1858 - Establishment of a High School in Stoughton.  It would not assemble until 1865.

 1859 First Catholic Church Dedicated: St Mary’s later re-named Immaculate Conception.   

1861-1865 (Civil War) Enlistments; 592, Soldiers in service; 540, 15 Commissioned Officers; 15, Lost in Battle; 78.  Cost to town; population 4830: Soldiers' families - $ 37,923.59;  Bounties; 62,249.50             Other Military expenses; 20,988.87    Total: $121,161.96

1877 - Mystic Rubber Co. established. Elisha C Monk was one of the incorporators.  Stoughton soon became “the rubber town.”

1881 The Town Hall formally dedicated. Cost: $51,000.

1885 – Stoughton became one of the first towns in the country to institute free textbooks in public schools.

1888 Present Stoughton Railroad Depot on Wyman Street opened to the public; built from granite quarried near West Street by Myron Gilbert. East Stoughton incorporated as the Town of Avon.

1893 - First meeting Ahavath Achim Society. Jewish worship established.

1895 (September 7) - Stoughton Historical Society is founded; men and women accepted as members.  First Action:  Stone marker placed at southwest corner of Ponkapoag Indian Plantation site.

    This display was made possible by a Grant from the Stoughton Cultural Council in 2010.


Archivist’s ReportRichard Fitzpatrick   Acquisitions: two boxes of Stoughton memorabilia, formerly owned by Fred Kelleher from Ed Sheehan; books and notebooks related to the testing of textiles, samples of twisted yarns; Girl Scout LEADER – 50th Anniversary (1962) (1972); a 1924 letter to Irma Wayland of 138 Seaver St. from C.B.G. 176 Newbury St., Boston, describing earthquake, fire, etc.; 3 mailed Stoughton souvenir postcards, news clipping of weddings, obituaries etc from the 1930’s; a pamphlet “Good Food” Stoughton Creamery 1907; a  Souvenir Program OLD Home Week Stoughton, 1908, all from Marilyn and Wayne Legge ; a biography of Clyde Richardson Holmes Sr. and news photo of Mr. Holmes from Janet Clough; two boxes of documents, maps etc from the Ed Atkinson of the Stoughton Engineering Dept. via his daughter, Mary Gateward; an autograph book of Charlotte Bisbee c. 1830; resumes of Dr Willis Pitts and his brothers from Diane Bowman; a color photo of Johnson’s Ice Cream Stand in Stoughton 1933-36 from Shirley Schofield of the Sharon Historical Society;  an index of articles on the Stoughton families of Vermont from Rebecca Tuckerman and the Weathersfield Vt. Historical Society     Ruth Fitzpatrick has been sorting and re-cataloguing our photograph files.  Tony Alfano and Bob Viola have completed their compilations of the Stoughton Selectmen from 1726 to the present, minus, alas, the period from 1799 to 1850.  Shelley Obelsky continues to enter our card catalogue into Past Perfect.


Curator’s ReportAcquisitions: sample display box of cotton from boll to fabric from Marilyn and Wayne Legge; Corcoran’s shoe trolley from Wally and Marie Gibbs; plastic shoe last from John Carle - Brian Daley


Clothing Curator Acquisitions: 1 pr. black high button shoes, 1 dressmaker form from Marlilyn Legge; 1 bag of home-made lace, bag of 11 clothing items from Wayne Legge.  The lace will be useful in repairing items of clothing, which are donated and need some attention.  This lace can also be displayed as is as examples of hand made items of the past {a lost art?}   The clothing donated by the Legge family has a wide time frame and some very interesting items to add to our collection. Janet Clough 


Welcome to New members: Joe Santos and Laura Lessa of Wilmington DE and new Life members: John and Barbara Anzivino