A brief history of

The Stoughton Turnpike

Incorporated   June 23, 1806  

and the

Taunton and South Boston Turnpike

Incorporated   June 24, 1806  





              Stoughton Turnpike (Red)


Taunton & South Boston Turnpike (Blue)





Stoughton Turnpike Corporation





















The Taunton and South Boston Turnpike Corporation was created by act of June 24, 1806, with the right to build a road


from Taunton Green, so called, . . . nearly on a straight line to the crossway over the Great Cedar Swamp, so called, and from thence over said crossway near to the house of Joshua Gilmore in Easton, and from thence through the towns of Bridgewater and Stoughton, the most direct and convenient route to the Blue Hill Turnpike.


Petitions entered late in 1806 resulted in the location of the road and in awards of damages during the year 1807. The report of the committee within the county of Bristol is found in full on the records in Taunton, and gives some interesting data on a subject generally indefinite.


The length of the road in that county was 9. 11 miles, of which 3.08 miles, or 33 8/10 per cent, was built on land which the owners freely gave to the corporation. Twenty-three per cent of the right of way was obtained by purchase at an agreed price, details of which are not given; while, with the owners of 43 2/10 per cent of the needed land, no agreement could be reached, and the corporation was obliged to condemn the land and have the price fixed by the committee. That was done on twenty‑nine parcels covering a length of twelve hundred and fifty-eight rods, on which the committee appraised the damage at a total of $2009. The corporation through a director, Samuel Fales, appealed from two of the awards and succeeded in obtaining, a total reduction of twenty- five dollars. Thus, from the figures actually available, we see that the right of way in Bristol County cost about $505 a mile, or at the rate of about $63 an acre.


Two hundred and seventy-five rods of the way was through the Great Cedar Swamp, which occupies portions of Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Easton, Raynham, and Taunton, swinging in a big semicircle northerly and westerly from Nippenicket Pond in Bridgewater to Scadding Pond in Taunton. The cedar swamps of southeastern Massachusetts plainly were not designed for road building. The straight, slender cedars grow so thickly that only the fittest survive, and the ones that die are so tightly wedged in the living mass that they cannot fall, but continue to stand, ghostlike, greatly increasing the difficulty of cutting a way through. One may walk at one moment on firm soil and then suddenly step through a hole so deep that the length of his leg does not locate the bottom. Soundings have determined the hard bottom in several of these swamps to be anywhere from six inches to thirty feet below the surface, with water almost always within the depression made by a footstep. The surface is composed of a network of large roots, generally so thickly woven that the soil is held between them, but always liable to yield through a larger hole when a careless foot marks its center. Through such an inferno the builders of the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike had the courage to make .86 mile of their road. And it was the obstacle presented by this cedar swamp to the building of earlier roads which gave the opportunity for a turnpike to be built where public funds could not be applied.


Enough has already been said concerning the through route from Taunton to Boston offered by this road and its connections, the Blue Hill and the Dorchester . The junction with the Blue Hill was made in the northerly part of the town of Randolph at what is now the corner of North Main and High streets. Thence this turnpike followed the roads now known as High Street in Randolph, Turnpike Street in Stoughton, Pearl Street in Brockton, Turnpike Street in Easton, and Broadway in Raynham and Taunton.


A tollhouse long stood in Raynham, near the Taunton line, where stood so many years ago in an official capacity. Respected for its old associations it was allowed to remain, even through state highway improvement, and pushed its clapboards close to the macadamized portion until the road had been free for over sixty years.


Twenty-one and a half miles were built at a cost of $ 34,434.61, or about $1600 a mile. Returns were made to the state house from 1810 to 1849, as shown on the chart herewith. The showing is remarkably poor, the gross earnings never running as high as three per cent, while the expenses were generally close to them and often in excess.


An act passed in 1817 shows that this road suffered, too, from “shunpikers,” for a penalty is there laid for all practicing such evasions.


Kingman's “History of North Bridgewater” (Brockton) testifies that at one time there was a heavy travel over this road, both of freight and passengers.


April 1, 1813 , Joshua Gilmore, agent for the corporation, made appeal to the court. The selectmen of Easton had laid out a new road, taking some of the corporation's land, refusing any compensation therefore. The records show that a jury summoned by Abiezer Dean, coroner, found for the corporation in the sum of $ 23.17 and costs.


The Taunton and South Boston Turnpike became a public road throughout its length in 1851.

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The act incorporating the Stoughton Turnpike Corporation June 23, 1806, is noteworthy for being the first one in which the judgment of the persons investing the money is mentioned as a factor to determine the location of the road. This company was to build from a point in the “Old Bay Road” in Canton, about two miles beyond the westerly end, of the Brush Hill Turnpike, to a point on the Taunton and South Boston Turnpike in the town of Easton. It may be noted that the Taunton and South Boston, mentioned in this act, was incorporated a day later, and had no actual existence at the time, much less was there any such road.


December 13, 1806, the five disinterested freeholders of Bristol County were appointed to locate the road, and in September, 1808, they reported, the section in Norfolk County being located at the same time. But work did not advance at once, and the company secured an extension of its time to June, 1813.


This turnpike is now the state highway known as Turnpike Street in Canton, and Washington Street in Stoughton and Easton. In its active days it offered a through route from Taunton to Roxbury, except for the two miles intervening between its northerly end and the end of the Brush Hill. At the southerly end, as stated, it connected with the Taunton and South Boston, which entered Taunton, and, by the construction of a later turnpike, through turnpike travel to Providence was provided.


Such a franchise as that of the Stoughton Turnpike would be almost impossible to obtain at this time. It closely paralleled a direct route, half of which was already built or under construction, with the other half seeking incorporation and ready 7 to proceed. It depended upon another company for entrance into Taunton and, by its connection, would take away one half of that company’s through business. Evidently the principle of protecting investments in public utilities was not then established.


The Stoughton Turnpike Corporation was dissolved by act of the legislature in March, 1839, and its road was laid out as a county highway in 1840, except a portion in Stoughton, which was so laid out In 1856.











































































































[Source: Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and evolution of the same through England ,Virginia , and Maryland . (Boston, Mass., Marshall Jones Co., 1919), p. 171-173. Photos plates: XLV (Northerly End, Stoughton Turnpike); XLVI (Stoughton Turnpile, Near the Stoughton-Easton lines, and South Easton); XLVII (Taunton and South Boston Turnpike, Park Street, Stoughton), and map of the turnpikes].