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William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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The Map of Easton i

The Map of the Taunton North Purchase 21

The Town Survey of about 1750 451

The Map of North Easton Village . . . . ' 464



HISTORY OF EASTON.



CHAPTER I.

TOPOGRAPHY.

Geology of Easton. — Glacial Action. — Bog-Iron Ore. — Swamps.
^ — Brooks and Streams. — Ponds. — Meadows and Plains. —
Animals.

THE town of Easton is situated in the northeast corner of
Bristol County, Massachusetts. It is bounded on the north
by Stoughton and Sharon ; on the east by Brockton and West
Bridgewater; on the south by Raynham, Taunton, and Norton;
and on the west by Norton and Mansfield. It is on the Old
Colony Railroad, on the main line from Boston to Fall River
and Newport, and has two railroad stations, — one at North-Easton
village, and one at Easton Centre. Easton Centre is twenty-
four and a half miles from Boston, twelve from Taunton, twenty-
six from Fall River, and about twenty from the nearest seashore.
Easton has three post-offices. One is located at North-Easton
village, one at South Easton, and one at the Furnace village, so-
called.^ The principal industry of the town is the great shovel-
making business carried on by the Messrs. Ames. There are
also a large hinge factory, a cotton-thread factory, foundries, and
other industries that will be particularly described further on.
There are six churches, — one Orthodox Congregational, two
Methodist, one Unitarian, one Catholic, and one Swedish.

The surface of Easton is on the whole quite level, though in
the northeastern part there is a pleasant variety of elevation.
The area is twenty-nine square miles, or, more precisely, eighteen

1 The post-office address of the latter is Easton.
I



HISTORY OF EASTON.



thousand five hundred and eighty-four square acres, of which
three hundred and seventy are water, — the water being that of
artificial ponds made for business purposes.

GEOLOGY OF EASTON.

The underlying rock formation of the town is mainly sienite,
which differs from granite in having for one of its three princi-
pal ingredients hornblende instead of mica. Very definite classi-
fications of rock are, however, impossible, as the varieties often
shade into each other. Most of our sienite has a pinkish color
which makes it a beautiful building-stone. In the northeast
parts of the town sienite predominates, but in North-Easton
village and south of this, it alternates and in some cases mingles
with a hard, dark, traplike rock that is sometimes called diorite.
The North-Easton schoolhouse stands on a foundation of sienite,
but Memorial Hall is supported by a basis of both sienite and
diorite. The rock at the northeast corner of that hall will repay
careful study. In the diorite there may be seen veins or small
dikes of sienite, which must have been forced into the parted
seams in a fluid condition, — the sienite, if once a conglomerate
rock, having been remelted here. The two formations have been
curiously welded together. Under the tower is an example of
igneous inclusion, where the semi-fluid diorite lifted a block of
sienite, and was able to hold it in its fiery embrace until all was
solidified. Close to it is a narrow inclosed strip of a stratified
soft shale, wholly different from the igneous rocks that imprison
it. The shale is found in small quantities in other parts of the
town. Easton is in fact on the dividing line, where the sienite
is more or less succeeded by the shale and carboniferous sand-
stone. There are a few indications of coal, which increase as
we go southward. On the railroad just below the town is a
cutting where an inferior coal, or coal-like stone, may be seen.
At the Centre, and in the west and southwest sections of the
town, there is considerable very coarse, inferior sandstone. An
outcropping of it is in the southeast corner of the second field
next south of Daniel M. Dailey's house, on which the powder-
house once stood. In swampy places in the west of the town
this sandstone has cleaved very curiously into large flagstones.
In a swamp west of Charles E. Keith's house these stones are



TOPOGRAPHY.



crowded together, easily separating into large slabs of various
sizes and thicknesses.

One of the most interesting rocks in town is the immense
outcropping west of Stone's Pond, in North Easton village. In
this rock sienite and diorite are mingled and welded together
in a curious fashion. Apparently the two kinds of rock were
partially melted, and while in this semi-fluid condition formed
an imperfect union.

GLACIAL ACTION.

Among the most interesting things about the topography of
Easton are the plain indications and results of the glacial action
during the ice period. It is an established fact that the north-
ern half of North America was once covered with a vast sheet
of ice several thousand feet in thickness. Its southern limit
was south of New York City, and hence the territory of this
section was covered with it. Moving slowly southward as its
lower edge melted away, its immense weight bearing with incon-
ceivable power upon the rock and soil below, it greatly modified
the surface, and has left many witnesses in town of its action,

1. It requires only a glance at the shape of the rocky summits
of our hills to see that they as a rule slope gently towards the
north, while On their south side they are more or less abrupt and
steep. The reason is obvious. The advancing ice ground over
the northern sides of these summits, gradually planing them off
and wearing them down, the stones and gravel frozen into the bot-
tom of the ice acting as graving tools to cut and wear away the
rock. The technical name for this appearance of these summit
rocks is " crag and tail." It may be plainly seen on Mt. Misery,
on the highest outcropping rock of Unity-Church Cemetery, and
on the hill south of F. L. Ames's lawn, and indeed in nearly all
the outcroppings of the underlying rocks. Two excellent speci-
mens are just west of Washington Street south of Main Street,
where a clearing was lately made. So marked and general is
this appearance, that any one lost in the woods may, by noticing
it, easily learn the points of compass thereby.

2. The second evidence of this powerful glacial action is in
the glacial scratches, or grooves, that are manifest in various
places in town. These do not of course appear upon those rock-



HISTORY OF EASTON.



surfaces that have for ages been exposed to the action of the
elements, for there they have been obliterated. But they may
easily be found by uncovering the tops of stationary rock which
have been protected by the deposits of gravel left upon them by
the ice. Thus when Unity-Church Cemetery was made, the
soil was dug away from the summit rock there, on its western
slope, and many square feet of its surface, for the first time since
the ice period, were laid bare. The writer discovered upon this
surface many of these grooves parallel with each other and with a
direction nearly south, but slightly east of a direct southerly line.
These glacial scratches may be seen in other parts of the town.

3. The same thing may be observed in the stones of almost
any gravel-bank in town. The writer has found them in the
banks made by the cuttings of the railroad between North
Easton village and the Centre. Not all the stones are so
marked, because not all of them were so placed as to have
their surfaces grazed. But many of them may be seen that
have two or more sets of grooves, indicating a shifting of their
position while thus under pressure.

4. Another indication of this glacial action is the presence of
bowlders that could have been brought here by no other means
than the mighty force of advancing ice. They have been torn
from the hills north of us and strewn over the land. Some of
them show by their smooth and rounded form that they have
been subjected to a great deal of wear in the friction caused by
their being forced forward, and by the action of water loaded
with sand and pebbles. But many of them prove by their angu-
lar shape that they have come from short distances above us.
In the north part of the town, especially, the prevalence of these
bowlders of large size makes a striking appearance, the largest
of them being almost invariably sienite. Let any one go to the
vicinity of Story's Swamp west of Long Pond, and he will find
a wild and rugged scene. Huge bowlders are scattered about
everywhere, as though hurled by giants in some deadly conflict.
One of them is about thirty feet long, twenty feet high, and
twelve in thickness, its top beautifully tufted with Polypodium

Vulgaris, or Rock Polypod fern.

All these indications of glacial action may be seen together at
the rock and gravel-bank on the hill southeast of F. L. Ames's



TOPOGRAPHY.



farm-house on Main Street. The three summits of rock are
seen to slope toward the north, showing the wearing action of
the ice in its southward movement. In the autumn of 1884 a
section of the rock on the northwest face was laid bare by the
gravel being removed, and there is nowhere a more striking illus-
tration of the glacial scratches than there. Hundreds of small
parallel grooves have been cut into the sloping surface of the
rock, and are still plainly visible : they are more noticeable, how-
ever, when the rays of the sun are horizontal. The third indica-
tion alluded to is the bowlder upon the top. If this bowlder were
rock of the same kind as that upon which it rests, we might sup-
pose that it had once formed a part of the underlying formation.
But it is not. The rock below is a sort of trap-rock, mainly com-
posed of hornblende, before spoken of as diorite. The bowlder
is sienite, and it must have been left there by the melting glacier
when the ice-king gave the signal for its last retreat.

5. The moraine deposits within the limits of Easton form a
very interesting study. Nearly every one knows that a moraine
is an accumulation of sand and gravel caused by the movement
of glaciers. The frontal moraines are piles of such gravel, which
were pushed along in front of the slowly moving ice in its suc-
cessive advances, and left in their present positions as the ice
melted away and retreated northward. They were generally
longest east and west, though their present form has been
largely modified by the action of the great streams of water
formed by the melting ice, and also by the action of the sea
when they were under the sea-level. Very interesting illustra-
tions of the frontal moraines may be seen along the railroad
between North Easton and the Centre, which cuts through a
succession of them. As one walks down the track and looks
ahead, he will see that these moraine deposits rise at intervals
like successive waves of the sea. They present, when looked at
in the light of their origin, a very striking appearance. One of
the larger ones , which is below the DeWitt farm, is composed of
two distinct accumulations, the upper one being that left by the
last advance of the ice.

6. Another very interesting effect of this glacial action in the
ice epoch is the formation known as " ridge-hills," or Karnes.
These decidedly differ from the ordinary moraine deposits in



HISTORY OF EASTON.



their shape and in their line of direction. They are narrow
and long, bearing quite a resemblance to artificial embankments
and lines of earth-works, and their line of direction is in general
nearly north and south, though there are for short distances
occasional variations from this line. Specimens of these ridge-
hills maybe seen in the valley east of the railroad between North
Easton village and the Centre. One that lies just southeast of
the DeWitt farm is quite remarkable, and Professor Shaler told
the writer, while examining it, that he had never seen so sharp a
curve in one before. In the southwest part of the town may
be seen good examples of the same formation, one particularly
noticeable being behind Edward D. Williams's house, near the
stream. The most striking one in town is, however, the one
near Simpson's Spring, beginning north of it and extending
about a mile south, and looking decidedly like an artificial work.
In fact this formation is more or less continuous through the
town, and is repeated in Raynham and probably farther south.
These ridge-hills are not lateral moraines, which are formed only
in mountainous districts ; they were probably caused by the
large and powerful streams that flowed from the ice when it
melted, but the precise manner of their formation is not yet clear.
No doubt our valley here was the bed of a sub-glacial river.
The surface contour was much changed by the drift deposits,
and the shape of these deposits was more or less modified by
the streams that flowed from the melting ice, and by the action
of the ocean currents and waves when this section was under
wati r,'as eiiiinent geologists declare it was during the latter part
of the ice age, the absence of sea-fossils here being explained by
Professor Shaler as owing to the fact that it was a "barren sea,"
like the Polar Sea now. The effect of this action of the sea is
plainly noticeable on some hills where the stones of all sizes
stand out from the hillsides, the soil and lighter gravel having
been washed out from between them by the force of the sea-
currents and the wash of the waves.

All these indications of glacial action in the town of Easton
open a field of delightful and interesting study, which may be
pursued in detail with profit and pleasure. It presents a scene
of wildness and desolation, to think of the vast mantle of ice
thousands of feet thick that forced its way southward, grinding



TOPOGRAPHY.



the rocks to powder, planing off the stony ridges, piHng up the
hills of gravel, tearing away from their beds the mighty bowl-
ders and strewing them in such wild confusion over the land.
Attractive as the subject is, however, the limits of this history
make its further treatment here out of place.

BOG-IRON ORE.

Before the incorporation of the town, bog-iron ore was discov-
ered here in considerable quantities. This discovery excited great
interest, because it promised to supply the raw material for the
manufacture of iron implements, tools, etc. The deposits of
this ore were in low boggy places, or places that had once been
such. These bog-ore deposits may be caused by springs, by de-
composition of iron pyrites, and also by the fossil shields of ani-
malculae or by certain diatomaceous plants. The peroxide of
iron held in solution by water is precipitated, unites with earthy
matters and produces the ore. When smelted it makes an iron
especially good for fine castings, the large amount of phosphorus
it contains causing an excellent surface with clean lines and
edges. This ore was found in quantities near Lincoln Spring,
on Lathrop's plain, in the low lands in the extreme northeast
corner of the town, in many places in Poquanticut, and in other
sections of Easton. Early in this century Gen. Sheperd Leach
caused not far from two hundred acres to be dug over to furnish
ore for his iron works. In time these deposits are renewed, the
same causes that originally produced them being still in opera-
tion. Any one may see the precipitation going on in diffe-fent
parts of the town, the most marked instance known to the writer
being in the brook that flows through the field west of Picker
Lane in North Easton village. At the foot of this lane and just
at the site of the old Ferguson mill the water is colored with this
solution, and the stones are covered with yellow incrustation.

In the account now to be given of the swamps, brooks, ponds,
plains, and other special features of the topography of the town,
care has been taken to preserve the old names by which they
were once known. These old names sometimes present a curi-
ous study. Some one once said that he could understand how
astronomers could calculate the distances, determine the orbits,



8 HISTORY OF EASTON.



and learn other wonderful facts about the planets and stars, but
he could not understand how they found out their names. The
writer of this history is in a similar predicament as to the locali-
ties referred to ; it is easier for him to describe them than to
tell how our original settlers "found out their names."

SWAMPS.

The land in Easton slopes toward the south, the water-shed
for this region being a northeast line from the upper end of
Long Pond, in Stoughton, to Randolph. There is not much
fall, however ; and this fact, together with the numerous springs
that abound, makes a good deal of swampy land in almost every
part of the town. Of these swamps, the most notable is the
Great Cedar-Swamp so prized for its timber in the early days of
our history. There were two swamps called Rocky Swamp, one
in Poquanticut, and one around and east of the present site of
the Easton Railroad station, a part of it being called Pine-Bridge
Swamp. Grassy Sivavip is often referred to, and is about an
eighth of a mile south of the street leading from Daniel W.
Heath's to Daniel Wheaton's ; it was once covered with tall
rank grass, whence its name, but is now nearly filled with
high laurel. The swamp west and southwest of the No. 2
schoolhouse was first called Cooper's Swamp, being named for
Timothy Cooper, but it came later to be known as the Little
Cedar-Swamp. These swampy lands have very little value now ;
but they contain abundant promise of making the best farming
portions of the section. They only need thorough draining in
order to utilize their deep, rich, vegetable deposits, and turn them
into fertile fields. The day is coming when this will be done.
The lands of Easton are not such as to make it a farmer's para-
dise, especially in the northern part of the town, where a gravelly
soil disputes possession with innumerable overlying bowlders.
Only by hard labor are these lands made fruitful. Constant
cultivation will steadily improve them ; and any man who clears
away the stones and changes a barren waste to a fruitful field,
may perhaps console himself for present loss by anticipating the
thanks of posterity ; for every such man increases the actual
wealth of mankind. There are a few beds of clay in town, of
small extent, from which brick were once made.



TOPOGRAPHY.



BROOKS AND STREAMS.

There are numerous references to DorcJiester-Meadow River
in the North Purchase records. This is the stream in the ex-
treme northeast part of the town. It rises in the swamp, north
of the Old Colony Railroad station, in Stoughton, passes several
times under the track on its way southward, receives a tributary
from Dorchester Swamp, and flows down by French's mill,
through the Marshall place and the Captain Drew place, on the
road to Brockton, then through Tilden's Corner, and finally joins
the Oueset, below the Easton Shoddy-Mill. The name Dor-
chester was given to it because that town once included all the
territory of Stoughton where this stream rises. Why shall not
this stream, in memory of the olden time, be called Dorchester
Brook }

The region south of the now Calvin Marshall place went for a
long time under the name of Cornipsiis. It got the name before
1744, because at that date Eliphalet Leonard pitched for land
there, and this word is used in his " pitch." The hill east of the
Captain Drew saw-mill got the name of Cornipsus Hill. The
word has been abbreviated into " K'nipt," which is the term the
boys used to apply to the swimming hole near the mill. Martin
Wild informed the writer that Jonathan Leonard said the name
originated in an exclamation made by some Indians, as they
stood amazed, watching the saw in the mill, as it noisily cut its
way through the logs. They were heard several times to utter
a word in deep and forcible gutturals, — a word that sounded some-
thing like " K'nipsus."

South of Cornipsus, and west of Stone-House Hill, are a
swamp and meadow which were called before 1709 Tusseky
Swamp, and Tusseky Meadow. It derived its name, of course,
from the tussocks, or tufts of grass, abounding there. The brook
that runs out of it in a southerly course was known as Stojte-
House Brook.

Long-Szvamp Brook, so named in town records as early as
1757, rises in the swampy land east of the Nathan Willis place,
and flows nearly due south through the swamp that gives this
brook its name, and empties into the pond or stream a few rods
east of the Dean privilege.



lO HISTORY OF EASTON.



Rocky-Meadoiu Brook was the name by which, about the time
of the incorporation of the town and later, the little brook was
known which flows easterly through the hollow a few rods north
of Daniel Clark's house.

Queset River is the pleasant-sounding name that is now given
to the stream which runs through the villages of North and South
Easton. The earliest time this name is recorded, so far as the
writer has discovered, is in the agreement made in 1825, by own-
ers of water privileges upon it, to enlarge the dam at the lower
end of Long Pond. The application of the name to this stream
occurred by a lucky accident or mistake, which is too curious to
pass unnoticed. The earliest name given to it was Mill River,
if we except the name Trout-Hole Brook, which, however, was
only applied to that portion of it which runs through the east part
of North-Easton village. It was also called Saw-mill River.
After Eliphalet Leonard had built a forge at the so-called Red
Factory location, and had christened it Brummagem Forge, this
stream was sometimes called Brummagem River. But the ac-
cepted name during the last century was Mill River. The
probable explanation of the change of name from Mill River to
Queset River is as follows : Bridgewater people, imperfectly
acquainted with the North Purchase, had often heard " Coweset
River " spoken of as in that Purchase. Coweset River was in
the westerly part, in Norton. But they sometimes mistakenly
applied the name to the stream which flowed out of the North
Purchase, or Easton, into their town. Thus, in the State Ar-
chives, vol. cxiv. p. 211, may be seen a survey of the " West pre-
cinct of Bridgewater." On that map our stream, known only in
Easton as Mill River, was erroneously called " Cowisset River."
This was in 1736. The writer has seen the same name on a
deed dated 1733, made in Bridgewater. Bridgewater people
came to know it by this name. One hundred years later
Mitchell, in his " History of Bridgewater," gives it that name.
Originally applied, by mistake, it came, at the beginning of this
century, to be occasionally used by Easton people, being some-
times called " Cowsett." It is noticeable that some of the par-
ties forming the agreement in which this name seems first to
be recorded were Bridgewater men, and the name was given to
it with which they were most familiar. It was corrupted, or



TOPOGRAPHY. i i



rather refined, into the name of Oueset. There is much in a
name, and Easton may well be grateful for that mistake of
Bridgewater people which changed the commonplace name
of Saw-mill River into the agreeable one of Queset. The
original name " Coweset " was applied to a tribe of Indians. On
Comstock and Kline's Norfolk County map this stream is, for
no good reason, called Cohasset.

The main sources of this stream are in the west of Stoughton
and the east of Sharon. It has two principal tributaries, next
to be spoken of In 1825 it had eight water privileges upon it
in Easton, all doing business. But before the Long Pond and
the Flyaway Pond dams collected the water, the stream was
sometimes very small in summer.

The first tributary is that which comes from Flyaway Pond
which is fed by several small streams. The name Plyaway
Swamp is quite old, appearing on the North Purchase records
as early as 1766, and must therefore have been in use earlier.
The swamp was mainly where the pond now is, and northwest
of it. The dam which makes the pond was built in 1846. The
stream running from it forms its junction with the Queset at the
Picker field.

The second tributary is Whitman s Brook, sometimes called
Mauley s Brook. The former name is the one originally given,
and ought to be retained. John Whitman, an early settler,
about 1 71 2 built his house near the stream west of Avery
Stone's cranberry meadow, and held land in the name of
Abiah Whitman his father, for nearly a mile up and down
the brook. It rises in the lower end of Dorchester Swamp, on
its way down the valley is fed by several springs and small
brooks, and empties into Stone's Pond.

In the southwest part of the town is the stream once called
Mulberry-Meadow Brook, sometimes now called Leacli s Stream.
It takes its name from the mulberry trees that once grew in its



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 78)