William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

. (page 38 of 78)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 38 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sued in the Easton High-School.


In pecuniary means for educational purposes Easton probably
ranks first among the towns of the State. By the will of the Hon.
Oliver Ames, who died in 1877, the town was endowed with a
bequest of fifty thousand dollars, the income of which is to be
appropriated for the support of schools. In order that such a
fund might not tempt the town to reduce its own appropriations
for schools, the terms of the will provide that the bequest shall
be forfeited unless the town shall every year appropriate for the
support of schools an amount per scholar equal to the average
amount per scholar appropriated for the preceding year by the
towns of the State. The income of this fund is at present four
thousand dollars annually- This with the regular appropriation
enables the school-committee to hire teachers of exceptionable
ability, to provide supplementary books and apparatus, and fur-
nishes means for conducting the schools in the most efficient
manner. The following is the text of Mr. Ames's bequest: —

•' I give and bequeath, upon the conditions hereinafter set forth, to
the town of Easton, to be held in trust as a permanent fund for the
purposes herein named, $50,000 of the 'eight per cent sinking-fund
bonds of the Union Pacific Railroad Company,' at their par value, the
income of which shall be used for the support of the public schools of
the town of Easton, as follows : Three fourths of said income shall be
appropriated to the support of the common schools and High School
kept in the schoolhouse built by Oliver Ames & Sons, in North
Easton, or any schoolhouse built on the same site designed to accom-
modate the scholars of School District No. 7 in North Easton, or High-
School scholars ; and the other quarter of said income for the support
of the other public schools of said Easton. Provided, however, that if
said town of Easton shall in any year fail to raise by taxation, for
the support of its public schools, an amount of money per scholar
equal to the average amount per scholar raised by the several towns
in the State of Massachusetts in the preceding year for the same pur-
pose, or if the amount appropriated by said town from its money raised



by taxation for the schools kept in said schoolhouse, or other build-
ing on the same site, shall in any year be less per scholar than the
average amount per scholar appropriated by said town from its money
raised by taxation for the support of all its schools, then the said
bonds, or other proceeds constituting said fund, shall revert to and
become the property of my heirs-at-law, to be by them donated to some
charitable purpose, one half of the amount to be given for the support
of the above-named schools in North Easton."

Eminent legal authority has decided that by the word "tov^^ns"
in the bequest may be meant either towns exclusive or inclusive
of cities, either definition being legally admissible. The execu-
tors and school-committee have agreed upon the first definition,
as this gives an appropriation adequate to the school needs of
the town. The conditions named in the bequest have been
found to be eminently wise and just. It became available in
1878, and has been of very great benefit to the schools.

Besides this, there is another fund of fifty thousand dollars be-
queathed by the Hon. Oakes Ames. This bequest was written
before the district system was abolished, and it was intended,
and can only properly be used for, the benefit of the children of
No. 7. The following is the text of the bequest : —

"I give Fifty thousand dollars in seven per cent Railroad Bonds,
the income of which shall be used for the support of schools in, and
for the benefit of the children in, what is now School District No. 7,
in North Easton."

It will be observed that the income of this fund is not all
necessarily applied to school purposes. It may be used tor
whatever is " for the benefit of the children " of North Easton
village, and it furnishes an opportunity of good which is deserv-
ing of careful study. It has been used for various purposes
hitherto. By means of it, illustrated and scientific lectures are
given weekly through the winter months in Memorial Hall, in-
tended more especially for the children, but open to all without
admission fee. Magazines have been subscribed for and sent,
one to each family of all North Easton scholars ; and one of the
executors of this fund, Lieut.-Gov. Oliver Ames, in order that all
the scholars of the town may have magazines, has sent them tor
several years at his own expense to the school children of Easton


outside of No. 7. Besides lectures and magazines, supplemen-
tary books have been furnished and apparatus has been bought,
including the skeleton and manikin already spoken of. The
teachers of industrial classes, including sewing for the girls and
the use of wood-working tools for the boys, and latterly mechani-
cal drawing, are paid by this fund. A Kindergarten school is
also supported by it in North Easton. It opens a field of use-
fulness which will be occupied as time goes on and the best way
to use it becomes clear.

There are now in Easton nineteen schools, including the High
School, seven of these being mixed or district schools. Two,
those at Furnace Village, are partially graded. The ten at
North Easton village are thoroughly graded, and include four
Primary, four Grammar, one High School, and also the Kinder-
garten school just alluded to. There are about eight hundred
children in town between five and fifteen years of age. Nearly
nine hundred and fifty different scholars are annually enrolled
upon the school registers, and nearly nine thousand dollars is
annually appropriated for support of schools, besides an appro-
priation for repairs. In attendance of scholars, Easton ranks
considerably above the average of towns in the State.

The liberal means applicable to educational purposes and for
the benefit of the young in this place ought to make Easton, and
particularly North Easton village, in some respects a children's
paradise. Its exceptionally low taxes, its excellent public library,
beautiful residences and grounds, together with the school ad-
vantages already described, render it a desirable place for those
who have children to educate. In 1886 the town, in order that
nothing might be wanting to raise the schools to the highest
point of efficiency, wisely voted to employ a superintendent.
The committee appointed William C. Bates, who is also super-
intendent for Canton, and our schools were never so well con-
ducted as now. Mr. Bates is a graduate of Harvard College, and
has had excellent success as a teacher in Hingham, Massachu-
setts, and as a school superintendent in Canton and Walpole.


There have been in Easton a few private schools, but none
that require special notice. The Rev. Dr. Sheldon at one time




had such a school. Miss Sarah Barrows kept a private school
for small scholars in North Easton village for some time, and
was succeeded by Miss Alice Lynch. The private school best
known, however, was the Perkins Academy. In 1844 Isaac
Perkins, who had kept Day's Academy at VVrentham for many
years, went to Easton Centre and opened a term of school in
the Chapel. It was managed like the old-time academy. He
had at one time about forty pupils, among whom was the
Hon. Edward L. Pierce. A certain number of town pupils was
guaranteed to Professor Perkins. The school was never in a
very flourishing condition, and at the end of the first year the
number of town pupils decreased and continued to do so until
1847, when the Academy closed.^

1 These facts are kindly communicated by Miss M. E. Perkins, of East Walpole,
Massachusetts, daughter of the above named principal of the Academy.




Methodist Protestant Society. — Methodist Episcopal Move-
ment ; Its Failure. — Division of the Washington Street
Methodist Society. — Formation of the Main Street Metho-
dist Episcopal Society ; Reuben Meader and others build a
Meeting-House for it. — Lewis B. Bates and Successors. —
Origin of Unity Church; C. C. Hussey, its first settled
Minister ; He is succeeded by William L. Chaffin ; Hon.
Oliver Ames builds a new Church and presents it to the
Society. — The Church of the Immaculate Conception. — The
Swedish Church. — The Adventists. — Denominational Statis-
tics of Easton. — Statistics of Church-going.

'"T^HE population of North Easton village steadily increased
-1- after the building up of the shovel business in its midst.
It seems, at first thought, surprising that no religious society
should have sprung into existence here until more than fifty
years after the old Baptist Society had disappeared. The
reason for it was, that societies were already established in
other parts of the town, and many of the North Easton village
people had become connected with them. Some of them at-
tended the Unitarian Society and some the Orthodox Society
at the Centre, and many were in the habit of worshipping at
the Methodist Church on Washington Street. But this con-
dition of things became in time very inconvenient, and it was
found necessary to establisTi societies in this village.


In 1843 there developed in the Washington Street Society
much dissatisfaction with the form of government of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Church. One cause of this dissatisfaction was
the fact that several unsatisfactory ministers had been sent to
this society, and some of its members believed that the laity
ought to be represented in the Conference, thus giving them


some influence in the selection of ministers and in the govern-
ment of the Church. The most prominent man in the society,
James Dickerman, Sr,, asked the privilege of having some
Methodist Protestant preaching in their meeting-house at such
an hour in the afternoon as would not interfere with the regular
services. Much as he had done for this church his request
was refused. Thereupon he withdrew from the society, and
invited Methodist Protestant ministers to preach during pleas-
ant weather in the grove behind his house.

When the weather became unfavorable for open-air meetings,
services were held at Torrey's Hall in the village. This hall
stood just west of Ripley's store, and was destroyed many years
ago by fire. During the winter of 1 843-1 844, services were
conducted by the Rev. Mr. McLeish. He was a fluent, rhetori-
cal speaker, and is described as having " a remarkable flow of
words." Before coming here he was minister and doctor at the
same time, and thus both preached and practised, which some
ministers fail to do. But it was medicine rather than religion
that he practised, for he went to California, fell into dissipated
ways, and became a wretched drunkard. He was succeeded
by the Rev. N. R. Parsons, an excellent preacher and a Chris-
tian gentleman. The Rev. Thomas Latham was the next min-
ister, his services beginning in 1845.

The need of a church building was now felt, and it was
thought that the erection of one would secure the permanent
success of the society. Liberal aid was contributed by the
village people, and work was at once begun. In the spring of
1845 the corner-stone was laid with appropriate exercises. The
Rev. Stephen Lovell, editor of the Boston " Olive Branch,"
preached the sermon, and a full band, composed of citizens of
the place, furnished the music for the occasion. It was built at
a cost of ^2,200. The Rev. Mr. Latham preached here for about
two years. In 1847 the Rev. John M. Mills of the New York
Conference, who had previously preached at Milford, New York,
and Carver, Massachusetts, was minister here for a time. He
soon ceased preaching, and took up the practice of medicine in
town, and died here May 17, 187 1. A Rev. Mr. Shedd tried
the experiment next, but with poor success. He was suc-
ceeded by the Rev. Stephen Lovell, who gave general satisfac-


tion. While he preached here there was trouble in the choir,
— a not wholly unprecedented event in ordinary church life.
On the Sunday following this trouble only one singer was in
the gallery. Mr. Lovell rose, announced and read his hymn,
closed the book and laid it upon the desk, saying, " When the
choir is ready to sing, I shall be ready to preach, but not
before." He then sat down with the air of one who meant to
abide by his word. An awkward silence ensued, which every
moment grew more oppressive. Finally Edwin Russell came
down from the gallery, and beckoned to three young girls, one
of them his daughter. They followed him to the gallery, and
with this extemporized choir the hymn was sung. The oldest
of these girls was but eleven years of age. Mr. Lovell paid
them a well deserved compliment for their courage. He re-
mained here until the summer of 1850, when the interest in the
Protestant Methodist movement was found to be so feeble that
it was abandoned, and services were discontinued.


After the failure of the Methodist Protestant Society, the
church in which it had worshipped was for a year or two seldom
used. At last the people in the village, thinking it too far to
go to Washington Street to church, took measures to have
Methodist Episcopal services in the meeting-house now vacant.
The Rev. A. B. Wheeler, then of North Bridgewater, a man of
more ability as a preacher than integrity or at least ability as
a financier, conducted services for about two years, long enough
to get considerably in debt to some of his too confiding fel-
low-worshippers. The latter used to meet him at annual Con-
ferences, and were sometimics able by various species of pressure
to extract from him small portions of the debts he owed them.
After he left, a Rev. Mr. Harlowe supplied the pulpit for a few
months ; but little is remembered of him, except that in making
parish calls at certain dwellings on the Bay road he was ac-
customed, when about to pray, to spread his handkerchief under
his knees upon the floor, — a practice that did not put the
housekeepers he visited in a very devotional mood.

These two preachers did not serve to make the cause of
Methodism prosper in the village, and most of those who had


hoped to form a society here returned to the Washington Street
church. Nothing further was done about forming a Methodist
Society in North Easton village until 1859. This was the first
year of the Rev. Lewis B. Bates's appointment for Easton. The
village members of the Washington Street church, still dis-
satisfied to go so far to attend services, began once more to
agitate the question of having a preacher sent to them. Before
the Conference of i860 assembled they quietly consulted
together, and decided to send a committee to the Conference
to say that if Mr. Bates could be returned to them and preach
in the village, they would guarantee the payment of his salary.
With this movement it soon appeared that Mr. Bates and the
presiding elder were both in sympathy. But the Washington
Street people, learning what was on foot, despatched a com-
mittee of their own to ask that the preacher be returned to
them, as before ; and they also guaranteed that he should be
paid. The Conference made a compromise between the con-
testing parties, and returned Mr. Bates with the understanding
that he should preach half the time at one place, and half at
the other. But this arrangement, like most compromises, had
the effect of not being agreeable to either of the two parties
for whom it was made. The question immediately arose as to
the manner of dividing the ministerial service. The village
people proposed that Mr. Bates should preach six months in
one place and six months in the other. This plan was not
accordant with the wishes of the rest, who preferred preaching
half a day, each Sunday, at each place. A meeting was held
immediately after service, on the first Sunday following the
return of Mr. Bates to the old church, at which the question
was discussed ; and as the village people had the majority in
the Board of Stewards, they carried the day, and it was de-
cided to hold the services six months in one place and six
months in the other. It was then agreed by the stewards to
canvass the town for subscriptions to support the preaching.
South Easton agreed to raise twenty-six dollars ; North Easton
village four hundred and thirty-three dollars, provided the ser-
vices could be held six months continuously there, as voted. But
the people on Washington Street objected " to the smallest sub-
scription under the present arrangement for division of services,"


that arrangement being made in opposition to their wishes.
Thereupon the presiding elder, who was in sympathy with the
village people, without informing the other party of what he was
about to do and thereby giving them an opportunity to explain
their position, wrote to the Bishop concerning the result of the
subscription. The Bishop at once ordered the removal of Mr.
Bates to the village to preach there all the time. On the third
Sunday after his return to the Washington Street church, Mr.
Bates exchanged with a neighboring minister, who after the ser-
vice read the letter of the presiding elder ordering the change
aforesaid. This action came upon the Washington Street
people with stunning effect. They were ignorant of what had
been going on, and could therefore take no measures to prevent
it. But the order of the Bishop must be obeyed, and those
who were discontented were forced to submit. Mr. Bates
henceforth preached at the village ; but though a popular man
and a good preacher, he did not succeed in drawing after him
the Washington Street people, who determined to sustain wor-
ship and keep their own church alive. They accordingly ob-
tained supplies for the rest of the year, — among the ministers
preaching for them being Mr. Winchester and Mr. Spilsted.

At first both parties claimed to be the old church, and to have
a right to its property, under which claim the village portion of
the society removed some of the church property. But the
Washington Street party continued the old organization, elected
new officers, and went on as before. At the Conference of 1861,
the Rev. Franklin Gavitt was appointed to the old church and
the Rev. W. V. Morrison was appointed for the village ; and
Mr. Morrison was informed by the bishop that if the village
people wished to go on with preaching, it would be necessary
for them to form a new church organization. Disliking to
relinquish their claim to be the old church, the village people
for a while declined to receive Mr. Morrison. Their objections
to this they finally withdrew, however, and the organization of
a new church was completed by Mr. Morrison. At the Quar-
terly Conference at North Easton, August 31, 1861, he reported
as follows: "I have completed the work of organizing the church
on the plan proposed by the Bishop." It was called the North
Easton village Church. In 1872, at a Providence Conference,


the name was changed to the Main Street Church. Two years
before that, the name of the old society had been changed to
the Washington Street Church.

After the division under Mr. Bates, the village people wor-
shipped in Ripley's Hall until 1864, when Messrs. Reuben
Meader, Joel Randall, and others built the Main Street church,
now owned and occupied by the Swedish Society. It was dedi-
cated July 8, 1864, and was occupied by the Methodist Society
for twelve years. In 1875 the Unitarian Society began to wor-
ship in the new church built and presented to them by Oliver
Ames, and in 1876 Mr. Ames made a present of the meeting-
house vacated by that society to the Methodist Society, on
condition that they would move it and fit it up without running
into debt by so doing. This condition they gladly complied
with ; and in November the house was moved to its present
convenient location, where it was reopened December 28, the
sermon being preached by the Rev. L. B. Bates. The name
of the church was changed after occupying this building, and
it is now known as the Central Methodist Episcopal Church.
The ministers of this society since its organization have been
as follows: the Rev. Lewis B. Bates in i860, one year; the
Rev. William V. Morrison in 1861, one year; the Rev. Charles
Hammond, the Rev. C. C. Adams, the Rev. F. A. Loomis, each
serving a year. In 1865 the Rev. Edward Edson came, and in
1867 the Rev. J. B. Husted, each serving two years. In 1869
the Rev. George H. Bates was appointed, and stayed three
years. He was followed in turn by the Rev. J. H. Humphrey,
the Rev. Charles W. Dreese, the Rev. Joseph Hammond, the
Rev. John Faville, the Rev. John Jones, and the Rev. W, J.
Hodges, each serving a year. From October 11, 1878, until
April 21, 1879, the Rev. J. S. Davis acted as a supply. At this
time, as noticed in a previous chapter, it was thought best to
unite with the Washington Street Church under the ministry
of the same preacher. The Rev. S. E. Evans was the first
preacher under this arrangement. The Rev. William Kirkby
followed him in 1880 and remained two years, as also did the
Rev. J. S. Thomas, who came in 1882. The present pastor, the
Rev. Merrick Ransom, was appointed in 1884, and still remains
pastor, but of the village church alone.



It has already been shown that an attempt was made prior to
1855 to establish a Methodist Protestant Society, and also a
Methodist Episcopal Society, in North Easton village, and that
both attempts failed. The church building erected for the
former society was now unoccupied, and the field was open.
Accordingly it was agreed by numbers of the village people that
they would hear candidates from several denominations; and that
when these had been heard, those interested should take a vote
and sustain the kind of preaching desired by the majority.
They further agreed to support such preaching for a year, the
minority setting aside all personal preferences so far as possible.
This was certainly a democratic method of establishing religious
worship. After hearing several preachers a meeting was held,
and a vote was taken, first, upon a Rev. Mr. Farnum, Orthodox,
who failed to have a majority. A vote for Methodist preaching
shared the same fate. A. A. Gilmore then moved that inasmuch
as the Rev. Mr. Farnum had had the largest number of votes,
they should agree to ask him to preach for a year. The motion
prevailed. But it is easier voting to spend money than it is to
raise it ; and a subscription paper proved to be a touchstone,
which showed that while the people were not unwilling to
listen to uncongenial preaching, they were not quite ready to
pay for it.

A sufficient amount could not be raised to pay for Mr.
Farnum's services, and this plan was therefore abandoned.
John H. Swain then said to Oliver Ames, Sr., " Why can we not
have Unitarian preaching ? How much will you give towards
it .'' " Mr. Ames, who had been giving a hundred dollars a year
to assist in carrying on worship in the village church, responded,
"I will give three hundred dollars." This was the beginning of
the movement that resulted in the formation of the North Easton
Unitarian Society, now known as Unity Church. A subscrip-
tion paper was passed about, and a sufficient sum was guaran-
teed to support Unitarian preaching, which from that time to
the present has continued without interruption. This was in
the autumn of 1855. The first Unitarian preacher who offi-
ciated under this arrangement was the Rev. Charles Brooks.



He supplied the pulpit for about a year. The Rev. Joseph
Angier preached nearly a year; and for the rest of the time
previous to i860 the pulpit was occupied by transient supplies,
during which time many of the most gifted Unitarian ministers
brought their choicest intellectual and spiritual treasures to the
worshippers who gathered in the little church from week to
week. As many as eighty different preachers were heard in
this way. Among others, the Rev. Charles Briggs was a fre-
quent and welcome supply.

But it was evident that this method of pulpit supply was not
for the best interest of the people, and an attempt was made to

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 38 of 78)