William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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settle some one permanently as minister. The result of this at-
tempt was the engagement, in i860, of Christopher C. Hussey as
pastor. There being then no society organization, Mr. Hussey 's
call was made by a unanimous vote of the congregation taken
on Sunday, He was installed by services in which the Rev.
James Freeman Clarke preached the sermon, and the Rev.
Messrs. Withington of Easton, Brigham of Taunton, and Water-
ston of Boston took part.

Mr. Hussey was born June 19, 1820, on the island of Nan-
tucket, and was of Quaker ancestry through several generations.
He was descended from Christopher Hussey, who came from
Dorking in Surrey, England, in 1632. He began his public
life as a minister among the Quakers, but afterward became
a Unitarian. His ministry at North Easton was successful.
One especial feature of it was the inauguration of the Vesper
Service, which, being then a novelty, attracted many from
Easton and the surrounding towns. In 1866 he removed to
Billerica, Massachusetts, where he became pastor of the First
Parish, a position he still holds. In 1874, under the adminis-
tration of his parishioner Governor Talbot, he was made a
member of the State Board of Education, serving a term of
eight years. April 16, 1843, Mr. Hussey married Lydia C,
daughter of William B. and Deborah Coffin of Nantucket.

After Mr. Hussey's departure the North Easton Unitarian
Society was without a pastor for nearly two years, when it ex-
tended a call to William L. Chaffin. Mr. Chaffin was the son
of William Farwell and Louisa (Shattuck) Chaffin, and was
born in Oxford, Maine, August 16, 1837, but early removed to


Concord, New Hampshire. He graduated at the Meadville
(Pennsylvania) Theological School in 1 861, married August 12,
1862, Rebecca Huidekoper, daughter of Michael Hodge and
Margaret (Hazlett) Bagley, of Meadville. He was pastor for
about three years and a half of a Unitarian Society in Phila-
delphia. His engagement at North Easton began January i,
1868, and he still continues the minister of the Unitarian
Society in that place.

In 1874 the Hon. Oliver Ames, the second of that name, be-
gan the erection of a new and beautiful church for this society.
It is located on the gentle slope just north of where Mr. Ames
himself lived, is Gothic in design, cruciform in shape, has a
chapel connected with it which is used for the Sunday-school,
and has rooms for social purposes below the auditorium. Its
walls are of the native sienite from the quarry west of the
schoolhouse, much of the stone having a warm pinkish hue.
The rear walls are mainly built of the hard, dark trap-rock
taken from a wide dike a few rods southwest of the same
quarry. The trimmings came from Randolph. The spire is
built of bluish sienite from a quarry in Storey's Swamp, west
of Long Pond, and is surmounted by a large stone cross. The
beautifully finished wood-work of the interior of the church
is of black walnut, and of the Sunday-school room it is of
cherry. The organ and choir are at the right of the pulpit as
one faces it.

The window at the right, in the east transept, — a large and
beautiful one designed by John A. Mitchell, the architect of the
church, — is in memory of the Hon. Oakes Ames. This window
is in three vertical sections. The central and main section has in
it a representation of the archangel Michael at the moment of his
victory over Satan. The side sections are composed of geomet-
rical figures, which both in form and coloring produce an excel-
lent effect. The window opposite, in the west transept, which
is most exquisite in its design and workmanship, is in memory
of Helen Angier Ames, There are three figures in the lower
part of the window. The central one is standing, and represents
the angel of Help. The other two figures are seated ; the one at
the right of the central figure personating Want, and that at
the left, Sorrow. To both of these the angel of Help is kindly


ministering. Above these figures angels are pointing to a beauti-
ful urn, upon which are inscribed the words " In Memoriam."
No words can fittingly describe the graceful symmetry of form
and grouping, and the richness and harmony of color in this
window. It is the work of Lafarge, and is regarded as his

A large white marble tablet in the transept at the left, near
the window, perpetuates the memory of the founder of the
Society, the first Oliver Ames, and was placed there by his
son, the builder of the church. After the death of the latter,
a marble bust with a large and exquisite tablet of Mexican
onyx, appropriately inscribed, was placed by his family near
the memorial just named, and it will not cease to remind the
worshippers who gather there of their generous benefactor.
The church was dedicated August 26, 1875, the Rev. Rush R.
Shippen, then Secretary of the American Unitarian Associa-
tion, preaching the sermon. The Revs. C. H. Brigham, Joseph
Osgood, John Snyder, and the pastor also took part in the
exercises. At the following annual meeting in January, 1876,
Mr. Ames presented the church to the society, — a generous
gift, costing not far from one hundred thousand dollars. At
the same meeting the society, which though its existence dates
from 1855 was not organized until the beginning of the min-
istry of the present pastor, assumed the name of Unity Church.
By his will, Mr. Ames bequeathed money for the erection of a
parsonage, which was completed in 1878. It is built of stone,
and of a style to harmonize with the church. He left a sum of
money sufficient to keep the church and parsonage in repair.
The accompanying picture will give the reader some idea of
the beauty of the church and its surroundings.

The Sunday-school of this society was organized in 1856 under
the Rev. Charles Brooks. Its first superintendent was Joseph
Barrows. William Higginbottom was chosen for that office in
1865, and served with great constancy and fidelity for twenty
years. He then resigned, respected and beloved by all who^
knew him. John H. Swain was appointed his successor. The
library of this Sunday-school has been selected, and is managed,
with great care. It contains over fifteen hundred books, and has
a printed catalogue.



In 1840 there were only a few Roman Catholics in Easton.
The first audience that gathered numbered fifteen. The first
Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Father Riley, an American
convert. Services were held for a time in private houses ; but
soon the dining-room of the "Boarding-House" owned by the
Ames Company was ofiered and used for services, which how-
ever were only occasionally held, as the missions were large and
the priests few. This boarding-house stood where the coal pile
for the shovel works is now located. Its dining-room was spa-
cious enough for a good audience, so that it was sometimes
occupied for lyceum meetings and lectures. In 1849 the
audience of Roman Catholics had increased to forty-five; in
1852 it was one hundred and fifty; in i860 it numbered four
hundred; and at this date (1886) the Roman Catholic Church
in Easton embraces within its fold nearly fourteen hundred
members, including children.

Among the earliest officiating priests, besides Father Riley,
were the Rev. John O'Beirn and the Rev. Richard A. Wilson.
They are all dead, — the first dying in Providence, the second in
Boston, and the last in Cuba, whither he had gone for his health.
About 1848 the Rev. Thomas Fitzsimmons had charge. The
audience was fast increasing, and it became necessary to provide
better accommodations for holding services. In 1850 the Ames
Company gave the Roman Catholics a piece of land near the
Shovel-shop Pond, and work was begun upon a chapel. It was
completed and occupied in 185 1 under the direction of Father
Fitzsimmons. He continued in charge of the church for about
five years from the time of his first coming here, and was fol-
lowed by the Rev. A. F. Roach, who stayed three or four years.
In 1856 the Rev. T. B. McNulty, of North Bridgewater, took
possession, and was in charge for fourteen years. They were
years of rapid increase in the Roman Catholic population.
Father McNulty put an addition to the chapel, bought the lot
and established the Roman Catholic cemetery, and in 1864
bought a lot on Main Street and began the erection of the
church which was finished and occupied in 1865. His labors
closed here in 1870. In January, 1871, the Rev. Francis A.


Quinn was sent to take charge of the church, and he was the
first parish priest of Easton. He purchased the homestead
place of Elbridge G. Morse, had the house remodelled, and
occupied it as a parsonage. Father Quinn, in 1872, caused
the church to be thoroughly remodelled and decorated at con-
siderable expense. He was here until the beginning of 1873,
being subsequently stationed at Fall River and elsewhere, but
finally dying in France, whither he went for the benefit of his
health. Father Quinn's successor in Easton was the Rev.
Michael Fitzgerald, who came in January, 1873, and remained
until June. Though here for only a short time he gained the
respect of all who knew him, as also the sincere affection of
his own people. He was followed by the Rev. Thomas F.
Carroll, who held the office until October 25, 1882, when he
was succeeded by the present priest, the Rev. William J.
McComb, who took charge November i of the same year.

From 1840 to 1850 Mass was held in Easton but once in
three months. From 1850 to i860 it was conducted every
second Sunday ; and from that day to this it has been held
every Sunday. There are several services on Sunday in this
church, all of which are very fully attended. There is an early
Mass at eight o'clock, which is followed by instruction to the
children at nine o'clock. At half-past ten the principal Mass
is held; and in the afternoon is the Sunday-school, which is
followed by Vespers, — making Sunday a day of hard work for
the officiating priest. There are also many occasional services
in celebration of holy days and festivals.


There is a steadily increasing Swedish population in Easton,
and they make a welcome addition to our inhabitants. In 1880
their number was one hundred, but it is considerably more now.
Until recently there was no Swedish church nearer than Brock-
ton, but on the 29th of December, 1883, a meeting was held for
the organization of a church in North Easton village. John
Rhoden was chosen president; Augustus Anderson, vice-presi-
dent; C. A. Larson, secretary; A. B. Anderson, Charles Sand-
gren, Andrew Anderson, Charles Dahlborg, and William Borg,


trustees ; and Charles Dahlborg was made treasurer. This
church is regularly incorporated according to the laws of the
State. January 16, 1884, they bought the Main Street meeting-
house, once occupied by the Methodist Society, paying for it
fourteen hundred and fifty dollars, being helped by liberal sub-
scriptions from North Easton people. The Swedish church
called the Rev. Axel Mellander to their service as minister,
and he came here to reside September i, 1884. The Rev. Mr.
Mellander left on account of ill health in April, 1886, and was
succeeded by the Rev. Emil Holmblad, who came to Easton
May 15. He preaches to this church every other Sunday, and
on two Wednesdays of each month.


For the last fifteen years a small but earnest and faithful
band of Adventists have held meetings with more or less fre-
quency in North Easton village. Adventist meetings were
held at an earlier time on the Bay road ; but regular meetings
began to be held about 1871 in the ante-room of Ripley's Hall,
where they continued for six or seven months. In 1873 ser-
vices were conducted in Good Templars Hall for a little over
a year. Since that time they have been occasionally held in
private houses and in the ante-room above mentioned. About
fifteen or twenty different preachers have at various times
officiated here. The Adventists are feeble in numbers but
strong in faith, and some of them set examples of a good life
which their critics might profitably imitate.


Care was taken during the collecting of the census statistics
of May, 1885, to ascertain the denominational connections of the
families of Easton. The results, which are given below, are not
a part of the authorized State census, but they have been care-
fully gathered by our accurate census-taker, and may be trusted
as approximately correct. The statistics are of families, and are
as follows : —


Number of Roman Catholic famjlies . 274

,, „ Orthodox Congregational families 103

„ „ Unitarian 96

„ „ Methodist 77

„ „ Swedish ^ 42

,, „ Adventist 6

„ „ Non-Churchgoing* 302

Total number of families May I, 1885 900


In the statistics just given most readers will be surprised at
the large proportion of non-churchgoing families among the
Protestant^ portion of our population. The Roman Catholics
are nearly all church-goers ; they are therefore not included in
the following estimates. In May, 1885, there were 626 Protes-
tant families in Easton. Of these, 302 families were non-church-
goers. This is forty-eight per cent of the entire Protestant
population. If we deduct from the total 626 the 42 Swedish
families, we have a total of 584 native American families. Our
statistics show that over half of the latter, or nearly fifty-two
per cent, are non-churchgoers, are connected with no religious
society, and seldom if ever attend church.

Even these figures do not give us the full proportion of non-
churchgoers, because many of the families classed as church-
going are inconstant in their attendance upon worship, and
some of their members never attend. A careful canvass made
some years ago throughout the southern half of the town
elicited the fact that only about one third of the people in that
section were in the habit of attending public worship. The
proportion of church-goers among the Protestants is larger in
North Easton village than it is elsewhere in town. A careful

1 Part of the Swedish families are Lutherans, and part are members of the two
branches of the Swedish Evangelical church, — the progressive and the conservative.
At least one of the families is Unitarian, and a few should be classed among non-

^ Including some Spiritualists. Many church-goers, however, believe in occa-
sional spiritual communications from departed friends, and they are not the less
Orthodox, Unitarian, or Methodist on that account.

3 Many families are Protestants only in the negative sense of not being Roman
Catholics. They are not Protestants in any positive religious or even denomina-
tional sense.


canvass which the writer, assisted by one of the town-assessors,
made of this village in 1878 resulted in finding 421 families, —
of whom there were 242 Roman Catholic, 68 church-going Uni-
tarians, 34 church-going Methodist, 7 Second Adventists, and
70 non-churchgoing families. (These figures do not include
the Swedish families.) Just about forty per cent of the Prot-
estant families were non-churchgoing. But in the so-called
church-going families of North Easton village there are indi-
viduals who never attend church, and there are others who
attend so seldom that it is a stretch of courtesy and truth to
call them church-goers. Still, the attendance is proportionately
larger in this village than elsewhere in Easton, mainly perhaps
because the churches are in the centre of population, which is
not true of other parts of the town. A church at South Easton
village and another at the Furnace Village, instead of one at the
Centre answering for both places, would probably increase the
church attendance for the southeastern and southwestern parts
of the town. The disadvantage, however, of having that church
so far from the two villages where so many of the worshippers
dwell is in part compensated for by having a separate Sunday-
school and special meetings in each of those places.

It appears from what has now been stated that fully fifty per
cent of the American Protestant families of Easton are non-
churchgoers;^ and the proportion of individuals in town who do
not attend worship is even larger. It is probable, however, that
in this regard Easton is neither worse nor better than are New
England towns generally.

Many reasons besides irreligion combine to produce this state
of things, for some of those who neither attend nor help to sup-
port worship are persons of good character and honorable con-
duct. Among the explanations offered for non-churchgoing
are the following: (i) The expense of hiring a pew and sup-
porting the church ; (2) The trouble and difficulty of going the
long distance sometimes required; (3) The entertaining reading
available at home, especially the Sunday newspaper ; (4) Some
of the poor cannot dress as well as others, and do not have the
courage to let their poverty thus appear; (5) The hard-working

1 It is to be noted, however, that some of the children of these families attend
Sunday-school ; and but for this they would have no definite religious instruction.



claim that they need to stay at home and rest ; (6) The natural
reaction against the strictness of former Sabbath observance
has not spent its force ; (7) Some persons declare that churches
are nurseries of sectarianism, and that the ministers are too
dogmatic and unpractical in their preaching.

Undoubtedly churches might do much to make themselves
more worthy of support. They might encourage a more social
and democratic spirit, be more solicitous to do good, might preach
a more rational and practical faith. But instead of standing
aloof from them until such a high ideal is reached, vi^hy do not
non-churchgoers do what they can by attendance and otherwise
to hold the churches to this ideal ? Much more money is usually
expended for superfiuities than is needed to support the church ;
one may read and rest sufficiently and attend church besides ;
the benefit of having the Christian faith in God, duty, immor-
tality, and the high ideals of Christian disposition and conduct
presented as they are done in the Sunday worship is incalcu-
lable ; and it will be found that in New England towns a fairly
even ratio exists between the morality and true prosperity and
the church-going habits of their inhabitants. Churches could
not die out of any community without causing a drift towards
lower ideals, conduct, and character, and a consequent increase
of immorality and crime. This fact, evident enough to those
who have studied its practical illustrations, proves that it is
the duty of all to help maintain churches and make them effi-
cient instruments in benevolent, social, intellectual, moral, and
relisiious work.




Rough Life in the early Pioneer Days. — A notorious Gang of
Thieves ; George White the Leader. — The Bank Robber. —
Slavery. — Intemperance. — Pauperism.

NO picture is perfect without shadows or contrasts. It is
not, however, for artistic reasons that the writer has in-
troduced them into his picture of Easton Hfe of the last two
centuries ; it is for the sake of correct impression. It would
be pleasanter as well as more gratifying to town pride to omit
all reference to the darker side of the subject ; but this would
not conduce to the only end we have kept in view, — the pro-
duction of an accurate historical sketch. These shadows wilb
however, be drawn in such a manner as neither to offend
against a reasonable sense of propriety, nor to bring shame
upon the living.


It is a mistake to regard the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth
as the true type of the early settlers of all our New England
towns. There is plenty of evidence accessible to show that
there was in the early history of many of these towns consider-
able of that rough life which is a usual accompaniment of new
settlements ; this at least was true of Easton. There was little
opportunity then to enjoy the innocent diversions and varying
interests that are so abundant now. Intellectual cultivation
was comparatively low ; for the first twenty-five years after its
settlement, as we have seen, the town did almost nothing
for the maintenance of schools. There were at first no news-
papers and few books ; and the demand for recreation must
sometimes, in the absence of better things, have led to evil in-
dulgences. This will partly account for the greater intemper-


ance in those days among our native-born inhabitants as
compared with this time, — a subject that will be treated fur-
ther on. It may account also for the apparently more frequent
misdemeanors and sins in the relations of the sexes; for the
court records of Taunton and the cases of church discipline
seem to show that there was a larger proportion of such immo-
ralities in those early times in our town than at present. Sev-
eral of our early settlers, although men of prominence, were
exceedingly lawless characters ; and both men and women were
exposed in the stocks, and were fined, and condemned "to
receive ten [or twenty] stripes upon the naked back, well laid
on," for these sins against purity and virtue. The town stocks
were several times repaired, or new stocks provided ; and they
must have had considerable use. It is not desirable to go into
more specific statement of this matter ; but the writer is of the
opinion, as the result of his investigations, that in this regard
the sentiment and practice of the present time is superior to
that of the last century in the town of Easton. At the same
time, it may be true that there were not then so many means
of concealment ; conduct was under more rigid inspection ; mis-
demeanors were more ruthlessly exposed and rigorously dealt
with. And it should be added also that great caution is needed
in instituting comparisons of this kind, since we are very prone
to make confident generalizations from too few facts.

Cases sometimes occurred that are amusing to read of now,
though they caused much trouble at the time. For instance,
January 2, 1769, George Ferguson lost a " bever Hatt " worth
twenty shillings, which was found and apparently kept by Nathan
Woodward. Mr. Ferguson took the case to Esquire Daniel
Williams, who fined Woodward twenty-five shillings. The latter
appealed, and the Superior Court sustained the appeal ; and Mr.
Ferguson had a bill of costs to pay after two court trials, all
about a hat !

Isaac Lothrop in 1778 lost "a fat red steer & reddish white
ox," which George Howard of Bridgewater found and sold,
" well knowing that the said ox and steer belonged to the said
Isaac, yet minding to defraud the said Isaac of his said ox &
steer," etc. The case on the first trial went against Howard,
who appealed to the Superior Court.


Israel Woodward, about the time he became a citizen of
Easton, was arrested, with his brothers Caleb and David and
others, for travelling on the Sabbath day. The indictment
however was quashed. Woodward was a Quaker, and on that
ground refused to qualify himself for the office of constable,
— for which he was fined five pounds and costs. Elsewhere in
this History some account is given of the case of John Austin,
who in 1738 was sentenced by Esquire Edward Hayward to
pay a fine of ten shillings "for prophaine cursing, for the use
of the poor of the town of Easton,"

Jacob Leonard accused another citizen of detaining Leonard's
" sorrel white-faced gelding horse with a light-colored tail and
mane, at a place called Willis's shed in Easton." The plaintiff
sued for one hundred dollars. The case went from court to
court, and finally Mr. Leonard received one cent damages !

These are samples of cases that were constantly occurring.
There were many suits for assault and battery, for thefts, for
slander, and other offences ; and when allowance is made for the
much fewer inhabitants in Easton a century ago, one cannot
resist the impression that there is a smaller proportion of such
offences now than there were then. Persons were more ready,
fifty and a hundred years ago than now, to resort to the law for
the settlement of differences and quarrels. This is evidently
true concerning cases of a civil character. There was a sur-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 39 of 78)