William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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sell any distilled spirits in town." In 1832, "voted not to have
any licensed houses to sell distilled spirits or wine," and also
to " disapprobate the County Commissioners for licensing pub-
lic houses in Easton where liquor might be retailed." Subse-
quently the town undertook to manage and control the sale of
liquor by appointing an agent who was licensed under certain
restrictions to carry on the business. It was for a time done at
the Almshouse.

Temperance agitation was kept up for years, and occasionally
some action in town-meeting indicates how much it occupied
public attention. Thus in 1847 it was voted " to procure a
blank book for the registration of temperance men, women, and
children's names, together with the total-abstinence pledge."
At the same meeting a committee of one person in each school
district was chosen to circulate the book and obtain signatures
to the pledge.

It has meant much for temperance in Easton that it early
gained the support of men of character and ability. Their
strong and steady adherence to temperance principles, and their
practice of total abstinence have been mainly instrumental in
fostering temperance sentiments and encouraging temperance
habits. Among people of education and character it is no
longer respectable here to indulge in the drinking habit ; and
even occasional drunkenness, which was once regarded with
easy indulgence or as a good joke, is now justly considered as a
real disgrace. Among some classes, however, there is consider-
able drinking yet ; though the town annually votes " no license,"



there are usually over a dozen places where beer, cider, and
stronger drinks may be had. Occasional convictions and pay-
ment of fines present some check to this illegal sale, but do not
stop it. The rascals who sell usually keep selling until death
calls them to account, and relieves the community of their bane-
ful presence. Eternal vigilance on the part of parents, teach-
ers, churches, Sunday-schools, and other means of influence in
implanting temperance sentiments in the young and fostering
temperance principles in the town, will prove the only effective
means to cope with this debasing evil, and hold in check its de-
grading and ruinous power over health, personal industry and
integrity, over domestic peace and the general welfare.


Another shadow must now be added to the picture, — that of
pauperism. It may properly follow our last topic, since pauper-
ism is a common sequel to intemperance. It conjures up a sad
spectacle to think of the poor, crippled, friendless, diseased, de-
mented, and idiotic persons who from generation to generation
have had to depend upon the town for their maintenance.
Sadder even than this is it to think of some who were tenderly
reared, and who by misfortunes they could not prevent were
forced to bear the misery and shame of a pauper's life.

The pauper history of Easton does not differ materially from
that of other New England towns. The early practice was to
bid the poor off at auction to the lowest bidder, who agreed for
the sum named to provide for them. This may naturally re-
mind us of a slave auction. To those who had any sensitiveness
it must have been exceedingly painful to be thus disposed of
from year to year. It is easy to see that under this system they
must often have fared extremely hard. The prices paid for this
keeping were very small. In 1791 Hopestill Randall received
but X5. 14s. Sd. for keeping a poor widow for a year ; even this
was in depreciated currency, and amounted to not over twenty
dollars. Of course in some instances the poor could render
some return to their keepers by labor. The bills of charges for
their maintenance were voted in town-meetings, and this served
to keep the names of the poor unpleasantly prominent. When
the town was not in good humor these bills were sometimes set


aside ; and this was likely to exasperate those to whom they
were due, and make them more indifferent to the comfort of the
paupers in their charge. Some of these accounts go into minute
details. At one time salt was voted to Widow Lucy Randall,
and a winding sheet for Jonah Drake's wife. In May, 1799, the
town "voted to Abiel Kinsly Nine Pounds, foure shillings, for
shoger and Rum for David Randall's famely. Voted to Thomas
Manly foure Pounds, ten shillings, for a coffin and diging the
grave for Seth Hogg. Voted to Israel Woodward foure Pounds
for a grave clooth for Seth Hogg, and two quarts of Rum ex-
pended about the time of his death." As a fitting sequel to an
appropriation for rum for David Randall's family, the following,
recorded a few months later, speaks for itself : "Voted to Abner
Randall nine Pounds for a coffin for David Randall. Voted to
Paul Lincoln seven Pounds, ten shillings, for diging a grave for
same." It should be noted that these apparently large sums of
money are in the much depreciated Continental currency. Paul
Lincoln had to wait nine years for his pay, and then his ^7. los.
had shrunk to two shillings of good money. Seth Hodge, whose
name is misspelled above, was son of James Hodge, one of the
early settlers, and he was for many years a town charge. It
was probably of him that we have the record as a person who
was " none come posements," which we shall understand better
by abbreviating to jwu compos meiitis} David Randall lived in
the Old Castle, close by which his grave was dug, near a rock
on the east side of it. This Old Castle is in ruins, which ruins
may yet be found in a pine-grove not far south of Lincoln
Street, and southeast of the old Israel Woodward cemetery.
In the latter days of this Castle, long after the Randalls left it,
it became a disreputable place, — a scene of drunkenness and
associated vices. Fortunately it was destroyed by fire.

In 1785 an attempt was made "to come into some more regu-
lar method of supporting the poor of the town." A house was
bought of Jacob Macomber, and it was appropriated to the use of
the poor, " if needed." In 1786, with reference to collecting and
caring for the poor in this house, Joseph Gilbert was chosen an
inspector or overseer of the poor of this town " in case it should

1 Another demented Easton man, for whom a guardian was about to be appointed,
was called an " uncompas person."



be necessary." This was the first choice of a special officer
for this duty, though apparently he had no duties to perform.
The town abandoned the proposed plan, sold the house above
alluded to, and appropriated part of the proceeds for the support
of the poor. In 1788 the plan was reconsidered, and a house on
Grove Street near the North Bridgewater line was purchased of
Seth Burr to be used for a poor-house ; and for the first time the
selectmen were named " overseers of the poor," though the term
was dropped the next year. But this attempt at establishing an
almshouse was given up, and for many years afterward the poor
were assigned to the lowest bidders as formerly. Sometimes
they fell into unfeeling hands ; for offering them to the lowest
bidder set a premium upon meanness and cruelty. There were
cases where the poor were miserably clad and insufficiently fed.
The fate of the insane poor was especially deplorable, since there
were then no insane asylums. These demented paupers were a
great trouble to care for, and the theory of the time was that
severe treatment was the best for them. They were caged or
locked up in cellars and garrets ; not infrequently they were
cruelly beaten, so that death was hastened. There was one
private poor-house kept at the Sheperd place on the Bay road
by Alby Willis that may be spoken of here, since he leaves no
descendants to blush for his cruelty. Complaints were rife
concerning the hard lot of the poor in his charge ; six inmates
died in 1821, and stories of their unkind treatment were told
which need not be repeated here. When the subject of bid-
ding off the poor next came up, Calvin Marshall, Sr., boldly
ventilated the whole affair ; and Philip Willis rose in town-
meeting and said, " I move that the bid of Alby Willis be
not taken." His motion prevailed, and many a poor friendless
soul in Easton felt a thrill of relief at the good news. By a
strange turn of fortune, Alby Willis himself ended his days in
the Easton Almshouse.

One singular method of disposing of the poor was that of
selling their maintenance for life to the lowest bidder. For a
stipulated sum a person would agree to take a pauper off the
hands of the town and care for him during his lifetime. The
following document copied from the town records is an illustra-
tion of this method : —


Easton, February 8, 1781.
I the subscriber do, for Value received, Promis that I Will Maintain
David Gurney in Sickness and in health During his Natural life, and
I Will Pay coast & treble that the town of Easton Shall be Put to by
Reason of the above Named Gurnies Not being honerabelly Main-
tained as above. As witness my hand,

Macey Williams.
Test. Seth Pratt, ) Sckdvicn of
Elijah Howard, \ [Easton.

Of course the sooner such a pauper died the more money
accrued to the person making such contract, the pauper's money-
value having a direct proportion to his supposed nearness to the
grave. Sometimes a pauper child v^as bound out to some one
until he became of age, the town paying something for his sup-
port. Thus in 1805 "the town voted that Mr. Charles Hayden
should keep John Wilson untill he is twenty-one years of age ;
that he should have him bound to him, give him decent clothing,
schooling, &c., and receive of the town of Easton twenty-five

Easton (and New England towns generally) exercised the
utmost vigilance to prevent those who moved in from other
places from acquiring a legal residence ; this was done in order
that in case of poverty they should not be chargeable to Easton,
but rather to the towns where they had previously resided. The
method of accomplishing this was to warn such new-comers out
of town. This was done by a legal process regularly served
upon them, of which the warrant below is a sample. It con-
cerns John Lincoln, of Taunton, who came to Benjamin Drake,
Jr's, to live about 1730. There was no objection to him per-
sonally ; not long afterward he became, in fact, a town officer.
But the town wished to avoid any responsibility for his main-
tenance in case he became a pauper. The following is a copy
of the document : —

" Bristol, ss. To Mr. Be?ijamin Fobes, corns tabic for the Town of
Easton^ — That where as John Linckhorn Doth contrary to the Law
of this province reside in this Town with out Law or consent from sd
Town of Easton, these are therefore in his Majestis name to command
you forthwith, upon Site of the above sd John Linckon, to warn him
to Depart the town forth with, on paine and penalty of the Law made



and provided in that case. And you are hereby Required to warn Ben-
jemin Drake, Jun., that he Doth not Intertain said Linckon on paine
and penalty of the Law. In that case hereby fail not, and make Due
Return of your [doings] herein unto us the subscribers at or before
the first Day of March next ensuing. The Date here of given under
our hand in Easton, January the fourteenth Day, and in the fourth
year of his Majesties Reign, Anno Dom., 1730.

JosiAH Keith, ^ ^^^^^^^^^^^

Mark Lothrop, Kforthctoxvn

Eliphalet Leonard, j °f ^'''^'^■

Bristol ss. In observance of this warrant on January y^ 18, 1730,
then I warned y*" above sd John Linkhorn to Depart this town on pen-
alty of y*^ Law; and Likwise the above said Benjemin Drake, Jun.,
I for warned him of Intertaining the above said John Linkhorn on
penalty of the Law.

Benjemin Fobes, Constable.

Two months afterward a woman — Mary, the wife of Samuel
Smith — was warned out. This method was pursued through
the last century, many of the warnings being recorded in the
court records at Taunton. These documents are of great ser-
vice to the antiquarian, who is able by them to ascertain the
previous residence of new-comers, and thereby to trace their
genealogies. The form of these warrants seemed harsh and in-
imical ; but this was only in form. Persons were legally warned
out under various pains and penalties, whose departure would
have been regarded as a public calamity. Some of them had
been living here for a long time before this was done, — business
men, and even tovv^n officials. In 1790 one hundred families and
forty-nine individuals were thus warned out, notwithstanding that
their departure would have reduced the population of the town
at that date by one third. In other cases this warrant meant
business. Poor persons were waited upon by a constable, and
forced to " move on " until they found a town whose officers were
less alert, or where the feeling of humanity was stronger than
that of self-interest. There were various instances in which our
constables were paid for this unpleasant service of ejecting the
poor and unfortunate beyond the town limits.


The plan proposed in 1785 to keep the poor together in one
house, which was revived three years afterward but not carried
out, was occasionally suggested in following years. It was
formally voted in 18 18, and the selectmen were authorized to
make the necessary arrangements. Nothing was done at once
about it, nor was a similar movement in 1822 successful. In
1823 the town "voted the whole 21 poor be sold together on this
condition, — the three children the selectmen to bind out, and
the same expense per week to be deducted from the time they
leave the poor-house ^ to the expiration of the year, which it costs
each person of the whole number per week for supporting,
which is ^580." In 1835 a committee was appointed in town-
meeting to consider the proposition of buying a farm to be used
as a home for the poor. While the question was pending, the
town " voted to instruct the selectmen to get our present poor
kept as cheap as they can in their opinion for the ensuing year."
An unsuccessful attempt was then made to hire West Bridge-
water to take our paupers into their almshouse. In March,
1837, it was for the last time "voted to sell the poor of Easton
at auction ; . . . and they were struck off to Capt. Lewis Wil-
liams for the sum of thirteen hundred dollars."

January, 1838, the town purchased of Jedediah Packard his
farm, with buildings thereon, being the present Town-farm of
Easton. The necessary stock, tools, furniture, etc. were pur-
chased, and at last the friendless poor of the town of Easton
had the prospect of being domesticated in some semblance of a
home. They had been publicly struck off to the lowest bidder
from year to year for over a century ; had been taken from house
to house, often living on hard fare, and feeling the disgrace of a
condition which to some of them was the result of misfortune
for which they were not to blame.

The real goodness and the refined Christian feeling of a town
can have no surer test than its care of its unfortunate poor.
Their condition at the best appeals deeply to our sympathies,
and a tender, benevolent interest in their comfort and welfare
ought to be cultivated. No one can absolutely know that he
himself, or those dear to him, may not sometime become inmates

^ The word " poor-liouse " was sometimes thus publicly used with reference to
the private house where the poor were kept. The quotation above seems ambiguous,
but the ^580 appears to be the bid for the whole.



of the Almshouse. Several persons once prominent in the town
have thus " come upon the town." At the time of the church
controversy fifty years ago the Unitarian bell was hung so as
to swing north and south, and the Orthodox bell so as to swing
east and west. Some one facetiously remarked that one bell was
to call Mr. Ames from the north and Mr. Pool from the south ;
the other to call Mr. Hayden from the east and General Leach
from the west, — naming them, because they were the most influ-
ential persons in the two congregations. And yet the widow of
" Mr. Hayden from the east," notwithstanding her husband's once
prominent position, was ultimately forced to accept the Alms-
house as her home ; and she lived there for five years, dying at
the advanced age of ninety-two years. It will illustrate the sen-
sitiveness naturally felt by many who have thus had to accept
the charity of the town, to record that this poor old lady worked
hard at braiding straw for the last few months of her life in
order to earn money enough to pay all her funeral charges.
She shrank with pain from the thought of being buried at the
expense of the town.

Besides the amount spent at the Almshouse annually, the town
of Easton spends large sums upon the poor in town outside of
the Almshouse. There are many families that cannot fully sup-
port themselves, but who are able to get along with a little aid
judiciously given. This part of the work of the selectmen calls
for good judgment as well as kind feeling, and is often very
embarrassing. The present annual cost of the poor of Easton
to the town is between six and seven thousand dollars.

The wardens of the Almshouse have been as follows : Elea-
zer Keith was warden for 1839 ^.nd 1840; Archippus Buck,
1841 ; Seth Field, 1842 and 1843 ; Joel Sampson, 1844 to 1849 ;
Alvin Drake, 1849; David Hervey, 1850 to 1854; Silas V.
Clapp, 1854 to 1858; David Hervey, 1858 to 1861 ; Francis
Dunbar, 1861 and 1862 ; Charles Howard, 1863 and 1864 ; Fran-
cis Dunbar, 1865 to 1868; Jeremiah Hayes, 1868; Triscom
Hobson, 1869 ; Charles T. Wade, 1870 and 1871 ; Isaac Osgood,
1872; Charles T. Wade, 1873 to 1876; James C. Rounds, 1876
to 1879 ; John T, Barden, 1879 ; Charles T. Wade, 1880 to 1885 ;
Nathaniel Fuller, 1885, and he still serves as warden.





Introductory Remarks. — Abandoned Roads. — The Bay Road,
Prospect Street, and Purchase Street laid out before the
Incorporation of the Town. — Other old Roads. — The Taun-
ton and South Boston Turnpike Controversy. — Washington
Street. — Other Easton Highways. — The Oliver Ames Be-
quest for Public Highways. — Governor Ames's Gift for the
Planting of Trees along the Streets and Highways.

THE subject of public highways does not promise to be es-
pecially interesting. Exciting as contests over tovvn-v^rays
sometimes are in town-meetings, they do not make very enter-
taining history. But so much of town business pertains to them,
their laying-out so often needs to be referred to, and the history
of some of them has been so peculiar, that it is desirable a chap-
ter should be given to them in this work. The controversy, for
example, concerning the road through the Great Cedar-Swamp
was so earnest, bitter, long-continued and expensive, and was so
absorbing at the time, that it deserves description in these pages.
Interesting matters come up in the history of several other roads.
They will all be noticed here as nearly as possible in the order
of their laying-out. But the " laying-out " and adoption of a
road in early times did not always mean what it does now., and
many of the old laid-out roads were mere cart-paths. The lo-
cation of the roads upon the old town map here given is
quite inaccurate. Some roads voted for by the town before this
map was made do not appear on it, and some of the roads that
do appear were not town-ways, — as, for example, that from
South Easton village northwest across the valley to North
Easton village.

There are a number of abandoned roads in Easton that were
once considerably used highways. There was one from North

"a plan of ye
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Penibertan BriOnn

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c/o*. Crossni

^Jas. Pmlt gr

Jianiel J^nUs
Thomas PnUt.

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^ - dk, SolamonJiewett ^^f^eitttn'
\ ^•, I 'i^"'"' Phuitii

/we HO.
* navnard \

f\ (Joe Forbes

, -^beruzer Amef [^

-o - - -e^ •TosiiihTit'MJi Jr.
^ohn Mariler


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6 Eleazei\Keith





BENrJ. COBB. Surveyor

r ABOUT :-'cc ;

Geo'JiVfalke) jr C'- '" , i'^'- '°' - '-



Easton village to Solomon Foster's place, and so round east to
the old Stoughton road, now Washington Street. It is not yet
obliterated, and may be traced throughout where it was once
travelled. Two roads diverged from near Thomas Manley, Jr's,
or the Willis place on Lincoln Street, — one going southwest
crossing the Bay road south of the old cemetery; the other run-
ning northwest from east of John Lincoln's to the Gilbert place.
Another old road ran from the Edward Hayward place, first
northwest and then northeast, coming into Purchase Street east
of Mr. Rankin's. A road ran to the Selee place from the south-
east, some distance west of Tisdale Harlow's ; and from the lat-
ter place a road led southeastwardly through the town as far
as Eliphalet Leonard's forge, and may still be traced much of
the way ; it crosses Centre Street just south of Horace Thomp-
son's. The old Meeting-house road now superseded by Centre
Street, the old Stoughton road, and some others will be referred
to in the proper place.

The town survey of about 1750 is given here in order to show
the location of these ancient roadways. The survey was taken
to exhibit the location of the dwelling-houses and highways, and
thereby to assist in determining the most suitable situation for
the new meeting-house, — a subject that caused the fierce con-
tention already narrated in this History. The original of this
map was preserved by Macey Randall.

In the account which follows, the writer has adhered to the
names of the streets and highways given upon the map of E. B.
Hayward, which was drawn in 1883, those names having been
afterward adopted in town-meeting.

The Bay road, according to tradition, was first located on
an old Indian trail. However this may be, it is spoken of in
1697 in the Taunton North-Purchase records as the "new Rhode
that leadeth from John Witherell's to the bay." ^ John Witherell
lived in Norton, south of Easton, and the " bay " was Massachu-
setts Bay. This road, therefore, is about two hundred years old,
and is probably the oldest within the limits of the town. There
is no record of its first laying-out, which does not appear to have
been done by the North-Purchase proprietors. Alterations on

1 Taunton North-Purchase Surveys, vol. i. p. 9.


the southern part of it were made in 1735. In March, 1754, as
it was becoming an important highway, it was laid out forty feet
wide through the town. There were then two inns upon it, —
John Williams's at the south part of the town, and that of Josiah
Kingman, who had opened his tavern five years before, just above
Ebenezer Randall's present house. There were ten houses on
the road at this time in town, and several others quite near. But
business increased along this travelled way. New houses were
built, a few stores appeared, and, save at the Furnace Village, it
then had a much livelier appearance than it has to-day. Matthew
Hayvvard built a large house, now standing below Mr. Kimball's,
and kept an inn ; and at the Sheperd place Ebenezer Tisdale, and
after him Macey Tisdale and others, furnished entertainment for
man and beast. Joseph Gilbert for a time retailed spirits not far
north of the Tisdale Tavern. There was certainly no reason why
any one should be thirsty in travelling along the Bay road in
Easton in those days. Robert Ripley housewright, Joseph Tink-
ham cordwainer and trader, the Shaws, and others lived on this
road. Isaac Kimball at the now Kimball location became a re-
tailer of spirits; two blacksmith shops sprung up along the way;
and about 1 790 Nathaniel Wetherby succeeded the Tisdales in the
tavern business, having ten years later at his inn the first post-
office in town, though Daniel Wheaton received the appointment
in his stead six months later, there being no other post-office here
for eleven years. With the mail-coaches and heavy teams and
various conveyances passing along the road constantly between

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 42 of 78)