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William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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Boston at one end and New Bedford at the other, with Taunton
between, we can imagine that the old Bay road often presented
a much more animated scene than it does to-day. There were
for a time two schoolhouses, — one below Charles Keith's house
on the other side of the street, and the other at the northeast
corner of Lincoln Street and this road. At the Sheperd place
in 18 12, the tavern being then kept by Capt. Samuel Hodges,
the younger Captain Hodges recruited a company for the na-
tional army, — a company of wild fellows, who drank more of
the old captain's rum than they paid for, who amused them-
selves with smashing the gravestones in the cemetery near by,
and who were the terror of the neighborhood while they stayed,
their pranks even extending to North Easton village.



HIGHWAYS.



453



Such was the Bay road of other days. The fact has been noted
that it was laid out forty feet wide through the town in 1754.
But this road originally was not well made ; and so many persons
outside of Easton were interested in it that we are not surprised
to find that more than once Easton is admonished by the Supe-
rior Court, and obliged to pay a fine, "by reason of the bad-
ness of their roads." In January, 1771, they paid a fine of ten
pounds. This waked up the town. Money was raised to repair
the road. In 1772 a section of it near Summer Street was
straightened. But by 1797 "the town of Easton is under pre-
sentment of the Grand Jury for the County of Bristol by Infor-
mation of the Supreme Court of the Deficiency of the Northward
part of the Highway called the Bay road ; " and June 16, 1797,
Abisha Leach and Seth Littlefield made a careful survey of it
from the Stoughton line to Furnace Village. A committee was
chosen to act for the town in court, and the road was put in
repair. But only one hundred and twenty-six dollars were ex-
pended, and consequently complaint was soon made again, and
the town had to answer the summons of the Supreme Court
at Taunton, in 1803, for its neglect to repair the "Post Road."
Three hundred dollars were spent this year for repairs on it.
In 1 81 2 the same trouble occurred again. The town had to
appear by its agent in court, and on the next year a fine was
imposed for neglect. Evidently the town considered it a bur-
den to keep a road in repair that was so much used by non-
residents.

Although the Bay road was the oldest highway in the "East
End " of the Taunton North-Purchase, the first recorded laying-
out of a highway by the North-Purchase proprietors in what is
now Easton was on June 1 1, 1697. This highway began " at the
line between Bridgwater & Taunton North-Purchase, where the
way now goeth by marked trees, which is called the uper way,
& so up along badcock's plain to & through Clement Briggs's
land & William Manlies land where the way now goeth, & so
along by Thomas Randals Junior land into the undevided land."^
This road very nearly corresponded to the Taunton and South
Boston Turnpike, between William C. Howard's and the Shoddy
Mill ; it then extended in a northwesterly direction somewhat
1 Taunton North-Purchase Surveys, book i. p. 9.



454 HISTORY OF EASTON.

over half a mile. This latter part of the road has now disap-
peared. At the same date, June ii, 1697, a highway was laid
out from Clement Briggs's towards Cranberry Meadow, passing
probably not far north of Simpson's Spring, where an old cart-
path was easily traceable half a century ago.^ This road was
long since given up, being superseded by the road which ran
from the mill at the Green to Cranberry Meadow.

The Taunton and South Boston Turnpike runs from the
town line by the Shoddy Mill place, nearly south to the Great
Cedar-Swamp, and then in a slightly southwest course through
the swamp into Raynham. We have just seen that a part of it
was laid out in June, 1697. It took the place of the old road laid
out as a southerly extension of Pine Street, which ran "to Bridge-
water line near Harris's, and then on the east side of Harris's
house and on the westerly side of his well, & so to Timothy
Cooper's house on the easterly side thereof, & so by marked trees
to the westerly side of Samuel Kinsley's house." ^ James Harris
lived between William C. Howard's house and mill, and from
there the old road may be traced, crossing Purchase Street be-
low Edwin T. Coward's barn, running east of Mr. Collins's
and then southwest nearly to the present road. It was at
later dates extended farther north and south ; in its southern
part it was considerably east of where the turnpike now is.
There was then no road through Cedar Swamp. Trees were
however felled, and on these by hard work pedestrians at cer-
tain seasons could pick their way through from Easton to
Raynham, or return.

In 1792 very exciting times began for the town. Raynham
had petitioned the Court of General Sessions for Bristol County,
to require Easton to build a road through the swamp to connect
the two towns. The advantages of such a road were obvious.
But Easton stood aghast at the prospect of incurring the expense
of building a causeway such a distance and in such depths of
mire. The difficulty is illustrated by the fact that as Joshua
Gilmore was going on the footpath through the swamp one day
with his wife, carrying a little child in his arms, Mrs. Gilmore
was speaking of the difficulty of the passage, and her husband

1 Taunton North-Purchase Surveys, book i. p. 9. ^ Ibid. vol. i. p. 21.



HIGHWAYS. 455



replied that some day the child would ride through the swamp
in a carriage ; and the idea struck her as so essentially prepos-
terous that she had a hearty laugh over it. However, the Court
of Sessions did not, it would seem, share her scepticism, for it
ordered Easton to construct the road. Seeing that to build a
causeway through the swamp would involve a heavy expense, the
town voted to petition the General Court that the cost of such a
highway should be borne by the county ; and the Court conse-
quently voted to apportion the cost upon the several towns of the
county.^ After this not much was heard of the project for about
five years, when, the action of the General Court just noted hav-
ing apparently in the mean time been vetoed or reversed, we find
in October, 1797, that Easton in town-meeting appointed a com-
mittee " to consult with the Inhabitants of the Town of Raynham
concerning the Highway through the Cedar Swamp, and gave
their committee the following Instructions: ist. To see if the
Town of Raynham will take one half or any part of said way to
make, or if they will help us in any other way to ease the town
of the burden of making said way. 2dly. To see if the Town
of Raynham will join this town in a Petition to the General
Court for a Lottery for making said Highway ; 3d. To see how
they can agree with any persons to make said Highway." This
proposition to gain the Court's permission for a lottery to raise
money to pay the expense of building this road may seem
strange to us in Massachusetts to-day, but it was very common
then. Costly bridges and extraordinary public works were fre-
quently paid for by a grand lottery authorized by the General
Court.

The committee appointed by Easton was Col. Abiel Mitchell,
Samuel Guild, Esq., and Elijah Howard, Esq., and in the follow-
ing March they reported thus : " Pursuant to the Directions
given to the committee, they have consulted with the selectmen
of the Town of Raynham concerning the highway through the
Cedar Swamp, but cannot get the Least Encouragement of
any help from the Town of Raynham in Respect to the expense
of the said Highway, in the method proposed or in any other
way." Easton therefore stubbornly hung back, and little if any-
thing was done on the proposed road. In the summer of the
1 General-Court Records, vol. liii. pp. 141, 200.



456 HISTORY OF EASTON.

same year Raynham people again petitioned the Court of Ses-
sions to force Easton to make the highway through the swamp
as ordered. August 20, 1798, Easton appointed Daniel Wheaton
to appear in said court and oppose the petition. He was unsuc-
cessful ; and then the town sent Colonel Mitchell and Dr. Ed-
ward Dean with a petition to the General Court, asking the Court
to send down a committee at the town's expense to see the road,
and to judge if it were reasonable for the town to pay the entire
expense of building it. The hoped-for relief did not come as
expected; and in March, 1800, the Court of Sessions pressed
the matter, so that Easton sent additional agents to the General
Court to renew the petition, and by a unanimous vote of the
town the acceptance of the road under discussion was nega-
tived. All this was expensive to the town, but the people were
determined not to yield. They even proposed to make a gift of
a part of Cedar Swamp to Raynham, — a gift which under the
circumstances Raynham did not feel eager to receive. In
August, 1802, new committees were appointed, one to petition
the Court of Sessions, the other the General Court. The for-
mer committee, consisting of Daniel Wheaton, Esq., Colonel
Mitchell, and Capt. John Tisdale, drew up a strong petition
that was quite pathetic in its appeal. It states that this road
" passes through Cedar Swamp, the mire of which is of un-
common depth, and wholly impassable ; " that a large portion of
it must be causewayed, " the whole expense of which will be
far beyond their ability to bear, and as they humbly conceive a
greater burden than was ever fixed upon one town;" that "it
will nearly Bankrupt the whole town, and will entail a burden
upon posterity too great to be bourne, and will tend greatly to
depopulate the town." ^ The committee prayed that the road
be therefore discontinued, and that those who had been to
expense on it (meaning Raynham people) might be refunded
what it had cost them.

The Court was not proof against such a pathetic and eloquent
appeal, and the petition was granted. But the town had to pay
the original Raynham petitioners for the work they had done on
the road. And here another wrangle occurred : the two towns
could not agree on the terms of settlement. Easton offered

1 See Report of Court of Sessions, Bristol County, vol. from 1S01-1814, pp. 23,24.



HIGHWAYS. 457



five hundred dollars, which the petitioners declined. The next
year Easton added two hundred and fifty dollars to this sum,
but took tzvo hundred of it from the amount previously appro-
priated for schools ! Finally, there seemed no way of settling
this matter except by the formation of a turnpike corporation
which should build the road. Easton opposed the formation of
the corporation unless it would assume and discharge the town's
obligation to Raynham.

Notwithstanding the opposition of the town, however, and
on petition of John Gilmore, Joshua Gilmore, Samuel Bass,
William P. Whiting, and other corporators, an Act was passed
June 24, 1806, incorporating the "Taunton and South Boston
Turnpike." Easton, moreover, was obliged to pay the demands
of Raynham, although she enjoyed the satisfaction of defeating
the original petitioners who had endeavored to have the Cedar
Swamp road built at her expense. But it was a costly victory
for the town ; for during the fourteen years through which the
contention lasted, there were constant and large expenses of its
agents at Taunton and Boston, lawyers' fees, and the entertain-
ment and other expenses of legislative and court committees
to pay, — and such committees could do a little junketing then
as well as now.

The turnpike was to go " from Taunton Green, so called, to
the Blue Hill Turnpike." The corporation issued three hun-
dred shares, and the first assessment, of ten dollars a share, was
made March 20, 1807, the last assessment being two years later,
— the whole expense amounting to one hundred and forty dol-
lars a share, or a total of forty-two thousand dollars. The
turnpike was completed in 1809, and became a great thorough-
fare, dividing with its older rival, the Bay road, the travel be-
tween Boston and Taunton. A turnpike gate was kept for a
time at the Four Corners, and after that about thirty rods
below. Melvin Gilmore was the first toll-gate keeper, and
after Him John Gilmore; for many years Silas Phillips, and
afterwards Samuel R. Clarke, his son-in-law, were also gate-
keepers. Coaches, heavy teams, and other vehicles made the
road lively, and taverns sprang up along the way. Joshua
Gilmore tried innkeeping in 1807, but soon gave it up. Asa
Howard and Charles Hayden also had inns on this road. Jona-



458 HISTORY OF EASTON.

than Shaw, John Gilmore, and Alson Gihnore, were in turn
treasurers of the turnpike. The toll-gate naturally became
unpopular, and an attempt was made to prove it an outlaw
because it had not been kept forty feet wide, according to
charter ; but a special Act of the Legislature modified its
charter to meet this difficulty. The toll-gate was kept until
October, 1851, and the affairs of this road were settled a year
afterward. It had become an unprofitable piece of property.
Turnpikes were soon superseded by railroads.

Prospect Street starts from the Bay road north of Daniel
Wheaton's, and runs east and northeast to Purchase Street at
Rotheus Reed's. It was first laid out between 1697 and 1699,
as may appear from the following : —

We whose names are underwritten have laid out a highway, begin-
ning at the new Rhode that leadeth from John Witherells to the bay.^
Turning out eastwardly by the pine swamp, so running as the path
now goeth to Cranberry Meadow, so running on the east side of Cran-
berry Meadow to Israel Randall's house, & from thence to Thomas
Randall's house senior, and so as the way now leads to Thomas
Randall Junior's."

Thomas Harvey,
George Leonard,
William Manlev.^

There have been some slight alterations in this highway since
that time, although the direction is substantially the same. But
where Prospect Street now ends at Rotheus Reed's house it
then continued, crossing Purchase Street and running back of
Lucius Howard's, and thence northerly until it led into what
is now Church Street, as any one may see even to-day. The
continuation noted above to Thomas Randall, Jr.'s, was a short
distance up what is now Washington Street. In 1852 Prospect
Street as now settled was laid out by the County Commissioners.

Purchase Street begins on the West Bridgewater line near
Edwin T. Goward's, passes James Rankin's and Lucius How-
ard's, and ends on Depot Street, east of the Orthodox church.

1 Tliis was the Bay Road. '^ Taunton North-Purchase Surveys, book i. p. 9.



HIGHWAYS.



459



The easterly portion of it before its alteration was very old. It
crossed the swamp west of Washington Street, on a ridge north
of the present road, and so extended easterly towards VV. C.
Howard's. It also went on the south of the Littlefield house
towards Cranberry Meadow, this part being laid out, as the old
Leonard papers at Taunton show, in 1699 ; and the part east of
there was laid out in 1703.^ In March, 1763, that section of
the road which runs past Lucius Howard's was voted ; but it
extended farther north than now, in order to reach the old
road to the meeting-house at the Centre. This old road was
discontinued in 1801 ; and the new one from just north of Lucius
Howard's to the church and past Clapp's crossing was accepted,
this being now an extension of Purchase Street. In 1810 quite
an alteration was made in this road east of Mr. Rankin's.

Church Street was once known as the Cynthia Drake road.
The old road was a travelled way very soon after the settlement
of South Easton. It is referred to in 1703 as "The Rhode that
goeth from Cranbery Meadow to the Sawmill," ^ and was laid
out as a highway in 1697, or soon after. In March, 1773, that
part of the road from A. C. Wade's to where it joins the old road
that extended from Rotheus Reed's and passed behind Lucius
Howard's, was voted by the town ; and it is given as three rods
wide, though the old road is only thirty feet wide, and this is
spoken of as " going between where the old Meeting-house stood
and the Burying Place." This street was straightened and re-
laid in 1 88 1.

Pine Street begins on Depot Street east of the Green, and
runs southeasterly over the ridge to the turnpike at William
C. Howard's. It was first marked out in 1703. December 2,
1762, this road, which seems to have been hardly more than a
cart-path at this time, was regularly laid out, and was adopted
the next March.

Washington Street is referred to in 17 19 in the North Pur-
chase records as the " Rhode that leads from Joseph Crossman's
to Boston," — Joseph Crossman then living at what is now

^ Taunton North-Purchase Surveys, vol. i. p. 21. ^ Ibid.



460 HISTORY OF EASTON.

Thomas Randall's place, on Main Street near Washington Street,
in North Easton village. But that part of the street which ran
through South Easton village is alluded to before 1700. The
first recorded laying out of any part of it is dated September 30,
1726, when it was laid out from just below the South Easton
cemetery to the Green. June 18, 1728, it was laid out from the
Stoughton line to Joseph Grossman's ; and March 25, 1737, the
survey was continued to South Easton, where the survey of Sep-
tember, 1726, began. The old road was quite different from the
present, and may be traced most of the way at least throughout
District No. 8. It began fifteen rods west of the present road at
the Stoughton line, crossed the new road diagonally on the hill
where the Dickermans live, kept slightly east of the new road
until some distance south of Timothy Marshall's, then crossed
the road southwesterly to avoid the swamp, going to the west of
it, and then, as may be still clearly seen, passed nearly due
south, coming out into the present road just in front of the
Nathan Willis place. South of this the divergence was less than
above. The extension of Washington Street southward from
the Green was made in 1807. The Stoughton Turnpike Asso-
ciation had then been formed, having been petitioned for as
early as 1803. There had been a great wrangle on this question
of turnpikes. The General Court in 1805 sent out a committee
to view the several routes proposed. The town was not in a
pleasant mood. It voted that it wanted a turnpike, but not by
the Bay road, nor by the Stoughton road (Washington Street),
nor by " Gilmore's rout (so called)." The town was however
overruled, and not only was the turnpike by " Gilmore's rout
(so called) " allowed, but the Stoughton route was also allowed.
The Stoughton Turnpike Association was formed, and on peti-
tion to the Court of Sessions at Taunton a committee, consisting
of the Hon. Stephen Bullock of Rehoboth, Samuel Tobey, Esq.,
of Berkley, James Williams and James Tisdale of Taunton, and
John Pool of Easton, was appointed, and proceeded to lay out a
road "four rods wide as the law directs." This was done Sep-
tember, 1807. The divergence from the old road has been indi-
cated above, and the survey was most carefully made.

Some of the older residents of Easton will be interested in
knowing who the then land-owners were, in their order from the



HIGHWAYS.



461



Stoughton line to the intersection with the Taunton and South
Bridgewater Turnpike. They were Joseph Morse, Ebenezer
Dickerman, James Dickerman, Joseph Drake, Widow Drake,
Elijah Smith, Ephraim Willis, Jonathan Leonard, Ebenezer
Randall, Hopestill Randall, Esquire Guild, Dr. Seth Pratt, Es-
quire Guild, Thomas Willis, " Widow Pratt's improvement to
the well of water and Sever Pratt by' the burying-place," Cal-
vin Howard, Abial Mitchell, " part on the old road," and Lyman
Wheelock ; " and on the old road," Barney Randall, Bela Reed,
Esquire Guild, Phineas Randall, and Daniel Randall; "same
course eight rods on the old road to the Green," James
Guild, James Willis, Daniel Randall, Edward Howard [Hay-
ward], Lsrael Alger, Isaac Lothrop, John Lothrop, Asa Howard,
Roland Howard, "ending at the Boston and Bristol Turnpike."
There was no turnpike gate on this road in Easton, but there
was one in Stoughton. The part of the old road south of the
Methodist meeting-house to its intersection with the turnpike
was discontinued in 1809, that south of this place to the
Nathan Willis place in 18 12, and that from the Stoughton
line to the turnpike in 18 15.

Depot Street extends from the Bay road at the Furnace
Village through the Centre, past the railroad station, through
the Green and to the turnpike. Sections of it were laid out at
different times ; that near the Centre is alluded to as early as
1 7 16, and that part just east of the Green, in 1703. It was laid
out from the Furnace Village to Black Brook in 1752 ; from
the Centre to Black Brook it appears to have been relaid in
1838, and in 1885 it was widened. The extreme eastern end
was added in 1848.

The first road laid out by the selectmen of Easton was sur-
veyed September 30, 1726. It began at the Bridgewater line by
Stone-House Hill, and starting southwesterly across Stone-
House Brook went west to Washington Street. The old cause-
way by which the brook was crossed may still be seen a few
rods north of where Grove Street now crosses it. Just west of
Long-Swamp Brook is the cellar of Ensign Daily's house, which
stood on the north side of this old road ; and the little pond



462 HISTORY OF EASTON.

noted in the survey,^ along whose south side the road ran,
though smaller now than then, is still visible. This now discon-
tinued road came out very near Deacon Mitchell's.

Foundry Street extends from the Cocheset line northwest
across Prospect Street, through the Furnace Village, past
Belcher's and Drake's Works, then curving to the southwest
terminates in Norton Avenue. Its different sections were laid
out at very different times. The east part of it, from the
old Capt. Edward Hayward place to Cocheset, was laid out in
1735, though a century later it was considerably changed from
the turnpike east to the town line. The west part from the
Bay road to Highland Street was laid out in 1741, and that
from the Hayward place to Jonathan Pratt's was laid out in
1782. The next extension of it (northwest) was voted in 18 12,
and formed a connection with the Bay road three rods north
of Isaac Kimball's store, so as to connect with Highland Street ;
but June 28, 181 3, it was changed to a straighter course, so as
to come out by Ichabod Macomber's shop on the Bay road,
near the now Joel S. Drake place. At the same date the next
section, that from the Bay road to the furnaces, was laid out.
The southwest portion of it was made in 1757. Alterations
were made in 1842, 1871, and at other times.

Rockland Street extends from the Bay road opposite No.
10 Schoolhouse to Mansfield. It appears to have been part of
the way once leading from the old church to the Selee place,
a way in use before the incorporation of the town, and which
at one time divided the town into two constable and surveyors
"ricks." It was first laid out in 1738. In 1816 it was laid out
from the Tarteus Buck (then Calvin Packard) place, past Mr.
Selee's to Mansfield, though this work remained unfinished for
some time. It did not run the same as now, but curved and
passed on the north side of Mrs. Horace Buck's place. It
was widened and straightened in 1840.

Summer Street, or the Littlefield road, was first laid out
February 23, 1738. It was virtually a continuation of the last
named road, being connected with it by the Bay road. Twenty

1 Town Records, vol. i. p. 3.



HIGHWAYS. 46;



years before this it was a trodden cart-path, and formed part of
a rough road leading from South Easton to the Selee's. Sum-
mer Street was widened and completed in 1842.

Short Street was a continuation of Summer Street, being
connected with it by that part of Centre Street now between
the two. It was named for the Rev. Matthew Short, past
whose place it led on its way to the old meeting-house. Its
course has been somewhat changed.

Highland Street runs from the Mansfield line to Kimball's
store on the Bay road. In 1741 that part of it from the Bay
road to the old Nathaniel Perry place was laid out. The sec-
tion west of this place to the Mansfield line was laid out in 1772.
The east end of it subsequently underwent some change. It
formerly joined the Bay road a few rods north of its present
eastern terminus. The eastern section of this road was widened
in 1878.

Norton Avenue, which extends from the Norton line past the
old Coward place to the Mansfield line, was first laid out in 1744.
That part of it from the Coward place south to the Norton line



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 43 of 78)