Saturday, November 27, 2010


James Cole, Jr.
Cole was undoubtedly the earliest
Middleborough livery operator of
note.  A partner in the firm of Cole &
Standish, Cole was a shrewd and
knowledgeable dealer in horse flesh.
It is likely that he was able to hone his
skills as a champion checker player
during down times at his livery stable.
While checkers today is considered primarily a children’s game, a century and more ago, it was played frequently by adults as a game of strategy and skill. Nostalgic illustrations from an earlier time depict “old-timers” seated about the checkerboard (usually set atop an empty barrel) at either the fire station or the local general store while standers-by watch with rapt attention. During this period, particular Middleborough townspeople were noted for their ability at checkers, and among them was Plymouth County Deputy Sheriff James Cole who earned a reputation for himself beginning in 1858 as the county’s champion checker player. Apparently, not everyone in the county agreed with Cole’s holding this informal title. In early January, 1879, William Webber of Brockton challenged Cole to a match of either 10 or 20 games, with a bet of either $50 or $100 a side, a substantial wager in those days. “He asks Mr. Cole to walk up and establish his title.” While the outcome of the challenge is not recorded, no damage was done to Cole’s reputation as he continued to be noted as “a smart hand at the game of ‘Checkers’”. He did, however, sustain a rare loss to a Mr. E. Atwood of Rockland, in February, 1879, coming “out of the contest three to five, with five drawn games.” As noted the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial at the time, “Tisn’t often the jovial Cole gets waxed.”

Old Colony Memorial, “County and Elsewhere”, January 9, 1879; ibid., February 27, 1879:5


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