Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bell School Scholars, c. 1908

Pupils, Bell School, Lakeville, MA, photograph, c. 1908.  Photo courtesy of
Scheren (Smalley) Dunham.
Students of the Bell School pose for a class photograph in the rear of the school building on Bedford Street, Lakeville.  Mary Agnes McGuinness (second row, far right) is the sole pupil identified.  The teacher, Miss Maxwell stands in the back at the far left.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bell School Scholars, c. 1906

Pupils, Bell School, Lakeville, MA, photograph, c. 1906.  Photograph
courtesy of Scheren (Smalley) Dunham.
Students of the Bell School on Bedford Street in Lakeville pose for their class photograph in front of the building.  Mary Agnes McGuinness is the young girl in the front row, third from the right.  The teacher, Mary B. White, stands on the top step at the right.  The view is believed to have been taken about 1906.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dedication of Precinct Chapel, 1885

Increasingly following the Civil War, the Precinct Church building at Lakeville was a problem.  Built in 1835, the church was considered drafty, difficult to heat, acoustically poor and generally outmoded.  In response to these concerns, the Lakeville & Taunton Precinct constructed a small chapel building onto the northwest corner of the church in 1885.  The following poem which recounts the difficulties of the 1835 church building, was read at the chapel's dedication on Tuesday evening, November 17, 1885.  (The Precinct Chapel remained in use until the early 1970s at which time the church building was relocated to its present location.  On May 11, 1972, the Lakeville United Church of Christ, the successor to the Lakeville & Taunton Precinct Society, sold the chapel which was converted to residential use).

Read at dedication of Precinct Chapel
Nov. 17, 1885

Change is the order of the day.
Inclined to leave the good old way,
We seek a smoother, better road
Than that rough path our fathers trod.
As we this chapel dedicate,
It seems a fitting time to state
Some changes that have taken place,
Though lapse of time may not efface,
From the retentive memory,
Old Precinct's early history.
Changes so gradually wrought
Are scarcely noticed 'till we'er brought
By some unusual event,
To realize how different
The customs of the people now,
From what they were not long ago.
'Tis not long since our people thought
That stoves in church they needed not,
Except the foot stoves some of you
Perhaps have used and have them now.
When we consider that they went
To church and sat all day content,
When all the heat was what they brought,
Except that in-the doctrine taught,
No wonder that we sometimes sigh,
And dash a tear drop from the eye,
To cast a look so far behind,
And think of all it brings to mind.
After awhile they thought it best
To have two stoves, and these were placed
Not on the steps, but just inside
To heat the entry and provide
A place to warm themselves at noon.
No Sunday School in winter then.
Two lines of pipe ran through the church
From these two stoves within the porch,
These were expected to supply
Sufficient heat to modify
The temperature which otherwise
Might at their worship paralyze.
The joints or pipe would often leak,
Then some another seat would seek,
Not regarding as salutary
These droppings of the sanctuary,
We look again still later on
And find the stove and pipes are gone,
Two large holes now our vision meet
Through which comes subterranean heat,
For all that they can see or know,
Who never have been down below,
Change in the pulpit has been made,
Resulting in a lower grade.
The Shepherd now is not so high
Above his flock as formerly.
The preacher may be just as good,
Although his standing has been lowered.
A new projection you'll observe,
Back of the pulpit. This may serve
To throw more light on hidden truth
Within the bible, but forsooth
The people cannot hear so well,
In consequence of this new L,
They used to have a sounding board
To help the pastor to be heard;
Upon this board some here can say
They’ve often seen the squirrels play.
Acoustics are of no avail,
‘Tis fashion now that must prevail.
The gallery has had to go,
Tile singers, too, have been brought low.
Nothing but fashion has the power
To disenthrone an old church choir,
The pews remain much as of yore,
Except that each one lost a door,
When, after many years, 'twas found
They served no purpose but to sound
A new arrival, and to keep
The tired ones from too much sleep.
These little changes paved the way
For this departure which to-day
We'er called upon to celebrate,
In manner most appropriate,
This chapel happily designed
For needs of body and of mind,
Illustrates that it will not do,
To try to separate the two.
‘Tis well we realized this fact
Sufficiently at last to act
Upon this principle, and build
A house that surely will be filled.
For men will come from far and near,
When it is known that we have here
Not only spiritual food,
But that which does the body good.
Time was when people would not think,
Of having things to eat and drink,
As means by which to gather in
The wayward from the paths of sin,
While in their worship most devout,
The loaves and fishes they left out,
But now the culinary art
Forms a very important part.
A church that now would-members gain
Must have a kitchen, and maintain
A table which will well compare
With sister churches’ bills of fare;
In closing, I will only add,
The ladies will be very glad,
If you will all attend their sale
Next Friday evening. Do not fail
To be present at that meeting.
Prove the pudding in the eating.

Precinct Chapel, Lakeville, MA, photograph, Vision Appraisal.
The Precinct Chapel today is a well-maintained home at 199
Rhode Island Road in Lakeville.
To view historic photographs of the Precinct Chapel taken in 1916, click here and here.

"Lines Read at Dedication of Precinct Chapel, Nov. 17, 1885", leaflet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Precinct Church in 1850

Precinct Church in 1850, Jane
(Montgomery) Seaver (Lakeville, MA:
Lakeville & Taunton Precinct, n. d.),
title page
Mrs. Seaver's recollections were
originally published by the Precinct
Church as a small commemorative
pamphlet sometime in the early 20th
Towards the end of her life, Jane (Montgomery) Seaver left a record of her childhood recollections of the Precint Church in Lakeville.  Born September 8, 1840 in Taunton, Massachusetts, Mrs. Seaver was the daughter of John and Mary Ann (Washburn) Montgomery and a descendant of Captain Amos Washburn (1742-94) of Middleborough.  She married Lieutenant George Francis Seaver, Battery C, Third Rhode Island Artillery, and died in 1919.  Her recollections are a rare surviving first-hand account of the Precinct Church in the mid-nineteenth century.

This meeting-house was built in 1835, to replace the one which was erected in 1759. Land was not very valuable in that locality, and the committee selected what they called a suitable spot for the new church. They had the foundation laid, the church raised and well under way when someone discovered that they had built it on the boundary line between two towns and two counties. It was said that the line ran between the pulpit and the pews, so that the minister stood in Taunton, Bristol County, and preached to a congregation in Middleboro (now Lakeville), Plymouth County.

The small white meeting-house, with steeple, belfry, and bell, stood alone on the road with the exception of the parsonage and a square old-fashioned two-story house occupied by a genial deacon. On the front of the church were two doors, painted green, opening into the narrow entry, where two doors opposite these led to the audience room. A Bight of winding stairs at each end of the entry ascended to the gallery or "singers' seats", which faced the high, mahogany pulpit, with its red velvet cushion, on which rested the Bible and the red-covered book of hymns and psalms. At the back of the pulpit was a long, hair-cloth covered seat, with a cane-seat chair at each end. There were two chairs of the same kind at the ends of the table on the platform below. The aisles, platform, and stairs were carpeted alike, but the people owned their pews and furnished their own cushions and carpets. Each' pew had a door, which, after all the family had entered, was closed and fastened with a brass button.

In the winter two box stoves stood in the entry, with long pipes which went through holes in the wall and down the length of the auditorium, and into the chimneys at either side of the pulpit. Wood was burned in the stoves, which often smoked. The pipes contained any quantity of soot, and the dampness caused them to leak, sending a dark-colored liquid down on the whitewashed walls and painted pews. At a parish meeting it was voted to get some tin pans and fasten them with wire under the joints in the pipes. My grandfather approved the plan, for he said he didn't like sitting under such "dropping of the sanctuary" as had been falling on him. The stoves and pipes were expected to warm the whole church, but occasionally some old lady would bring a foot-stove, filled with hot coals, or perhaps a hot brick to put under her feet. The women seldom had occasion to unpin their shawls or to loosen their cloaks or their fur tippets, and they usually kept their hands in their big fur muffs all through the service. Some of the elderly people, with poor circulation, would perhaps take a good dose of hot drops before starting for meeting.

They went with the old farm horse and covered wagon, which had no springs (neither wagon nor horse had springs) and was hung on what were called "thorough braces", and how they would rattle over the rough country roads! Those who sat on the front seat would have a buffalo robe or a heavy blanket before them in winter, but the women on the back seat were supposed to keep warm enough with their extra shawls and long, green barege veils.

In the summer the church doors, windows, and blinds were wide open, in order that the sunlight and air might have full play. The quiet stillness of the hour was seldom disturbed by the rumbling of passing carriages, but there was occasionally the stamping of uneasy horses in the adjacent sheds. The singing of the birds, the sound of the cricket, the busy bee, or the katydid, and the distant tinkling of cow-bells helped to divert the young minds and were perhaps as attentively listened to as was the solemn sermon proclaimed from the pulpit in stentorian tones. Everyone went to meeting on Sunday: old men, old women, young men and maidens, and little children, whom their mothers were obliged to take, or stay at home. It was very tiresome for the little ones to sit through a long sermon, not able to touch the floor with their feet, but sometimes they could rest them on a little four-legged wooden cricket, and if they pressed a little heavily on one end, over it would go and disturb the silence of the house. A little girl at one time had become very tired after being in Church for two long services, and near the end of the afternoon meeting she whispered to her mother, "Isn't it most time for him to say, 'Holy Ghost, Amen'?"

Sunday was a long, tiresome day for the children, whose playthings were put away on Saturday night, not to be taken out till Monday morning. Even the accordion, the only musical instrument in many homes, was placed on the upper shelf, for fear it might strike up the familiar strains of "Yankee Doodle" on the Lord'? day, and they must remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Go to Church in the morning, Sunday School from twelve to one, stay through the afternoon service, then go home tired and so hungry! After dinner they could study the next Sunday School lesson and read the old, old stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Daniel in the Lions' den, and how
"Zaccheus he
Did climb the tree
His Lord to see."

It is no wonder that they gladly welcomed bed-time, and probably they rejoiced that congregations did break up and Sabbaths had an end.

The meeting-house bell was rung at nine o'clock on Sunday morning, and those within hearing distance would set their clocks and watches and feel sure that they had the correct time. The bell was tolled for a death in the parish. When a person was very sick and not expected to live, people who were interested (and nearly everyone was interested) would listen at sunrise and sunset for the bell to toll and would slowly and solemnly count the strokes. At one time, when I was quite young, I spent the night with a cousin who lived near the church in a neighboring town. At the rising of the sun, the bell tolled the age of a very old man who had died during the night. We began to count, and we counted bell after bell until it reached ninety-five, ninety-six, and when it struck ninety- seven my cousin exclaimed, "Why! they are tolling that bell for Methuselah." I must say her remark somewhat marred the solemnity of the occasion.

Funerals were seldom held in the church but rather at the home of the departed and were made just as solemn as possible. I remember one old minister who always opened the service in this way: "We will now commence the service on this solemn occasion by reading the 90th Psalm. 'The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we By away'." I heard Maud Howe Elliott say not long ago that these words had caused more deaths than all the diseases. Singing at funerals was unheard of at this time, and I remember that later it caused quite a sensation when there was a funeral in town at which two or three members of the church choir sang. Afterwards one woman said to another, "Did you know that they had singing at that funeral?" "Why no," was the reply, "what did they sing?" "Well," she said, "I couldn't understand a word, but they sang to the tune of Boylston'." "Well!" said the other old lady, "I think it's very much out of place to holler and sing at a funeral." I was one of the singers. The Sunday after a funeral, every member of the family who could possibly go to meeting would be found in the pew, though perhaps none of them had been there for three or four years, or since the last funeral. The family would send a note to the parson, requesting the prayers of the Church, which he would announce in this way, supposing it was the wife and mother who had died: "John Smith and family request the prayers of this church that the death of his wife and their mother may be sanctified to them for their spiritual good. Thomas Jones and family join in the request." It is safe to say that the sermon that morning would be shortened on account of the length of the prayer.

The minister was paid $600 a year and had the rent of the house and farm, which was considered equal to $400 more. He raised his own vegetables, cut (or hired cut) his firewood, had quite a little mowing land, and raised hay, corn, etc. enough to keep his horse and cow during the winter. He was expected to hold two services on Sunday and to hold a meeting "at early candlelight" in one of the schoolhouses of the parish, perhaps two or three miles away. Every Thursday evening there was a meeting for exhortation, prayer, and singing, in the schoolhouse near the church, where about fifteen or twenty persons would congregate. The minister would call on different ones for remarks or a "season of prayer", and several hymns would be sung. The deacon, who always sat in the front seat, would look at the hymn which had been read and would name the tune, which would usually be Amsterdam, Coronation, Mear, Boylston, or Marlow. One old man who occasionally went to the Thursday evening meeting would sit until nearly the close of the meeting, then rise, take a long breath, and begin telling the people what great sinners they were. Poor feeble worms of the dust, he called them, unworthy to call on His great and holy name. They must repent, be baptized, and join the Church. Then he would say, "COME, come NOW. It is the accepted time and day of salvation. Life is the time to serve the Lord, the time to insure His great reward, and while the lamp holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return." We never thought of laughing at this old man-indeed we did not.
What would my father and mother say if they heard me tell this!

Our minister would sometimes exchange with the neighboring pastors, such noted divines as Rev. Mr. Gay of Scotland, Mr. Sanford of Raynham, Mr. Eastman of Berkley, Mr. Duncan of Assonet, and good old Dr. Putnam of Middleboro, who was noted for his long prayers. If the congregation was standing when he closed his eyes in prayer he usually found them sitting when he had finished.

The hour at noon, between the sermons, was devoted to the Sunday School. As soon as the morning service was over, the children would hurry out of their seats for a little recreation before they were called back. Not many minutes would elapse, however, before the dapper little superintendent would go to the front of the pulpit and say, "Sabbath School scholars will please take their places." It was very unusual to see a grown person reciting the Sunday School lesson. The older women would get together and talk over the news of the week. The men would assemble in the horse sheds and talk over their planting, haying, or harvesting, and the Sunday before the March Town Meeting, politics would hold sway. When Sabbath School was over, the children would rush out for a few minutes to eat their light luncheon, a cracker or two, which they carried in their pockets or in little work-bags, and perhaps would go to the parson's house for a refreshing drink of water from the northeast corner of the well. The little girls would often go back to meeting with a few wild flowers, but they would soon tire of holding these in their hands and would throw them into the wooden box of .sand or sawdust which stood in the corner of the pew near the entrance.

The singers sat in the gallery at the back of the auditorium and were partly hidden from view by short red curtains, which were sewed to rings and drawn alone)" on a wire. The hymn or psalm from the old church Psalmody was read by the parson. It might be,

"Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound,
Mine ears attend the cry!
Ye living men, come view the ground
Where you must shortly lie.
Princes, this clay must be your bed,
In spite of all your towers.
The tall, the wise, the reverend head
Must lie as low as ours."
Or perhaps,
"Before Jehovah's awful throne
Ye nations bow with sacred joy,
Know that the Lord is God alone,
He can create and He destroy."

A big bass viol and two violins furnished instrumental music. After the strings and screws were twisted and squeaked to the right pitch, the congregation arose and faced the choir, and the singing commenced. Nearly all who could sing, even a little, sat in the singers' seats.

There were no calendars passed to the people as they entered the church, no army of young men passed plates or long-handled boxes for contributions every Sunday. Occasionally a collection would be taken for some charity. The minister would state the case or the object and would say, "A collection will now be taken. The deacons will please pass their hats. Will Brother Leach pass the hat in the gallery?" I well remember the thud of the big copper cent as it went down into the depths of the deacon's tall hat, which was always the same style, and probably the same hat.

The first pews at each side of the pulpit were called the "free pews". They were seldom occupied, since nearly all had their own seats. In one of the wing pews at the right sat the senior deacon and his estimable wife wearing her black velvet bonnet in winter and one of steel-colored drawn silk, with white strings without spot or blemish, in the summer. Another respected deacon sat about midway of the church on the left-hand side. He and his good wife and their family of little boys, were seldom absent from the church services, although they lived three miles and a half away. The deacon always sat at the head of the pew, by the door, except when the boys got to playing. Then he would move up and very quietly put the roguish boy at the pew door, and order would reign again. I well remember, after the deacon's boys were quite well grown, being at a meeting of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, when one of the old ladies present said to the deacon's wife, "I hear one of your boys is going to college." She answered, "Yes, he is going to Harvard." "To Harvard!" the other exclaimed, "Why, I always thought that was a Unitarian school." The deacon's wife said, "Yes, it is, and Father strongly objected on that account, but he finally reluctantly consented, and George is going to Harvard." It nearly took the old lady's breath away to think that the son of an orthodox deacon should be fitting for Harvard College.

At the left of the pulpit I can see the dignified president of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, with her large feather fan with ivory handles, which she waved back and forth so majestically and moderately as hardly to produce a breath of ail. I remember many other good men and women, whom I like to think of, who were seldom absent from Church on the Sabbath and who have long since gone to their reward. If they should come back to the little white meeting-house, see the changes here, and see the automobiles and electric cars pass the door, I am sure they would think the millennium was at hand.

Seaver, Jane Montgomery.  Precinct Church in 1850.  Lakeville, MA: Lakeville & Taunton Precinct, n. d.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Precinct Church Members, 1725-1880

"Holy Bible", photograph by Leo Reynolds, July 26, 2009,
republished under a Creative Commons license.

The following is a catalogue of members of the Middleborough and Taunton (later Lakeville and Taunton) Precinct from its organization in 1725 through 1880.

Benjamin Ruggles, ordained 1725, resigned 1753
Caleb Turner, ordained 1761, died
Thomas Crafts, installed 1801, died 1819
John Shaw, installed 1819, resigned 1834
Homer Barrows, ordained 1836, resigned 1842
Jesse K. Bragg, ordained 1842, resigned 1851
Calvin Chapman, installed 1851, dismissed 1857
Augustine Root, ordained 1858, dismissed 1860
George G. Perkins, com. stated supply 1861, closed 1863
James Ward, com. stated supply 1863, closed 1868
Homer Barrows, com. stated supply 1869, closed 1872
Charles W. Wood, com. stated supply 1873, closed 1877
I. C. Thacher, com. lb’s 1877, insl’d pst’r 1879, dismissed 1880

Edward Richmond, appointed 1725
John Hackett, appointed 1725
Job Macomber, appointed 1762
Seth Richmond, appointed 1766
Joseph Richmond, appointed 1766
George Leonard, appointed 1792
Benjamin Dean, appointed 1792
George Staples, appointed 1799
Samuel Staples, appointed 1803
John Morton, appointed 1804
Edward Paull, appointed 1812
Jeremiah Paull
Joseph Richmond, appointed 1812
Caleb Bassett, appointed 1821
Benjamin Richmond, appointed 1821
Ephraim Leach, appointed 1828
Zatter Pickens, appointed 1828
Andrew Haskins, appointed 1838
Frederick A. Paull, appointed 1858
Myrick Haskins, appointed 1858
James W. Paull, appointed 1879


John Thrasher
James Reed
Samuel Hoar
William Haskins
James Sproat
Edward Richmond
Ebenezer Richmond
Richard Waste
Thomas Pickens
John Hackett
Electious Reynolds
William Strobridge

The above are known to have joined the organization of the church. Doubtless others also joined. From this time for 33 years no records are extant; and hence, who united with the church is unknown.

Elizabeth Richmond
Susanna Macomber
Hannah Sproat

Patience Jones

Charity Staples

Hannah Staples
Zebulon Leonard
Samuel Staples
Hannah Richmond

Johanna Caswell
Isaac Wood
Phebe Shaw

Demaras King
Haden French

Mrs. Noah Staples

Sarah Barrows

George Leonard
Mrs. William Caswell
Ruth Paul
Benjamin Dean
Mrs. Isaac Dean

Mrs. George Williams
Bathsheba King

Charity Leonard
Jenny Macomber

Lydia Barrows
Mary Sampson
Joseph Richmond, Jr.
Keziah Cornish

Samuel Staples
Hannah Staples

The following marks occurring hereafter, will denote, * deceased; dis. dismissed; ex. [excommunicated] from whom the church has withdrawn watch and care.

Freelove Paull
Seth Paull
Lois Reed
Joseph Richmond
*Edward Paull
*Ruth Paull
Mrs. Solomon Paddelford
William Staples
Solomon Paddelford
Jeremiah Paull
Jane Paull
Noah Staples
George Leonard
Phebe Elmes
Darius Caswell
Apollos Paddelford

John Morton
Elizabeth D. Dennis
Clarissa Hervey
Chloe Thrasher
Wealthy Barney
Isaac Thompson
Daniel Macomber
Betheny Hervey
Anna Williams
Elizabeth Williams
Mercy Richmond
Achsah Dean

Joshua Dean
Gideon Leonard
Abigail Leonard
Hannah Leonard

Abiel Terry
Hannah Staples

Abia Haskell

Benjamin Richmond
*Abigail Richmond
Deborah Sampson
Elijah Elmes
Ruth Andros

*Deborah Sherman

Sally Leonard

Seth Richmond, Jr.
Deborah Richmond
Justin Reding
Sarah Richmond

Stephen King
Mercy Davis

*Bethiah Bassett
*Lydia Clark ex.

*Jacob Staples
*Lydia Staples

*Alfear Leonard

Elizabeth Williams
*Hannah King

Polly Padelford
Elizabeth Whitmore, dis.
*Mary Bassett
Eunice Bassett
*Sophronia Bassett
Caleb Bassett, Jr.

*Zatter Pickens
*Ephraim Leach
Keith Bassett, dis.
Samuel Cain
*Samuel Cain, Jr.
*Paul Staples
Apollos Haskins
Cyrus Elmes
Luther C. Macomber
*Frederic A. Paull
*Josiah Macomber
*Joshua Haskins
*Andrew Haskins
Hnery Thrasher, ex.
Otis L. Tinkham
*Eleazer Richmond
William Southworth, ex.
Joshua Padelford, Jr.
*Enoch Southworth
*Joseph J. C. Leonard
James Padelford, dis,
Sarah Coombs
*Susanna Leach
*Sarah M. Bassett
Lucy Cain
Serena Cain
*Hannah Staples
Amelia K. Haskins
*Huldah A. Washburn
Amelia Cain
Almira S. Paull, dis.
*Prudence Richmond
Hannah Shaw
*Reliance Richmond
Sarah S. Richmond
*Bathsheba R. Miller
*Rebecca S. Haskins
*Lydia B. Haskins
*Tryphena Padelford
Deborah Richmond
Lucy L. Washburn
Almira Staples
*Sarah Atwood
*Rhoda Tinkham
*Lois T. Clark
*Sally R. Thompson
*Miriam Padelford
*Zeruah Richmond
Lucy Tinkham
Elizabeth Richmond

Rhoda Andros
Lydia Staples
*Elisha Tinkham, Jr.
Mehitable Shaw, dis.
Hannah F. Washburn

*Susanna Strobridge

*Patience Jones
*Mary Dean
*Mary Dean 2d.
*Cyrus Nelson

*Cromwell Washburn
Leonard Washburn
Ruel Washburn, dis.
Joseph Miller, dis.
*Abigail Padelford
Asenath Dean, dis.
*Mary Richmond
*Mary Pratt
Chloe Richmond
Mary Southworth
Cordelia Macomber, dis.
Bethiah Staples

Caleb Proctor, dis.
*Elizabeth Washburn
Myra Proctor, dis.

Henry D. Bassett, dis.
Mary A. Bassett, dis.

Benjamin P. Pratt, dis.
*Sally Pratt

*Oliver C. Washburn
Thomas Staples (suspended)
*George Staples
*Elias Staples
Esther B. Pratt, dis.
Fanny M. Pratt, dis.
Eunice Staples
Eliza Ann Talbot
Elizabeth Talbot
*Phebe G. Staples
Mahala Caswell
Samuel R. Cain
Keziah P. Dean, dis.
Ruth C. Dean, dis.
Louisa Staples, dis.
Elizabeth Elmes, dis.
Sylvia Hill, dis.
*Olive K. Bassett
Matilda Sampson
Maria Bassett, dis.

Abby D. Sampson
Eliza Sampson

Abby J. Clapp, dis.
Keziah Myrick
*Obed Myrick
Eli Williams
Cephas Haskins
Bartlett Haskins
Jonathan Richmond
Cyrus Leonard
Elisha Cain
*Rebecca Richmond
Hannah W. Richmond
Abigail P. Richmond
Hannah Richmond
*Julia Haskins
Susan Miller
Harriette Elmes
Hannah R. Padelford
Mary H. Southworth
Rebecca S. Southworth
*Sally Pratt

Cyrus O. Elmes, ex.
Benjamin Richmond
Isaac Benson
Zatter Pickens, Jr.
Laban Burr
Polly Macomber
*Eveline H. Southworth
Sophia Reed
Lucinda Pickens
Amelia Benson
*Rebecca Richmond

*Thomas Strobridge
Harriett Strobridge
Silence Padelford
Julia Perkins
Clara Buttrick
Maria B. Bragg

Sarah Staples

Elizabeth Staples, dis.

*Susan Burr
Henry A. Dean

Eliza S. Proctor, dis.

*William Paull
Enoch Haskins
Franklin Haskins
*Levi Reed, Jr.
Caleb Turner, Jr.
Stetson Caswell
Elias Thrasher
George Thrasher
John Dean
*Abraham Caswell
*Silas Pickens
Samuel Miller
*Joshua Padelford
William Dean, dis.
*Allan Reed
Abigail Macomber
Mrs. Abraham Caswell
Wealthy Paull
*Phebe Haskins
Eliza Haskins
Rhoda Miller
Mary T. Pease
Ann Elizabeth Pease
*Phebe Cain
Bathsheba M. Cain
Chloe Caswell
*Sally Pickens
Hope Pickens
Samantha Paull
Silence Elmes
Betsey Kingsley
Celia Caswell
*Anna M. Dean
*Betsey M. Haskins
Sarah C. Coombs
Sarah Kingman
Harriet Haskins
Puelia Dean
Ann Eliza Padelford
Jerusha Padelford
Ellen Macomber
Elizabeth Richmond

Rev. C. Chapman
Lucy Chapman

James A. Dean

Alvira Jane Richmond, dis.
Myra Frances Hall
Mary Elizabeth Washburn

Myrick Haskins
Nancy Haskins

Almira A. Turner
Helen M. Tinkham
*George Holloway
Martha Holloway
George B. Staples
Catherine Staples
Frederick A. Nants
*Elizabeth H. Nants
Anna M. Nants, dis.
Roger Paull
Caroline F. Paull
Mary R. Caswell
Celia R. Leach
Hannah B. Tinkham
*Susan Frances Nelson

Mary R. Caswell
Celia R. Leach
Hannah B. Tinkham, dis.
*Susan F. Nelson
Henry L. Williams
Horatio N. Sampson

*Myra S. Pickens
Mary Jane Ashley

James M. Sampson
Sarah B. Sampson
John Hiram Nelson
Mary D. Nelson
Isaac W. Leach
Hiram Elms
*Royal Elms
Belony C. Caswell
Hannah T. Montgomery
Ellen K. Willis, dis.
Harriett N. Griffith
Maria Richmond

*Sally Elms
Drusilla Dean

Charles F. Paull
James W. Paull
Thomas P. Paull

Lucy M. Washburn, dis.
Sarah M. Caswell

Martin S. Caswell
Edwin O. Dunham
Sarah L. Dunham
*Susan M. Ashley
Sarah Ellen Aldrich
*Mary Foster
Emory B, Elms, dis.

*Job Parris

Elisha H. Tinkham
Francis M. Tinkham
Mary J. Tinkham
Orceno Tinkham, dis.
Celia C. Tinkham
Mary A. Montgomery
Roger Paull, dis.
Amelia A. Paull, dis.

Charles McKendrick
Susan McKendrick
Virgil Ludden
*Charity Strobridge
Carrie I. Pickens

*Rev. I. C. Thacher
Lydia W. Thacher, dis.
Anna R. Thacher, dis.
Hattie S. Thacher, dis.
*Mary J. Caswell
Mary Caswell
Chester Nelson
Fannie Nelson
Charles A. Porter
Brainerd Caswell
Sarah W. Caswell
Lottie Caswell
Benjamin W. Caswell
Eli W. Williams
Emeline F. Williams
Lizzie M. Williams
William H. H. Wade
Margaret W. Lovell
Lizzie Lovell
William A. Monroe
Abbie Pickens
Josephine B. Paull, dis.
Lavina H. Monroe
Nellie C. Strobridge
Alice T. Carver
Olive D. Strobridge
Jennie Pierce
Almira F. Ashley
Henry Pickens
Sophia Pickens

Lizzie Lovell

Henry Pickens
Sophia Pickens

Total number of living members, 100. Of these, 45 joined previous to 1850.
All of the above names are starred when the records contain any notice of death.

Historical Sketch, Form of Admission, Covenant, Confession of Faith, Standing Rules and Members of the Congregational Church, of Middleborough and Taunton Precinct, Mass., Organized October 12, 1725. Taunton: The Republican Steam Printing Works [printer], 1881.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Historical Sketch of the Precinct Church, 1881

The following is an historical sketch of the Precinct Church, formally known as the Middleborough and Taunton (later Lakeville and Taunton) Precinct Church, published in 1881.  Organized in 1725, the Precinct Church remained an important organization in the Precinct neighborhood of Lakeville and Taunton for many years, providing cohesiveness and identity to the area surrounding Precinct, South Precinct, Myricks, Turner, and Water Streets, and Rhode Island Road.  Although in 1970 the church building was moved further east to the intersection of Precinct and Bedford Streets in Lakeville, the organization remains active as the Lakeville United Church of Christ.

Historical Sketch, Form of Admission,
Covenant, Confession of Faith,
Standing Rules, and Members, of the
Congregational Church, in Middleborough
and Taunton Precinct, Mass., Organized
October 12, 1725.  Taunton: The
Republican Steam Printing Rooms
[printers], 1881.  Cover.
The religious society at first assuming, and still bearing the name of Middleboro' and Taunton Precinct, was incorporated June 17, 1719. Owing to difficulties incident to the starting of an enterprise of the kind in newly settled districts, the stated ministrations of the gospel were not undertaken till July, 1723. The next year, the first meeting-house was erected at a short distance eastward of the site occupied by the present house. The year following, (October 6, 1725), a church was gathered, partly from the First church in Middleboro', and partly from other sources, The number of females at first joining in the organization is unknown. The number of males, so far as can be ascertained, was 12, viz.-John Thrasher, Ebenezer Richmond, James Reed, Richard Waste, Samuel Hoar, Thomas Pickens, William Haskins, John Hackett, James Sproat, Electious Reynolds, Edward Richmond, William Strobridge.

The same year (1725) , November 17, Rev. Benjamin Ruggles was ordained as first pastor of' the church; and continued to labor with much acceptance and usefulness till his dismission, December, 1753, a period of 28 years. Of the particular history of this period, it is now impossible to speak, as the entire records of the church have long been supposed to be lost. Mr. Ruggles' name, however, appears in the history of those times as a friend of revivals; and as the town of Middleboro' was favored during his ministry with a remarkable revival of religion of wide and lasting influence, it is probable the church had been particularly increased and strengthened during that period.

From this time the church remained destitute of a pastor, for nearly eight years; but was supplied for the most part by seven different ministers. A second meeting-house was erected, (1759), but there seems to have been a period of spiritual declension.

April 16, 1761, Rev. Caleb Turner was ordained the second pastor; and after a ministry of forty years was dismissed, 1801, at an advanced age. The records at the commencement of his ministry, became more distinct and full; from which it appears, that during his pastorate, he admitted twenty-four persons to the church, on profession; solemnized three hundred and one marriages; administered one hundred and eighty baptisms; attended about three hundred funerals; and at length, full of years, died, and was buried with his people.

The same year, 1801, Nov. 18, Rev. Thomas Crafts was installed third pastor, and after a successful ministry of eighteen years, died at the age of sixty-one. He admitted to the church fifty-five persons on profession, and seven by letter; administered eighty-seven baptisms, and solemnized sixty-one marriages. The number of church members at the commencement of his ministry, was small, probably less than a dozen; but at the close, so highly were his labors blessed, the number of resident members was forty.
July 21, 1819. Rev. John Shaw was installed fourth pastor; and after a ministry of fifteen years, during which the church was much enlarged, he was dismissed in 1834, having admitted to the church sixty-five persons by profession, and eight by letter; administered sixty-eight baptisms; solemnized one hundred and thirty-three marriages; and leaving the church with seventy-four resident members.

The church was again left without a pastor for two years, but meanwhile erected a third and improved house of worship.

In 1836, Rev. Homer Barrows was ordained fifth pastor; and dismissed June 1, 1842, having admitted to the church by profession thirty-seven persons, and five by letter; administered thirty-four baptisms, and solemnized twenty-nine marriages.

October 19, 1842. Rev. J. K. Bragg was ordained the sixth pastor, and dismissed April 21, 1851,-dismission to take effect the 30th of June ensuing; having admitted to the church sixty-nine by profession, and sixteen by letter; administered sixty-seven baptisms; attended one hundred funerals, and solemnized sixty-two marriages.

The progress of the church may be indicated at a glance, thus:-Number of members at Mr. Ruggles' settlement, probably twenty; at his dismission, forty. At the close of Mr. Turner's ministry, twelve. At the close of Mr. Crafts', forty. At Mr. Shaw's dismission, seventy-four. At Mr. Barrows’ dismission, one hundred. At Mr. Bragg's dismission, one hundred and fifty.

Oct. 22, 1851. Rev. Calvin Chapman was installed, being the seventh pastor. He supplied the pulpit for the most part from the first Sabbath of July previous. Mr. Chapman was dismissed Oct. 30. 1857, after a ministry of six years, having admitted to the church two by letter and three by profession.

May 20, 1858. Rev. Augustine Root was ordained and installed, being the eight pastor. Mr. Root was 'dismissed May 13, 1860, after a ministry of two years, having admitted to the church fifteen by profession.

From May, 1860, to May, 1861, different ministers officiated.

May 4, 1861. Rev. George G. Perkins commenced his labors as stated supply, having supplied the pulpit three or four months previously. Mr. Perkins closed his labors May 3,1863, after a ministry of two years, having admitted to the church twelve by profession and two by letter.
From this date the pulpit was supplied by different ministers engaged by a committee chosen for that purpose.

June 7, 1863. Rev. James Ward commenced his labors with this church as stated supply, and continued with it until Dec. 6, 1868, after a ministry of five' years and six months, having admitted to the church two on profession. The society remained without a regular supply until Oct. 31, 1869.

Rev. Homer Barrows, who had formerly been settled over this church and society, then commenced his labors with the church and remained until April 21, 1872, having admitted to the church eight on profession. From this date the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Messrs. Ward, Pratt, Drake, Barrows, Haley, Fales, Lord and Forbes.

April 20, 1873, Rev. Charles W. Wood commenced his labors as stated supply and closed them Sept. 30, 1877, after a ministry of four years and five months; having admitted to the church eleven on profession and two by letter.

Oct. 7, 1877, Rev. I. C. Thacher commenced his labors with this church as stated supply and after supplying one' year and three months was installed Jan. 15. 1879, being the ninth pastor. His health failing he was obliged to tender his resignation, to take effect the last Sabbath in Jan., 1880, having admitted to the church twenty-four on profession and seven by letter. Mr. Thacher with his family removed to Peabody, where he died March 15, 1880, sixty-four years and eight months old. His last sermon was preached Jan. 11, 1880, from Isa. 43:10 - "Ye are my witnesses."

Historical Sketch, Form of Admission, Covenant, Confession of Faith, Standing Rules and Members of the Congregational Church, of Middleborough and Taunton Precinct, Mass., Organized October 12, 1725.  Taunton: The Republican Steam Printing Works [printer], 1881.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

William S. Eddy Wants Steel Shovel Plate, 1851

Letter, William S. Eddy to Lazell,
Perkins & Co., February 22, 1851
Among the most important manufactures in Middleborough during the second quarter of the nineteenth century were shovels which were produced by a number of local makers including William Shaw Eddy (1789-1875) who operated a shovel works at East Middleborough during the 1840s and 1850s.

Eddy was the son of Captain Joshua Eddy who had established a small ironworks along Whetstone Brook in a portion of Eddyville which subsequently became known as “the Furnace” and still later as Waterville. The works which were situated on the east side of the brook at Plymouth Street at Savery's Pond were later operated by Eddy’s sons, William S. Eddy and Nathaniel. “The hollow-ware, or iron utensils, pots, kettles, and andirons [produced by the Eddys], were not only sold here, but were shipped in large quantities to supply the market in other sections of the country.” According to Thomas Weston, about 1840 the manufacture of shovels replaced the production of iron ware at the Eddy works which were managed exclusively by William S. Eddy and his son William C. Eddy following the retirement of Nathaniel.

By the early 1850s, William S. Eddy was purchasing iron shovel plate from Lazell, Perkins & Company of Bridgewater, in order to produce his shovels. Also known as the Bridgewater Iron Works, Lazell, Perkins & Company dated back to the 1690s and was a producer of nails as well as iron shovel plates, boiler plate, wagon wheel and barrel hoops, anchors, machinery and other items, and it was one of the nation’s largest iron producers.

Though Eddy continued to produce iron shovels through at least the late 1850s, his customers more and more demanded shovels with steel blades and he seems to have been challenged to meet their demands. A letter Eddy wrote to Lazell, Perkins & Company dated at East Middleborough on February 22, 1851, documents Eddy’s efforts to remain competitive and his consequent desire for steel rather than iron shovel plate.

After placing an order with the Bridgewater firm for number 16 and 17 gauge shovel plates, Eddy asks that the company consider producing shovel plates of iron and steel in order that he might be able to sell “steel” shovels. Eddy wrote:

P. S. wish you would have made for me some Shovel Plates, Iron and Steel. Can not you have some scrap steel put in them so that you can say that there is steel in the Plates. My customers want for me to make a cheap shovel for them from Iron & Steel. I know of no other way but to let them have a cheap article until they can learn that a good shovel is the cheapest.

Whether the Bridgewater company responded to Eddy’s request is not known. Eddy however appears to have lost ground to manufacturers of steel shovels, though he was noted as manufacturing as late as 1858. It is likely he wound up operations a short time thereafter as did many small shovel manufacturers who were unable to survive in a market increasingly dominated by the Ames operation at North Easton and other manufacturers of steel shovels.

Letter, William S. Eddy to Lazell, Perkins &
Co., February 22, 1851
After placing an order for iron shovel plates, the author
requests that Lazell, Perkins & Company consider
producing iron and steel shovel plate in order that "cheap"
steel shovels might be produced.
Eddy, William S.  Letter to Lazell, Perkins & Co., dated East Middleborough, February 22, 1851, author's collection.
Middleboro Gazette, March 13, 1857:2, and July 17, 1858:2.
Weston, Thomas.  History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906.

Friday, January 21, 2011

City of Taunton Pumping Station, 1894

City of Taunton Pumping Station, Lakeville, MA,
photograph by George D. Dorr, c. 1902

The Lakeville Town Offices occupy what was formerly the City of Taunton’s pumping station at Lake Assawompsett.

It was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that Taunton began investigating proposals for a municipal waterworks system, spurred on by the need for an adequate water supply for the city’s fire department. The Taunton Daily Gazette of January 11, 1875, urged the adoption of such a system and suggested the ponds at Middleborough and Lakeville as a possible source. These proposals received further impetus following the Taunton Board of Health’s 1875 recognition of the importance of periodic drain flushing amidst mounting complaints about the filthy condition of Taunton’s streets. By March 16, 1875, according to the Daily Gazette, “the city is thoroughly waked up on the water supply question, and everywhere it is the topic of conversation.”

Ultimately, the Massachusetts legislature approved a special act authorizing the City of Taunton to utilize Lake Assawompsett as a municipal water supply source. Water drawn from Lake Assawompsett was pumped to nearby Elder’s Pond, then on to Taunton. The large-scale pumping machinery necessary to perform this task was fueled by coal and housed in a decorative Victorian-style brick and granite structure constructed on the southern shore of Lake Assawompsett in Lakeville. Following the installation of smaller electric pumps in 1952, the City of Taunton’s pumping station was no longer needed and it was acquired at that time by the Town of Lakeville for use as municipal offices.

Lakeville Town Offices, Lakeville, MA,
details, photographs by Mike Maddigan,
May 27, 2009

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Church History Blog

For those readers who enjoyed yesterday's post and are looking to learn more about the historic Church of the Green, church historian Jim MacDonald has created his own blog, History of the First Church of Middleborough

Jim writes that the intent of his new blog is to share the First Church's "extensive history in an effort to provide a reference for those researching, and interested in, the historical significance of this old New England church and the surrounding community of Middleboro.  In time, this site will feature posts of much interesting and useful historical facts, information, pictures and documents related to the church and its history."

Organized in 1694-95, the First Church of Middleborough was Middleborough's earliest church and it not surprisingly has a rich and fascinating past.  This history promises to be well documented and made much more accessible to the modern reader and researcher through this new blog.  (Look for a direct link to History of the First Church of Middleborough in the right sidebar over the next couple of days).

Recollecting Nemasket welcomes this addition to the local history "blogsphere" and wishes it a long and successful history.  Knowing more about our past only further enriches our present.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Church of the Green, 1828

First Church of Middleborough, Plympton Street, Middleborough, MA,
photograph, late 19th century
The view depicts the First Church of Middleborough (1828), better
known as the Church of the Green, and the small vestry building (1829)
behind it.  In the right background are the carriage sheds which once
served church-goers.  The church was constructed on what was known
as the Upper Green at Middleborough.
Daniel Webster once described it as one of the finest churches he had ever seen. The 1828 First Congregational Church of Middleborough, better known as the Church of the Green, has since its construction become a local architectural icon, symbolic of the community’s religious heritage and life, and one much remarked upon for its beauty and setting.

Discussion concerning a new church to replace the meetinghouse structure built in 1745, arose in 1827 if not earlier. The deteriorating condition of the 1745 meetinghouse led the First Precinct at its meeting of April 30, 1827, to consider whether to repair the building “so as to make it … more suitable for a place of public worship” or whether to build a completely new church. The meeting opted for the latter course of an entirely new church, voting “that it is the sense of the Precinct that they ought to have a New Meeting House”. A committee of nine consisting of George Eddy, William Bourne, James Sproat, Abiel Washburn, Cephas Thompson, Levi Tinkham, Thomas Sturtevant and Edward Sparrow was named to draft plans and report on the expense of the project.

The committee reported back on October 11, 1827, estimating the cost of a replacement church at not more than $7,000 and “probably not more than six thousand five hundred dollars”. Two plans were suggested: one with a single gallery at the front of the church for singers and the second with the gallery for singers as well as narrow side galleries. The majority of committee members was in favor of the first plan.

The committee had investigated a number of recently built churches including those at Randolph and North Bridgewater [Brockton] from which preliminary plans were drawn, though with some alterations. “The variation[s] contemplated by the committee are in the width [and] length of the house [and] the length of the pews [and] also the singing galleries to be in front of the pulpit [at the rear of the church] rather than behind it. The committee think the house should be not less than sixty feet in width [and] not less than seventy feet in length, the [box] pews to be about nine feet in length [and] three in breadth.”

Despite the committee’s recommendation that side galleries be omitted, the precinct adopted the opposite course. “The parish voted that “the parish will build a new meeting house on the plan of the above report with Galleries for singers [and] narrow side galleries.”

A committee of eleven was named to put the plan into effect and was comprised of James Sproat, Joshua Eddy Jr., Philander Washburn, Nelson Wood, Samuel Thompson, Gamaliel Rounseville, Edward Sparrow, Horace Tinkham, William Bourne, Cephas Thompson and Thomas Weston. The parish also voted that the chairman of this committee be authorized to act as the contracting agent.

Whether there were second thoughts about constructing a new meetinghouse, or whether the precinct was simply considering the fate of its 1745 predecessor, on December 24, 1827, the precinct agreed by a vote of 62 to 30 not to repair the old meetinghouse.

While preliminary work was being done on the design of the new church, the issue of a suitable site for it was also under consideration. The precinct, in December, 1827, authorized the building committee to act as a siting committee to select a suitable location for the proposed new meetinghouse, and four additional members were added for this purpose: Dr. Thomas Sturtevant, William S. Eddy, Silas Thomas and Eleazer Thomas.

On April 25, 1828, the precinct met once more to finalize plans for its new meetinghouse. The building committee reported that it had met during the winter of 1827-28 and had “agreed that it was expedient to take measures for the building of said Meeting house the present season, so as to have it fully completed before the first frost should be unfavorable to the performance of the mason work; [and] for that purpose advised their chairman to contract for such materials for the building as should be necessary in order to commence and prosecute the work vigorously by the first of May [1828]”

Having disposed of the time frame for construction, the committee next considered the church’s design. As noted previously, the committee had viewed a number of local churches built during the few years preceding and also “consulted the best architects in the Metropolis” (presumably Boston). The plan proposed by the committee called for a church measuring 66 by 62 feet. While the general details were indicated, specifics were not. “…Their extent [and] order is to be under the special direction of the chairman [James Sproat and] Mr. Cephas Thompson, two of [the] committee whose architectural skill and taste are such as most fully entitles them to the confidence of the precinct.” Sproat was noteworthy as a local architect of some stature, though little is known of his work today. Thompson, however, was more prominent, recognized nationally as a skilled portraitist whose artistic sensibility could be relied upon in the design and decoration of the church.

Aware of the precinct’s earlier vote to include side galleries in the church, the committee once more recommended these features be eliminated following examination of recently-built churches as well as consultations with ecclesiastical architects. While the committee noted that “the general reason of this advice, the committee hope their chairman, will explain to the precinct to their full satisfaction.” The reasons for its opposition were not left on record and we may only speculate regarding the committee’s reasons, though by this time galleries were becoming a thing of the past. The parish heeded the call of the committee and accordingly voted to reconsider the matter of galleries. (They were never built).

Regarding the location, the building committee had entered into negotiations in late 1827 and early 1828 with Lothrop Perkins, Esq., to purchase a 4-acre lot which stood on the so-called Upper Green on Plympton Street, adjoining the lot whereon stood the 1745 meetinghouse. At the time, a portion of the parcel was being leased by Perkins to others for the location of carriage sheds which undoubtedly served the nearby meetinghouse. The committee reported at the time “that after meeting and fully advising [and] considering the subject, it is their decided opinion that the new meeting house should be built on the land now owned by Mr. Lothrop Perkins, … four rods southwesterly of the place where the old meeting house now stands, the exact spot to be found by the same committee, thereafter” or by others. The lot recommended contained four acres, and the committee advised that it be purchased in its entirety “under the belief that the Precinct will need the whole for their full accommodation; [and] also believing that the vacant land Easterly of the old meeting house will soon be appropriated by the Precinct for a burial ground [and] if not the proprietors would purchase the same of the precinct at a price nearly equal to the sum to be paid by Mr. Perkins”. The committee was “confirmed in the expediency of the site recommended because the Green in front would greatly promote the requisite accommodations [and] because it is understood that a new highway is contemplated in the rear, near the northwesterly line of said Perkins lot.” The Perkins lot was duly acquired for $150 on May 6, 1828, though provision had to be made for those parties that had previously leased the ground for the private carriage sheds.

It was at this meeting in April, 1828, that the matter of a vestry in the building was first raised. As the precinct would later find, the inclusion of a vestry would have provided a smaller meeting space for residents and church members which could have been heated much more economically and reserved the church proper strictly for religious use. However, after careful consideration, the precinct voted 31 to 17 against including a vestry in the church design.

First Church of Middleborough, Plympton
Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, late
19th century
Not all were enamored of the church design.  A
correspondent writing for Harper's Weekly
Magazine in November, 1885, was clearly
unimpressed.  "We drove around to he old
church which stands upon a green, and is
somewhat heavier in form than many buildings
of its time.  It used to be noted for its many
windows and their leaded panes, but these have
long since given place to more modern glass.
Some of them have been preserved by lovers of
antiquity in the neighborhood, and one was
shown to us that morning."
Since the start of the new meetinghouse, one important consideration concerned compensation for the pew holders in the old meetinghouse. At the time, pews were held as personal property purchased at auction with title deeds documenting ownership. If the old meetinghouse was to be abandoned, pew holders would need to be monetarily compensated for the loss of their pew. The initial committee that was named to consider the design and expense of a new meetinghouse was also charged with addressing this matter and it reported in October, 1827, that $2,500 was adequate compensation to pew holders. Two months later, on December 24, 1827, the precinct voted that $1,000 was sufficient.

To finance the cost of construction, the precinct voted to borrow money on credit. Ultimately, however, the construction of the new church was financed by the sale of the new pews there.

A year following, Charles Godfrey of Taunton, Nathan Kingman of North Bridgewater and Ezra Fobes of Bridgewater were named an impartial committee for the “appraisement” of the pews in both the old and new meetinghouses and the distribution of the $1,000 allotted to the holders of the old pews. Though the precinct had previously voted to finance the cost of construction of the new church through borrowing money on credit, ultimately the church was to be built with the monies received from the sale of the pews in the new church (minus the compensation to holders of pews in the old meetinghouse), The purpose, therefore, of assessing the pews in the new meetinghouse was so that a figure could be set which would both cover the expense of building the new meetinghouse as well as providing the $1,000 compensation to the old pew holders. The parish, however, voted that the $1000 offered for the old pews not be added to the cost of the new church, a step which was motivated strictly by financial self interest as including it would raise the final price of pews in the new church.

In December, 1828, the precinct voted to sell the new pews at auction “as soon as may be after the dedication of the meeting house”. Deeds of sale were to be provided. “In order that every person may have a fair opportunity to bid for first choice understandingly”, the treasurer was directed to have a plan drawn up showing the numbered pews and their appraised value. Two hundred copies of the plan were to be printed and distributed “that one copy may be left with every householder.”

Typically, the precinct had reserved a number of pews to itself, but in order to maximize the amount which would be realized from the sale of the pews, the precinct restricted itself to reserving only ten, and named Zachariah Eddy Esq., Thomas Weston Esq., Seth Miller Esq., Captain Samuel Thompson and Eleazer Thomas a committee to designate those pews. Holders of pews in the old meetinghouse successfully bidding on new pews were permitted to deduct the appraised value of the old from the expense of the new.

To outfit the church, Philander Washburn and Horatio G. Wood were authorized to “procure & furnish the Precinct at first cost with such number as may be wished of Watts Psalms & Hymns entire & Worcester Select Hymns bound with same” for use in the singers’ seats. Three dozen copies of these hymnals were purchased and in order to prevent their disappearance, the precinct ordered that they be clearly marked: “To be used in the seats and not to be taken out.” In case this caution failed to deter any parishioner intent upon lifting a hymnal for their own use, the precinct further voted on January 7, 1829, that the “Leader of the singers be a committee to see that all proper care is taken of the books furnished the singers seats” and that the committee purchasing these books “have them lettered ‘Singers Seats.’”

Little is left on record concerning either the construction of the church or the pew auction, though its dedication was held on the first Tuesday of January, 1829, with appropriate ceremonies planned by Gamaliel Rounseville, William Bourne, Joshua Eddy Jr., Thomas Weston and Captain Samuel Thompson. Reverend Dr. Beecher, father of Henry Ward Beecher who would later attain greater prominence, gave the dedicatory sermon which was later published in pamphlet form.

Following the completion of the church, the ground surrounding the structure was graded about May or June, 1829, the precinct soliciting volunteers for the purpose. A precautionary measure was taken when the parish voted to insure the new meetinghouse with the Bristol County Mutual Fire Insurance Co. against loss or damage by fire. The precinct further voted that in the event of a loss of the church by fire, the compensation received from the insurance company be used towards the construction of a new church “and that all Persons owning Pews in this Meeting House have pews alike situated in the Meeting House when rebuilt.” Fortunately, the church never needed to resort to this action , though fires during the mid-twentieth century at the Middleborough town dump (which occupied the site of the Middleborough Council on Aging on Plymouth Street) were potentially threatening.

The fate of the 1745 meeting house was somewhat ironic and the failure to incorporate a vestry into the design of the 1828meetinghouse was responsible for a portion of its predecessor being preserved. The precinct ultimately sold the 1745 meetinghouse at public auction, but not before salvaging the “porch” and several windows for use in a new vestry building which was raised in 1829 behind the church, construction of which also utilized material left over from the building of the church.

Since its completion and dedication in 1829, the Church of the Green has become one of Middleborough’s most historic and iconic architectural gems, recognizable to all with even but a fleeting acquaintance with Middleborough.

“Records of the 1st Precinct in Middleborough from 1794 to 1836”, Collection of the Middleborough Public Library
Middleborough Antiquarian, “Our Architectural Heritage”, 4:2, 3, April 1962
Harper’s Weekly New Monthly Magazine, “An Indian Journey”, November, 1885
Plymouth Deeds 166:257

Friday, January 14, 2011

Railroad Timetables, 1956

New York, New Haven &
Hartford Railroad timetable,
cover, 1956
One ephemeral piece of history which is no longer with us is the railroad timetable.  Ever since the introduction of rail service to Middleborough in the mid-nineteenth century, railroad timetables had been a convenient way for travellers to be informed of the schedule of trains to and from town.  Originally timetables were printed as a single leaflet, but in time, as local railroads were consolidated into larger companies, more elaborate brochures which included timetables for lines throughout the region became common. 

The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, familiarly known as the New Haven, was the last company to run non-commuter passenger trains through Middleborough before finally discontinuing service in the late 1950s.  The New Haven's timetables during the period of its final years in Middleborough were multi-page brochures printed on inexpensive paper with a minimum of fuss.  Information for travellers was included in the front of the brochure, as was a map of the railroad's extensive lines throughout southern New England. The bulk of the brochure, however, was taken up by timetables for over thirty routes.  With the rapidly expanding inter-state highway system, and the prevalence of the automobile, railroad passenger service went into decline and was discontinued for Middleborough in 1959.  Railroad timetables were no longer needed.

By the time commuter rail service was reintroduced into Middleborough and Lakeville in the 1990s, most residents had forgotten (or had never known) how to read a railroad timetable, and the small new tables produced by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) had to be marked with the instruction "READ DOWN".  Though no less informative than their predecessors, these modern timetables, however, fail to call to mind the joy of rail travel evoked by the earlier timetables.

New York, New Haven & Hartford timetable, 1956
Shown are the railroad's informational page, the timetable
for Middleborough, and a portion of the map showing
the New Haven's extensive network in southern New

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Scene, Early 1900s

This photograph depicts the ruins of the shovel works at the Upper Factory, located along the Nemasket River at Wareham Street, and looks eastwards towards Barden Hill.  By the time the photograph was taken at the turn of the last century by Fred F. Churbuck of Middleborough, the site had become much overgrown, and the river was barely discernible as a narrow ribbon of icy water running through the brush.  A mid-winter dusting of snow, however, softened the image and undoubtedly prompted Churbuck to capture it for posterity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Solomon H. Sylvester

One of the more prolific local issuers of advertising trade cards during the Victorian era was Solomon H. Sylvester.  Originally a barber and hairdresser in the 1850s (during which time he is noted as the inventor of the intriguingly-named "Golden Lutricon" for hair), Sylvester later in the 1860s and 1870s retailed gold and silver goods, pictures, frames and brackets from his store which stood on the site of 19-21 Center Street. 

Sylvester worked as, among other things, a taxidermist and even wrote a popular manual on the subject.  (It went through at least three editions). In this line of work, Sylvester seems to have done a wide business, including work for naturalist John Whipple Potter Jenks of Peirce Academy in Middleborough.  Many of Sylvester's specimens were featured as an attraction in his Center Street shop window, and undoubtedly through these displays many Middleborough residents were treated to the sight of animals otherwise unseen by Victorians.  In April, 1867, it was reported that “Mr. S. H. Sylvester has just stuffed a gorilla for the menagerie at Boston. The owners valued it when alive at $1000”.  The winter of 1868-69 saw Sylvester stuff "five beautiful specimens of American eagles" and "several splendid 'bucks'", while in August, 1869, Sylvester was displaying in his shop window an African leopard which he had mounted for Munroe & Andrews, Taunton shoe dealers.

In 1873, Sylvester was engaged at making improvements to the inside of his shop of which the Middleboro Gazette wrote that there is “no prettier store in town than Sylvester’s.”  Soon afterwards, Sylvester turned his attention to the exterior of the store and “propose[d] to concrete the sidewalk in front of his place of business”, prompting the Gazette to ask, “Why won’t some of his neighbors become public spirited?”

Perhaps most importantly for posterity, Sylvester published a number of stereoscopic cards, several of which feature Middleborough in the late 1800s and provide an important visual record of the community at that time. Fortunately, numerous trade cards stamped with Sylvester's name and business survive to remind us of his eclectic business enterprises. Here, a seasonally-appropriate trade card features a wind-blasted mail delivery boy during a winter storm.

Middleboro Gazette, April 6, 1867; "What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago", March 30, 1923; ibid., July 13, 1923.
Old Colony Memorial [Plymouth], "Middleboro.", February 19, 1869, page 2; ibid., August 13, 1869, page 3.
Republican Standard [New Bedford], April 18, 1867, page 6.
Sylvester, S. H.  The Taxidermist's Manual.  3rd ed.  Middleboro, MA: S. H. Sylvester, 1865.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Visit to Zerviah Gould Mitchell, 1891

Zerviah Gould Mitchell, photograph,
late 19th century
In the final years of her life, Zerviah Gould Mitchell was recognized for her contributions towards advancing the cause of Native peoples in Massachusetts.  Residing with her daughters Teweeleema and Wootonekanuske (Melinda and Charlotte Mitchell) at Betty's Neck in Lakeville, the elderly Mrs. Mitchell attracted numerous visits from journalists, authors, artists and photographers keen to document what they termed the "last of the Wampanoags".  Among them was Walter Gilman Page who arrived in Lakeville in 1890 to paint Mrs. Mitchell's portrait and who penned the following account which appeared the following year in New England Magazine.

Few people are aware that there dwells within the borders of the old Bay State a lineal descendant of the great and good Massasoit, and the last of the Wampanoags. Sharing the growing interest in all that pertains to the early history of Massachusetts, as well as being desirous to gratify my own curiosity, I was recently led to take a trip to Lakeville, Mass., the home of Mrs. Zerviah Gould Mitchell, the last of her race and family, in order that I might paint her portrait. I found Lakeville to be a quiet, staid township, with homesteads occupied by people descended from good old Puritan stock, still clinging to the abodes of their ancestors in spite of the temptations of the West, or the great cities of the East. The place is beautifully situated, and it abounds in Indian legends and Indian battle grounds. The road by the village skirts the shores of Lake Assawamsett, as picturesque as its name. At a distance of five miles or thereabouts from the village, one leaves the main road and turns off into a lovely winding woodland lane, by a rippling brook, and further on an old dilapidated sawmill. A mile or so, and a sudden bend brings you to the cottage door, where Mrs. Mitchell accords you a pleasant welcome. The rough habitation is most picturesquely situated; they seem to possess an intuitive sense for such things, these people, east or west. From the doorway you look out over a field of waving corn; beyond that the line of the woods; and if the trees did not grow so thickly, you might catch glimpses of the placid bosom of the lake. Nothing disturbs the profound stillness which reigns about, save the cry of the blue-jay or the distant tinkle of a cow bell. From time immemorial have the Wampanoag tribe dwelt here on the Assawamsett Neck, though but for an act of Governor Winslow they might have been wanderers on the face of the earth; for it was he who ordered that the Neck should be a reservation for the Wampanoags, they and their descendants, forever.

I had some doubts as to the success of my request, but Mrs. Mitchell granted a ready acquiescence; the fact of her having been photographed several times had doubtless somewhat paved the way for me. Hers is a strong face, somewhat masculine, but full of intelligence, lighting up in conversation, particularly if relating some of her wrongs at the hands of the pale-faces. I passed a half hour in agreeable that, taking mental notes the while of my surroundings. The room was evidently a place where one could eat, drink and be merry; since it was kitchen, dining-room, and containing a piano, which was certainly a surprise could, I suppose, be called a music-room. A door leads to an L containing the sleeping-rooms, one on the ground floor, in which I painted the portrait, and the other above, reached by means of a Jacobs ladder~ as Mrs. Mitchell facetiously termed it. All arrangements were happily made for sittings, and I was to begin the following morning, much to my gratification. The next day, instead of driving, I took a boat and rowed to the Indian shore, as the residents called the narrow strip of beach, from whence a path leads up to the Indian encampment. Not being familiar with the locality, I spent considerable time in seeking a landing-place, but my opportunities for enjoying the lovely panorama which the shores of the lake present were thereby increased. I was finally obliged to invade a camp of pale-faces, and inquire my way of a young and pretty girl. The Indian matron was awaiting my arrival, and the pose was soon selected and work commenced. As we grew better acquainted, many were the legends and tales of both Indians and whites, all of them most interesting, which she related to me, the while holding her position with remarkable steadiness.

Mrs. Mitchell was born July 24, 1807, and her parents were Brister Gould and Phebe Wamsley. Her mother was daughter of Wamsley and Lydia Tuspaquin; Lydia descended from Benjamin Tuspaquin, son of Benjamin Tuspaquin, or otherwise called the Black Sachem and one of King Philips most able generals. He married Amie, whose Indian name is lost to us, youngest daughter of Massasoit, chief of the powerful Wampanoags. Thus Mrs. Mitchell is the great-great-great grand-daughter of Massasoit. She is also descended from John Sassamon, the well known Christian Indian, who became a preacher to the Indians, under John Eliot. Having warned the Puritans of King Philips designs upon them, he was soon after murdered by his countrymen for his treachery to their cause.

Educated in the public schools of Abington, and afterwards at a private school in Boston, in which city she has also taught a private school, Mrs. Mitchell fully demonstrates in her own person the educational possibilities of the Indian. Her memory is remarkably clear upon This genealogy is carefully and fully traced in a work by Gen. E. W. Peirce, entitled, Indian History, Biography and Genealogy, pertaining to the Good Sachem Massasoit, of the Wampanoag Tribe, and his Descendants. This work was published by Mrs. Mitchell in 1878, at North Abington, Mass., and contains a preface written by her, the incidents of her schooldays; as in fact it is upon all the events of her life. At the age of seventeen she married Thomas C. Mitchell, by whom she had eleven children, five of whom are still living. Two of her daughters live with their mother, supporting themselves by selling their farm produce, making baskets, moccasins and so forth. Another daughter lives in Ipswich, Mass., and the only surviving son works in a shoe shop in Abington. Mr. Mitchell died in East Fall River in 1859. Mrs. Mitchells eyesight is more remarkable than her memory, for she reads and writes without the aid of her glasses, and I have in my possession her signature, written in a clear, legible hand.

I was sorry indeed to part from this romantic environment; for what could be more charming than this quiet spot in the midst of such natural surroundings, listening to the tales of bygone days when Puritan and Wampanoag struggled for supremacy? Before I left Lakeville, I visited the old Indian burying-ground; but it is now difficult to recognize it as such, since all the stones have suffered mutilation at vandal hands. Even the Indians graves are not respected, and she who remains is but a solitary figure amidst the rush of invasion, the only type of a race which has now almost vanished from New England.

Walter Gilman Page, New England Magazine, “A Descendant of Massasoit”.  January 1891, 642-644.