Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lakeville Town Pound

The following brief article was written by James Creedon and appeared in an editon of the Brockton Enterprise in early January, 1904.  It tells the tell of the remaining town pound which was situated on Highland Road near Shockley Hill and was built probably about the time Lakeville was incorporated as a separate town.

A town pound was once a common sight in the towns about Middleboro, but today few are left.  One of these is located in Lakeville, not a great distance from Shockleys hill.  It was built about 1853.

The pound is by the side of the road and comprises a lot about 25 feet square, surrounded by a stone wall about five feet high.  A wooden gate closes a five-foot opening at the front of the inclosure.

In the early days of the town cattle were allowed to run freely along the roads, and frequently they strolled on another man's land.  If the cattle belonged to a friendly neighbor it was usually all right, but if there happened to be bad feeling between the men, a field driver was summoned, and the animals were taken to the pound.  There they were placed in charge of the poundkeeper, who fed and cared for them.  The owner of the cattle was notified, and when he appeared for them he had to pay 50 cents per head and expenses.

The first pound keeper was Abram Shaw.  He was in charge for several years.  He was followed by John Shaw who continued as keeper as long a the pound was in use.

The oldest field driver now living is John Townsend, who resides near the Bell schoolhouse.

Townsend resided on Lakeside Avenue.

Lakeville Town Pound, Highland Road, Brockton Enterprise, January, 1905

Brockton Enterprise, January, 1905, clipping in the collection of the Middleborough Publc Library

Monday, March 12, 2012

Middleborough Responds to the Attack upon Senator Sumner, 1856

On May 22, 1856, Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina brutally assaulted Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber. Prompted by a recent anti-slavery speech by Sumner which was harshly critical of the South, Brooks mercilessly beat Sumner into unconsciousness with a gutta percha cane. The shocking brutality of the action further polarized the nation which at the time was riven by the controversy over whether to admit Kansas as a free or slave state, as well as the overall debate on slavery which was becoming increasingly violent.  While lauded as a hero in the South, Brooks was villified in the North. 

In Middleborough, the attack upon Sumner was roundly condemned. Both the Young Men's Literary Union (Y. M. L. U.) and the Philomathean Society passed resolutions concerning the assault and slavery in general.  The Y. M. L. U. "Resolved, That the recent and cowardly assault upon our beloved Senator, at Washington, reflects lasting infamy upon the country, its institutions and people."  It passed a further resolution that "American Slavery totally violates every law of the United States enacted for the peace and prosperity of the Union, is the quintessence of all abuse, and that those who uphold and sanction it are guilty of the blackest treason."

Less literary minded individuals hung Brooks in effigy on School Street, an action which prompted the following letter to the Namasket Gazette:

MR. EDITOR: - Passing up School street last Tuesday morning, I saw suspended from the branch of one of the trees in the Grove, an image in a complete suit of clothes, which a group of "Young Americans" were stoning with great zeal. On inquiring, I ascertained that this was an effigy of Preston S. Brooks, and certainly it looked mean enough to personify the late outrage committed by that dastard. About noon, as I repassed the same spot, a lad flung a stone with such violence as to break the rope, and it had scarcely touched the ground before many "violent hands" were laid upon it, and ere long it was reduced to ashes.

If this treatment of the effigy denoted disapprobation of the conduct of the Slave Power, as exhibited in the assault by Brooks, I have no objection to make to it. But I am doubtful as to the propriety of such demonstrations in reference to individuals. Please solve these doubts, and oblige.


The unknown writer, in fact, was not to be obliged. Editor Stillman Pratt who was also a minister and who was not surprsingly anti-slavery himself, responded that the burning of the School Street effigy was hardly improper when compared to the attack upon Sumner, and was but a weak response to a graver issue.

We do not think that pelting and burning an effigy is so barbarous as the beating of a real live man and still we think there are more effective modes of rebuking sin.

The trouble is that this mode of expressing disapprobation places the wrong doer on an equality with the virtuous.  It is just as easy to hang the effigy of Sumner as that of Brooks.  A change of label on the one alluded to above would make it tell in the opposite direction.

The reason why the bludgeon was applied to the head of our Senator, was because the truths uttered were extremely cutting, and the argument was at the same time unanswerable.  It is hoped that the Slave Oligarchy will be rebuked more effectually for making chattels of God's image, and the beating of men for insisting on "the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," than can be done by hanging, pelting and burning bags of straw.

"Southern Chivalry", lithograph, John L. Magee, 1856.
Magee's lithograph depicting Brooks' attack upon Senator Sumner was widely circulated and created an indelible impression in the north where the assault was widely condemned.

Senator Charles Sumner (1811-74) of Massachusetts, photograph, c. 1860.

Namasket Gazette, May and June, 1856

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Testa's South Middleborough Sunoco

During the writing and subsequent promotion of South Middleborough: A History I have had the opportunity to encounter a number of wonderful people who have generously shared stories and images of their community as they knew it.  Among them was Bob Testa who grew up in South Middleborough, and whose father Theo Testa over 50 years ago operated the Sunoco filling station just south of the site of the former Alpine Motel.  Unfortunately, due to length restrictions set by the publisher, stories such as Testa's Sunoco could not be included in the published history, so I share it here, along with photographs courteously provided by Mr. Testa.

The South Middleborough Sunoco station operated during the 1940s through the 1960s, and held the distinct advantage of being the first filling station encountered on the north-bound side of Route 28 at South Middleborough which then served as one of the two principal routes linking Boston with the summer resorts of Cape Cod.  Associated with the Sun Oil Company (Sunoco), the station was sold in the summer of 1951 to Theodore J. Testa by then-owner Francis McMahon who went to Buzzards Bay to reside.  Testa operated the station until the early 1960s when he too sold it, yet another victim of the prospective opening of the Route 28 by-pass, today known as Route 495.  Mrs. Testa was long involved with the local Methodist Church, at one time serving as president of the Women's Society of Christian Service (W. S. C. S.).

The image depicts the South Middleborough Sunoco station in late 1951 shortly after it was acquired by Theo Testa.

The small size and wood-frame construction of the station is readily apparent in this wintertime view.  While such structures would be considered unusual today and would fail to meet modern safety codes for fire-proof construction, they were common at the time and allowed individuals to own their own businesses without requiring a heavy investment.  Consequently, numerous filling stations sprung up along Route 28 in Middleborough, catering to the need of the thousands of motorists who passed through during the summer.

This view shows both the well-kept station with shade trees, as well as the adjoining Smith House.  The properties occupied what are now 609 and 611 Wareham Streets, though only the house remains today.  In December, 1964, Testa sold the filling station property to Patrick O'Connor and it was eventually razed.  The attractive cement benches and bird baths seen in front of the station were made by Theo Testa and sold to patrons, passersby and local residents.  Prior to operating the station, Testa had been engaged as a mason, and the lawn ornaments he created sold well.

South Middleborough has always retained a strong sense of community, with neighbors working together and finding occasion to socialize.  Here Veronica L. Hawkins joins Harry and Cathy Smith at the Testa home for an informal summer get together which included bottled Cokes.  Miss Hawkins (1907-96) served as the fourth grade teacher at South Middleborough between 1953 and 1966, and favored a hairstyle which according to Bob Testa was "unmistakable".

Courtesy of Bob Testa.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Stories in the Stones: The Bennet Family

The following post is offered courtesy of Jeff Stevens and the Friends of Middleborough Cemeteries as part of an ongoing series The Stories in the Stones.

Jeff Stevens - Friends of Middleborough Cemeteries

The Burial Ground at the Church on the Green contains a treasure of historic grave stones. The most significant events in the lives of our ancestors are cut into this local slate with the names, dates, and brief details of long or often too short lives. The sweep of generations can be seen in a handful of stones from just one family. Reading the details is a quick look through a family's tragedies or the celebration of the lives of its distinguished patriarchs and beloved mothers.

The Bennet family (also written as Bennett) is an example. They lived in Middleboro from its earliest colonial days. Deacon John Bennet came originally from England, landed in Virginia, moved to Salem and then to Middleboro. His stone tells us he died on March 21, 1718, at 76 years. His wife, Deborah, died the next day. Deacon John was a selectman and served as town clerk for 13 years, according to the Weston history of Middleboro.

Markers show that Ebenezer Bennet and his wife Esther buried three "stillborn" children, a son in 1741, and two daughters, one in 1744 and the second in 1746. In 1743, another daughter, Lydia, lived for less than a month. Another stone tells us that at least one daughter, Patience, lived to adulthood, dying in 1781 at age 44. Ebenezer himself is listed on his stone as "Died in the Bay of Hondorieas August 26th, 1751". Esther lived to be 70 and died in 1776.

Another stone lists "Mrs. Mary Bennett widow of Mr. Nehemiah Bennett who died January 26th 1790 Aged 27 years 1 month & 20 days. Her infant lies buried by her side." Life and death were always closely associated in colonial Middleboro.

Not all Bennets died early. Mercy Bennett was Deacon John's daughter-in-law and lived to be 99 years, 10 months, and 20 days old. She was born in 1699 and died in 1799. The Middleboro history lists her as a woman of "unusual intelligence" and tells that she walked all the way to Plymouth with two other girls during a great snowstorm "to attend public service."

Other Bennets served in the American Revolution and the Civil War. Their stones are marked with SAR (Sons of the American Revolution) or GAR (Grand Army of the Republic for the Civil War) markers.

One family plot shows us triumphs and tragedies, heroes and housewives, early settlers and dedicated public servants. All this and more can be seen at our local burial ground. Hundreds of stones tell of these everyday heroes and heroines who lived through difficult and historic times. A walk through the rows of stones lets a person piece together the stories and follow the lives and deaths of these early citizens of our town.

Sadly, these pictures of past lives and local history are rapidly falling apart. Many of the stones are badly damaged and weathering of the stones is destroying these wonderful works of art, making it difficult or impossible to read the inscriptions.

Bennet Family Stone, Cemetery at the Green, Middleborough, MA, photograph 2011 by Jeff Stevens.