Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause: Roger C. Keedwell

Roger Charles Keedwell
Private, Company K, 23d Infantry, 2d Division, United States Army

On October 21, 1915, Keedwell enlisted in the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force. He was just 15 and a half. Having falsified the year of his birth in order to enlist, Keedwell served ten months with the Canadian Grenadier Guards before his father secured his discharge due to his extreme youth. Undeterred, Keedwell enlisted in the American Army on April 1, 1917, and served on the Mexican border with Troop C, 17th Cavalry before sailing overseas for France. He served with Company A, 2d Military Police from October 2, 1917, through June 15, 1918, following which he transferred to Company K, 23d Infantry.

At the time of his posting to France, Keedwell sent the Middleboro Gazette a letter from Douglas, Arizona, full of optimism. “There are 300 men going to France out of my regiment and I am one of them and I can assure you that I appreciate leaving this part of the country very much. We leave here Saturday morning for Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where we will be instructed in the French language for three or four weeks and then we will continue our journey to France, which I hope will be a very pleasant journey. We will go there to be military police in Paris. I hope that while in Georgia I will be able to get a furlough to go home to see my folks and friends before leaving for France….As for me I think the cavalry is about the best branch of the service and I regret leaving it, but the trip to France looks good to me. I hope that when we arrive there I will be able to scout up some of the Middleboro fellows because it would certainly seem good to see some of them.”

In mid-December 1918 Keedwell’s father received notice from the War Department that his son was listed as missing in action. On Christmas night the family was informed that Roger had been located in a hospital, having been wounded on Hallowe’en. The information, in fact, was wrong. Mr. Keedwell contacted the American Red Cross for further information, and the family received the following letter on January 20, 1919.

The American Red Cross National Headquarters Washington, D. C. Jan. 14, 1919

My Dear Mrs. Keedwell:

You have only received a notification that Private Roger Charles Keedwell, Company K, 23d Infantry, American E. F., was reported missing in action, as that was the extent of the information first reported. We have just received word, dated October 31, 1918, that he died of wounds. He was cared for in American Red Cross Hospital No. 110, where you may feel sure that everything possible was done to save his life, but he passed away on October 31, 1918. Any personal belongings he may have had at the time of his death will be forwarded to Major John A. Nelson, Effects Quartermaster, Pier 3, Hoboken, N. J., and if you do not hear anything concerning them in a reasonable length of time, we would advise you to write to Major Nelson. Private Keedwell died in service for the glorious cause of justice and liberty, and you will ever have the greatest pride in his memory. His name will be placed among the heroes of America’s Roll of Honor. The Red Cross extends to you heartfelt sympathy and assures you that we are ever ready to render you any service possible.

Sincerely yours, W. R. CASTLE, Director Bureau of Communications

Roger Keedwell died less than two weeks before the Armistice. He was not yet 19.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause: Fletcher L. Clark, Jr.

Fletcher L. Clark, Jr.
Captain, Company H, 36th Infantry, 12th Division, United States Army

Clark was a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School and was practicing law in the office of George W. Stetson in Middleborough prior to the war. As early as 1913 Clark attended military preparedness training at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and by 1916 he had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve Corps. Recommended for a first lieutenancy on the outbreak of war, Clark attended the First Officers’ Training Camp at Plattsburg. Temporarily stationed at Camp Devens, he sailed for France in fall 1917, serving with Company M, 103rd Infantry, a federalized National Guard unit from Maine. He served with distinction in France and was cited by Major General Edwards for marked gallantry and meritorious service in the capture of Torcy, Belleau Wood, Givry, Bouresches, Rochet Wood, Hill 190 overlooking Château-Thierry, Etrefilly, Bezult, Epieds, Trugny and the Fère-en-Tardenois Road from July 18-25, 1918 in the Second Battle of the Marne. He arrived back in the United States on August 26, 1918, and was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he trained new recruits. Commissioned a captain on September 12, 1918, he was assigned to Company H, 36th Infantry, 12 Division at Camp Devens. He was discharged January 28, 1919. A frequent writer of letters home, Clark was an astute observer and his writings captured not only the destructiveness of war but the resilience of the human spirit, one letter recording the poignancy of French soldiers growing tulips and daffodils at the front amidst its devastation. Writing at Memorial Day, 1918, Clark recorded: “This has been a strange Memorial day here in France. We had services at a place where part of our boys rest. My company was the escort for the ceremonies, which were at the end of a village. Our men lie just beyond the wall of an old French cemetery. As we stood there I heard the power of the Republic extolled and the bravery of those who had paid the price. They spoke of the call that had brought us here to defend the world from despotism and exhorted us to finish the work. After the ceremonies were over two of the boys asked permission to visit the graves as each had a brother buried there. This was the first time they had a chance to visit the place and they might never have another. The French children have had their special graves to look after. That seems to be their outlet for patriotic activity.” Given that Clark would later fill the role of Middleborough Town Moderator for many years, it was perhaps prophetic that his parents sent to him in France a sample ballot, most likely from the 1918 annual town meeting. Clark regarded the ballot as a symbol of representative democracy. “That specimen ballot meant a lot to me; it is such a contrast to the ways of the nation we are trying to down.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause

RECOLLECTING NEMASKET is proud to announce the release of its newest title, Representatives of the Great Cause: Middleborough Servicemen & Their Letters from the First World War by local historian Michael J. Maddigan. A moving compendium of letters written by Middleborough’s First World War servicemen, Representatives of the Great Cause documents the sacrifices made by the community at the time as well as its views and understanding of war. The book is Maddigan’s sixth volume of local history relating to Middleborough and Lakeville.

 “I am still one of the representatives of the great cause.” So wrote Middleborough soldier William F. Harris to local newspaper owner Lorenzo Wood in 1919. Succinctly defining the role of a single community’s World War I servicemen and women, Harris’s letter to Wood was one among hundreds written by Middleborough soldiers that were published in the Middleboro Gazette between 1917 and 1919. Today these poignant and frequently moving letters comprise the community’s largest and most important collection of documents detailing the experience of Middleborough veterans of any generation in their own words. In presenting a selection of these letters, Representatives of the Great Cause permits the voices of these men to be heard once more. While the authors of these letters may no longer present, their subject is universal and their words remain relevant today, providing a deeply moving reflection upon the course and meaning of war by those who experienced it first-hand.

Representatives of the Great Cause will be launched at this year’s Krazy Days festival in downtown Middleborough where it will be available for sale at the Recollecting Nemasket booth on August 2 and 3. The author will be on hand to autograph his new work. Copies of his previous books will be available at this time as well. Books may also be purchased at any time following August 3 by visiting www.recollectingnemasket.blogspot.com.

Michael J. Maddigan, Middleborough is a local historian and author of the popular “Recollecting Nemasket” column in the Middleboro Gazette. His other works include Images of America: Middleborough, South Middleborough: A History, Star Mill: History & Architecture, Elysian Fields: A History of the Rock Cemetery and Lakeville’s King Philip Tavern.

Recollecting Nemasket is a small local history press devoted to publishing and selling histories related to Middleborough and Lakeville.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Babe Ruth League, 1957

In 1952, Middleborough joined the burgeoning Little League movement that had been founded in 1939 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and which first expanded beyond that state in 1947.   Because Little League initially provided opportunities only for boys 12 and younger and given the success of Little League, the town soon afterwards began participating in the Babe Ruth League, an organization established in 1951.  The League was originally known as the "Little Bigger League", a clear indication of its program.  Above is an early schedule from the 1957 season for the four town Sachem League in which Middleborough participated with the Bridgewaters, each community fielding two teams.  Middleborough's two teams were sponsored by the Eagles and Thomas Brothers.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nemasket Spring Labels

During the period that it bottled spring water and manufactured carbonated beverages, the Nemasket Spring Water Company on Plymouth Street advertised its products with colorful designs, branding its drink bottles with stylish labels featuring two Natives making their way to an idealized depiction of the spring.  Most consumers of the product were probably unaware or unconcerned that Middleborough includes no mountains such as those depicted on the label.  Despite the artistic license, the Native imagery helped distinguish Nemasket beverages in the market and were successful in establishing the Nemasket name as a brand.  Nonetheless, Nemasket also manufactured under the Cape Cod brand as seen in the colorful matchbook cover from the 1930s.  "Ask for Nemasket Spring Water beverages", the cover urged, "Made with America's purest spring water."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lyon's Neck

The most dramatic feature of the landscape along the northern portion of the Nemasket River at Purchade is the unique ox-bow bend made by the sharp turning of the river which flows northwards, then southwestwards, then southeastwards where it comes within some 350 feet of doubling back upon itself before finally turning westwards towards its confluence with the Taunton River. In the process, the river circumscribes a 22 acre triangular-shaped parcel of upland fringed with swampy ground.

The land defined within this ox-bow bend is historically known as Lyon’s Neck, four generations of the Lyon family having owned land there from about 1730 through 1821. The comprehensive Lyon Memorial genealogy in 1905 noted the long association between the family and Lyon’s Neck, remarking “traditions of the ‘Ox-bow’ linger still among the descendants of Samuel [Lyon]”, the original settler. Sadly, the editors of the volume do not elaborate on what those traditions were, though they were no doubt rooted in the family’s unusual geographic situation, a large portion of their land being nearly surrounded by the Nemasket.

Little is known of the pre-Contact history of Lyon’s Neck. According to Maurice Robbins’s 1973 map Middleboro Purchases, the area between the Nemasket River and Purchade Brook (including Lyon’s Neck) was known to the Native peoples as Tepikamicut. This land was included as part of the Purchade Purchase, the second purchase made from the Native peoples in Middleborough. Completed in 1662, the Purchade Purchase was subsequently divided into lots running perpendicularly to the Nemasket River with the area of Lyon’s Neck being set off as the fourth lot to Peregrine White (1620-1704), the first known English child born in America.

Though the area Lyon’s Neck is today fairly remote, uncrossed by roadways other than old woods roads, in the early 17th and early 18th centuries, it was visited more regularly. A 1742 deed makes note of the remains of an “old house” situated near the Nemasket River on what was probably the adjoining third lot of the Purchade Purchase as well as a “way [that] goes down the bank [of the river] to the old fishing stage or fishing place”, indicating the close connection between the first settlers and the Nemasket River which served as both a transportation route and a source of fish.

The fourth lot of the Purchade Purchase passed through a number of hands until late 1730 when the northernmost 70 acres came into the possession of Samuel Lyon (1679-1756) of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who purchased the property from Benjamin White of Middleborough for £545. Notably the 1730 title deed records the boundary as following the Nemasket River “ down stream round the Neck”. Lyon removed to Middleborough and was settled enough to join the First Church of Middleborough on January 23, 1732, constructing a house about one-third of a mile south of the neck in an area of meadows.

Over time the division line between the third and fourth lots of the Purchade Purchase became lost and by 1742 the owners were “uncertain where they stood”. Consequently, Samuel Lyon as the owner of the northern portion of the fourth lot, Lyon’s in-law Thomas Knowlton as owner of the southern portion of the fourth lot, and David Miller as the owner of the third lot agreed to establish a line delineating their parcels “so that all disputes and controversies concerning the bounds and line between the two …. Lots of land may be ended.”

On March 16, 1750, Samuel deeded his 70 acre farm at "Purchade Neck, Middleboro (the ‘ox-bow’)" to his son, Jedediah Lyon (1721 - 1807), for £100. The deeded land included the entire 22 acres on Lyons Neck, another 20¾ acres of woodland immediately to the south, 18½ acres of cleared land south of the wooded tract that was the site of the Lyon homestead and was later set off as a dower lot for Vinal Lyon’s widow Chloe (Richmond) Lyon, and still further south several acres of swampland in what was known as Lyon or Lyon’s Swamp.

The lands at the neck were an important part of the homestead farm of Jedediah Lyon whose grandson Isaac Lyon noted that the portion of the farm lying along the Nemasket “was known by [name as] the neck” with the western portion (the furthest downstream) being known as the “lower neck” and the eastern portion further upstream as the “upper neck”. Though the use to which the neck may have been put is not recorded, it is possible that it was used as pasturage for cattle, the nearly complete circuit of the river forming a natural barrier to keep cattle from straying. There is a record dating from 1821 of a fence running across at least the eastern portion of the neck down to the river, giving credence to the thought that the neck was used for livestock.

One of the earliest if not the first recorded appearances of the name “Lyon’s Neck” is in a deed written in 1825 indicating that the feature was clearly known by this name at the start of the 19th century, if not earlier. By 1904, the name had become well known enough that in the valuation list of Middleborough properties that year, the land at the neck then owned by Earl H. Cushman of Bridgewater could be listed simply as “Lyons Neck Lot”.

With the decline of the Nemasket as a transportation route, access was provided to the neck by woods roads. When Samuel Lyon purchased the property in 1730, he also acquired the right to use “a cart way from said tongue meadow unto the highway that leads to the causey [causeway] called Samuel Eaton’s causey.” In 1821 when the upper neck was sold to Solomon Alden of Bridgewater, Alden was granted “the privilege of going with the team from the highway to and from said lot through gates and bars…”. Later U. S. G. S. survey maps indicate a roadway that connected the neck with Murdock Street, though the original approach may have been from Plymouth Street near White’s Hill.

The distinctiveness of the Nemasket ox-bow at Purchade notwithstanding, it does not appear on maps until 1855 when it is clearly depicted on Walling’s map of Middleborough of that year. Despite the inclusion of Lyon’s Neck on the map, Walling misidentified it, labeling instead as Lyon’s Neck the area on the opposite bank of the river.

The neck remained in the possession of the Lyon family until the first quarter of the 19th century. In 1810, Isaac Lyon, Samuel Lyon’s grandson, sold the westernmost 10 acres or lower neck to Captain Nathaniel Bump/Bumpus of Middleborough. Fifteen years later in 1825, Seth Eaton, Jr., administrator of the estate of Vinal Lyon (1762-1819), Jedediah’s son, sold the remaining acres at the upper neck to Solomon Alden of Bridgewater. Since that time, Lyon’s Neck has largely been abandoned. Tracts to the south and southeast were utilized well into the 20th century as woodlots including lands later owned by Ezra Morse and jointly by Luther B. and Silas H. Murdock.


Map of Lyon's Neck, Middleborough, MA.  
The base map is U. S. G. S. survey map, Bridgewater Quadrangle, 1940.

Facsimile of Samuel Lyon's Signature from the Lyon Memorial (1905).

Samuel Lyon Grave Stone, Purchade Cemetery, Middleborough, MA.
The image first appeared in the Lyon Memorial (1905).   


Kinnicutt, Lincoln Newton. Indian Names of places in Middleborough, Lakeville and Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, with Interpretations of Some of Them. 1909.
Lyons, A. B. and G. W. A. Lyon, eds., Lyon Memorial. Detroit: privately published, 1905.
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds 29:41, 35:36, 41:64, 115:124, 144:200, 155:104, 296:241.
Robbins, Maurice. Middleboro Purchases. 1973.
U. S. G. S. survey maps, Bridgewtaer Quadrangle, 1940, 1962, 1977.
Walling, H. F. Map of the Town of Middleborough, Plymouth County, Mass. 1855.
Walling, H. F. Map of the County of Plymouth, Massachusetts. New York: D. R. Smith & Co., 1857.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day, Lakeville, 1929

On Memorial Day, 1929, the Town of Lakeville dedicated Dickran Diran Square in honor of the town's sole World War I casualty.  The ceremony featured the unveiling of a memorial boulder featuring a bronze plaque listing the Lakeville residents who had served in the war.  The plaque was pictured on the last page of the program which accompanied the event.

"Dedication, Dickran Diran Square, Lakeville Honor Roll", Program, May 30, 1929.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Auburn Street Bridge

Before its final demise, the historic bridge across the Taunton River at Auburn Street was documented by the Massachusetts Highway Department, first in 1921 as part of the department's "Old Bridge Histories" and later in 1982 and again in 1994-95 when it was added to the department's database as one of 170 timber stringer style bridges in the Commonwealth. 

Built about 1790, the Auburn Street Bridge originally consisted of five spans - a central timber stringer span measuring about 15 feet in length flanked on either end by two smaller stone slab spans.  Historically, the bridge came to be known as Covington's Bridge, taking its name from Arad Covington who in 1857 constructed a home on nearby River Street. 

MHD records note that alterations to the bridge were "major and virtually continuous."  In late 1927, the Middleboro Gazette recorded the collapse and subsequent replacement of the abutment on the Middleborough side.  In 1948, the wooden guard rail required repair after having been struck by a hit and run driver.  Following flooding in 1955, the two southern (Middleborough) stone slab spans were replaced with a single stringer span and the southern abutment replaced with a timber pile bent in 1956, the work being done by Barnes and Jarnis, engineers.  Sometime after 1960, and most likely in 1978 when the bridge was reported as having been "40% restored", the two stone slab spans on the northern (Bridgewater) end were replaced with a single stringer span.  Following these alterations, the bridge measured 67 feet in length and had three spans of 22, 24 and 19 feet.

The wood railings were replaced after 1981 with industrial style steel guardrails.  By 1995 the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic.  Shortly afterwards, the framing and decking was removed though remnants may still be seen at the site.

Auburn Street Bridge, photograph, Massachusetts Highway Department, April 1981.
The view is taken from the Middleborough end of the bridge, looking north towards Bridgewater.

Auburn Street Bridge, photograph, Massachusetts Highway Department, April 1981.
The Auburn Street Bridge is viewed looking upstream along the Taunton River.  Bridgewater is on the left (north bank) and Middleborough on the right (south bank).

Massachusetts Cultural Resource Inventory System, Inventory Form BRD.914/MID.915, prepared by S. J. Roper, October 30, 1995.

Middleboro Gazette, October 7, 1927, p. 1; November 25, 1927, p. 1; August 13, 1948, p. 4.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eaton Family School Reunion, 1888

On June 15, 1888, the Eaton School Association held its third annual reunion of Eaton Family School pupils.  The Association remained active for several years and was responsible in part for securing the school's legacy within the educational history of Middleborough.

Eaton School Association Third Annual Reunion invitation, 1888.

Eaton School Association Third Annual Reunion circular, 1888.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Eaton Family School Catalog, 1888-89

Monday, February 11, 2013

Eaton Family School Circular, 1874

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eaton Family School

As the successor to both the Middeboro' Boy's School, the Eaton Family School which operated between 1874 and 1898 in Middleborough continued to provide the same fundamental family-style education first developed by Reverend Marston some twenty years earlier. However, under the proprietorship of Reverend Herrick M. Eaton of Westerly, Rhode Island, and particularly his son, Amos H. Eaton, of Middleborough, the Eaton Family School would achieve an even higher reputation among New England academic institutions and earn a place in the educational history of the community.

Amos H. Eaton was born July 2, 1843, at Camden, Maine, the son of Reverend Herrick M. and Joanna (Hopkins) Eaton. He was educated in Camden public schools, the Maine Wesleyan Academy, the Eaton Family School at Kent’s Hill and finally Gould Academy. Following this, Eaton, at the age of sixteen, began teaching at Titcomb Academy in Belgrade, Maine, and two years later, in 1861, he assumed charge of the Eaton Family School at Kent’s Hill for a period of two years.

After a stint as a traveling salesman, Eaton founded the Eaton Family and Day School at Norridgewock, Maine, with his older brother Hamlin F. Eaton. Later, he served as Superintendent of Schools for Somerset County, Maine, and had charge of Hartland Academy in Maine, as well, before coming to Middleborough.

The acquisition of Cushing’s School in Middleborough in 1874 marked Eaton’s return to the management of a family-style educational institution. The prospectus of the Eaton Family School outlined the school’s purpose, emphasizing that “the small number of pupils enables the members of the school to be treated as members of the family, so that good manners as well as good morals can be inculcated…. No student whose influence is injurious to the others will be allowed to remain in the family.” (Asterisks beside pupils’ names in the school’s catalog indicated students who had been dismissed for such misconduct).

Students like Edward E. Litchfield of North Scituate (now Norwell) who was expelled for misconduct sometime during the 1881-82 academic year were required to endure the humiliation of seeing their expulsion recorded in the school's annual catalog, a shame that nonetheless undoubtedly reassured the parents of better behaved children.

One of the most fundamental changes made by Eaton was opening the previously all-boys school to girls. “This school is intended to give people of both sexes an opportunity to acquire a good education under the constant care of a judicious instructor and amid the refining influences of a pleasant home.”

The school's kindergarten, one of the first established locally, marked the school as a progressive institution.  Opening on September 6, 1878, under the direction of Marquita Putnam Eddy, the daughter of William C. Eddy of East Middleborough, the kindergarten had an enrollment of 16 pupils all drawn from Middleborough and included Eaton's own two daughters, Bessie and Emmie.

At the Eaton Family School there was no prescribed curriculum, although a large emphasis was placed upon preparation for college through the so-called "Classical" curriculum.  Reading, spelling, penmanship, free-hand and mechanical drawing, rhetoric and oratory were all required.  Declamations and Compositions were required twice monthly and students were also called upon to write home each month.  In what today would be considered a gross invasion of privacy, these letters were both read and corrected by the teacher.

The social and physical sciences and the humanities were well represented with coursework in geography; world, American and U. S. Constitutional history; chemistry; physiology; astronomy; botany and philosophy.  Latin, French and Spanish were offered to those students who expressed and interest.  Vocal and piano instruction was also provided should students so desire.

In addition to the Classical curriculum, the school offered more practical classes, including mathematics and book-keeping, both of which were described in 1879 as "specialties".  Additionally, vocational courses were taught including navigation and land surveying (taught through field practice).  The object was to provide a well-rounded education for students intent upon seeking a career in business, not just the professions to which private academies generally catered.  "It is intended to make the instruction in this department as thorough and valuable as it is in any Commercial College", boldly stated the school's catalog.

Eaton's firm belief in the practicality of education is demonstrated in a letter dated April 16, 1879, written by 17-year-old Albert Jarvis Hastings of Medway to his father Demming.  In the letter, Hastings remarks on the advice given him by Eaton regarding his education.  "I think I hall take up Latin and Chemistry", Hastings wrote.  "I asked Mr. E about taking Algebra and he thought it would not be much of a benefit to me unless I went through it and took up some of the higher branches."  Hastings appears to have heeded Eaton's advice.  "I have Reading and Spelling so I think I have about all I can attend to" without Algebra.

Eaton recognized the value of play and encouraged recreation for the children.  "Ample provision is made for recreation and innocent amusements, and great pains are taken to make the pupils contented and happy."  Teachers frequently joined in the games with their pupils.  Physical activity was encouraged as evidenced by one report that remains from 1878 of a child who broke a wrist after a short fall from a horizontal bar.  The fracture was set by Dr. Hodgson of Middleborough.

Given the large number of students and the close contact they experienced, maintaining their health was a constant priority for the Eatons.  In late 1878 scarlatina, otherwise known as scarlet fever, appeared in the school, afflicting Eaton himself.  The cases fortunately proved mild and by the close of the year the patients had all recovered.

Eaton was assisted in his educational work by a number of women over the years including Misses Lillia E. Thurston and Ella B. Stevens in 1876, Miss Hannah Connor in 1877, Miss Hattie S. Morgridge in 1878 and Miss Marquita Pratt Eddy in 1879. Eaton’s wife, Alice, served as matron as well as the apparent record keeper and treasurer of the school. It is her signature which is inscribed in the front of one of the school’s four remaining record books.

Later teachers included Miss Nellie P. Nichols (elocution and physical culture), Miss M. A. Overhiser (piano) and Mrs. Dora P. Leonard (vocal). “Reading, spelling, penmanship, vocal music, drawing and recitations will be expected to participate in, the first three being daily exercises."

Though the Eaton Family School was most frequently considered a boarding school, the majority of pupils were actually day students from Middleborough, and the number of students accepted as boarders or "family members" was purposely limited in order to maintain the home-like atmosphere that was the rationale for the school.  

For those who did board, strict rules were established, each student being required to “furnish their own towels and other articles for their personal toilet. Each one should be provided with a Bible, a dictionary, a slate, and umbrella and rubbers” or rubber boots - the last two concessions to the generally miserable spring weather. Required texts were furnished at “regular prices.”  Purchases of necessary items were diligently recorded by Alice Eaton in the school ledgers.  The 1882 catalog was explicit that clothing should be marked by parents, declaring in no uncertain terms that "unmarked clothing will not be laundered".  Students boarding with the Eatons, as well as the day students, were expected to attend church services at least once on Sundays.

One advantage of the school was its physical location on the hill a way above the Nemasket River.  Like Marston and Cushing before them, the Eatons believed that the school’s setting enhanced their students’ educational experience. “The location of the buildings is on the southern edge of the village, far enough away to give all the benefits of a residence in the country, and still near enough to obtain the advantages of the village as it is less than ten minutes walk to the railroad station and fifteen to the postoffice and churches.”  The healthfulness of the location was also touted, the catalog for 1888-89 proclaiming: “No more healthful location can be found in Massachusetts than in Middleborough. The soil is light and sandy, the surrounding forests are mostly pine, and the prevailing winds come from the waters of Buzzards Bay. Added to this, there is an abundant supply of the purest water.”

Regional poet James Riley who attended the school, later in 1888 described the school's setting in poetic phrases: "Surrounded, as is the Eaton School, with all that is beautiful in nature before it and stretching away the green fields to meet the blending roof-tops, where spire and turret lift themselves to heaven, with the river sparkling in the valley, and the distant pines, where climbs the sun at morn, all make those quiet sades, indeed, a picture of contentment." 

The school catalog was more prosaic, indicating that the school was near enough the village "to enjoy all the advantages, while at a sufficient distance to be free from noise and disturbances."

As had been the case with both the Marston and Cushing Schools, gardening and horticulture were actively encouraged and part of the academic program.  The Eaton School record books indicate that the large pear orchard and grape arbors that had produced quantities of pears and grapes during Perez Cushing's time continued to be cultivated by the Eatons.  Nature studies and botany complemented each student's education.

Students at the Eaton Family School were drawn primarily from New England and New York, but some came from as far away as Virginia and New Brunswick. In advertising his school, Eaton linked it to both Cushing’s and Marston’s schools, indicating in 1879 that the school had been established “a quarter of a century ago”.  Nonetheless, Eaton also emphasized that under his direction, the institution had “constantly increased in the number of its pupils and improved in the efficiency of its instruction.”  Unlike Marston’s early school, however, the Eaton Family School did draw from the local community, with Middleborough students attending as day pupils. Eventually, attendance at the school was limited to 10 boarding pupils and 30 day pupils. While the so-called “family pupils” who boarded with the Eatons paid $300 a year for their education, local day pupils paid only $40, a considerable bargain.

The Middleborough students who attended the Eaton Family School were the children of the town’s professional and commercial elite and among those local students attending during the school’s earliest years were William H. Andrews, son of shoe manufacturer William Andrews; Charles H. Briggs, son of Middleborough’s most successful liveryman Otis Briggs; Edward Brayton, son of Star Mill treasurer George Brayton; Estelle B. Coombs, daughter of Middleboro Gazette publisher and editor James M. Coombs; Goerge A. Cox, ward of attorney Everett Robinson; James, Stephen and Carleton, the sons of Captain Stephen B. Gibbs; Ivory H. Harlow, Jr., son of lumber mill owner and box manufacturer Ivory Harlow; Fred H. Jenney, son of coal dealer James L. Jenney; Bertie E. Kingman, son of shoe manufacturer C. D. Kingman; Alice D. Ryder, daughter of Old Colony Railroad architect Earl E. Ryder; Serena A. Shaw, daughter of druggist William B. Shaw; and Clarence E. Tobey, son of Star Mill  superintendent Charles Tobey. Interestingly, Charles E. Wilbar of Middleborough is also recorded as having attended the school. His patron was listed in the school’s earliest catalog as Mrs. C. S. Stratton, better known to us as Mrs. Tom Thumb.

In the first five years of the Eaton School’s operation, although annual enrollment was restricted to 15 pupils, some 86 students attended. Enrollment, particularly of day students, increased steadily during the proprietorship of the Eatons, so much so that by the 1895-96 academic year the school was obliged to hire space in what is now the Glidden Block on Center Street, where space was provided for a school and recitation rooms for sixty pupils.

The School continued to emphasis both general and vocational education, and prided itself on the business course of study which it offered students. The catalog for the 1895-96 academic year noted “the large number of young men and women occupying good business positions, who received their instruction in this school.” During the 1895-96 academic year, and evening school was offered which proved successful enough to warrant its continuance the following year.

The Eaton Family School was held in high esteem locally, with numerous residents of prominence supporting the school, including grocer Matthew H. Cushing and Judge Francis M. Vaughan of the Fourth District Court. Shoe manufacturer Calvin D. Kingman whose sons attended the school spoke highly of it in a widely circulated testimonial. “I regard the Eaton Family School in our town as one of the best institutions for the instruction of young men in our State. My own boys have been greatly benefited by its teachings. The Principal has the happy faculty of interesting his pupils in their studies and awakening ambitions to excel. The government is firm, but kind and fatherly.” 

As an educator, Amos Eaton excelled in insuring his students. One former pupil, Albert H. Washburn who later served as the American counsel in Vienna, wrote in 1895 of Eaton’s abilities. “I have always believed that you possess qualities of head and heart which fit you to direct with exceptional success the mental, moral and physical training of boys. Your methods of instruction are excellent, and in mathematics especially I have personally never known of anyone who could excel you in accurately stating and clearly illustrating what you undertake to teach.” Part of Eaton’s success lay in the fact that the school provided individualized instruction geared to the needs of each student. “Those who, from any cause whatever, have fallen out of their classes; who do not find themselves making satisfactory progress in the public schools; who do not care to follow out the prescribed courses of study, will here find an opportunity to select such branches of study as are fitted to their needs or desires, and pursue them without being obliged to take up distasteful or seemingly useless courses.” 

Many of the school’s graduates maintained fond recollections of their educational experience in Middleborough, and a number of them eventually established the Eaton Family School Association, which began holding annual reunions in 1885. These events included a mid-day dinner served on the school lawn (or in the classroom in the advent of inclement weather) which was catered by Middleborough baker Samuel S. Bourne, with occasional literary exercises being held in the Y. M. C. A. rooms on Center Street. Each reunion culminated with a promenade, reception and dance, held in later years in Middleborough Town Hall.   

While Eaton School Association's ostensible purpose was the holding of annual reunions, it more significantly fostered the legacy of the school and its head as one of Middleborough's leading educators. “It has always seemed to me,” wrote an alum to Eaton in the 1890s, “that you had a greater influence in forming my ideas of what a man ought to be, than anyone except my guardian....”   Described as “a plain blunt man, not an orator,” Eaton nonetheless spoke eloquently of his vocation on the occasion of the 1887 reunion. “As a teacher I am more and more impressed with the fact that I am my brother's keeper.” At the time, Eaton recalled with fondness his former pupils who were “always boys and girls to me, no matter how old or gray they may grow … As said the Roman matron of her noble sons, so I would say of these boys and girls, 'these are my jewels.'”

The Eaton Family School continued to operate until 1898 when Amos Eaton was elected to the combined position of Middleborough Town Clerk, Treasurer and Collector, a position which he held until 1909. Throughout the years, however, Eaton continued to maintain contact with his numerous former pupils, preserving a variety of items sent to him including wedding invitations, letters, birth notices and death notices.  He died March 31, 1910, at the Homeopathic Hospital at Boston, “one of the most beloved and respected men of his time.” He left behind him an educational legacy of nearly a quarter-century and the fond memories of several hundred boys and girls.  At the time of his death it was written of Eaton: "He was an ideal teacher, a great lover of books, a fine scholar himself, broadly sympathetic in the hopes and ambitions of his pupils he won their affection to a degree rarely enjoyed by a teacher."

Amos H. Eaton (1843-1910), photograph, late 19th century.
Eaton was the founder of the Eaton Family School on East Grove Street.  A progressive teacher and principal, Eaton won the affection of his numerous pupils and was noted as one of the community's best loved and most respected educators.

Eaton Family & Day School, Norridgewock, ME, photograph, mid-19th century.

Catalogue of the Eaton Family School, for Five Years, Ending June, 1879.  Middleborough, Mass. (Plymouth County.)  Middleborough, MA: Eaton Family School, 1879. 
This catalogue printed by the Gazette Steam Power Book and Job Printing Office of Middleborough was one of many printed for the school.

"No Prescribed Course of Study" notice from undated Eaton Family School Catalogue, ate 19th century.

Eaton Family School, engraving, c. 1870.
This engraving, originally produced for the Middleboro' Boys' School, was later used by the Eaton Family School in its promotional literature.

Letter, Albert Jarvis Hastings to his father Demming Hastings of Medway, MA, April 16, 1879.

Eaton Family School group, stereocard, 1870s.

Eaton Family School ledger, late 19th century.
The ledger shows the accounts of Charles W. Kingman of Middleborough and Ira C. Beals with expenses for pens, pencils, blocks, erasers and texts.

Eaton Family School, engraving, c. 1879.

Eaton Family School ledger, 1879.
Accounts for the fruit orchard and gardens maintained by the school were kept separate from those of the school's educational expenses.

Supplement Containing Names of Pupils for the Year Ending June 18th, 1880.  Middleborough, MA: Eaton Family School, 1880.

Eaton Family School, photographic half-tone, c. 1890.

Eaton School Association reunion dance card, 1898.
The 1898 reunion featured hand-painted floral dance cards including the one pictured here.

Eaton Family School, photograph, early 20th century.
Few photographs exist of the Eaton Family School taken during its operation as an educational institution or in the period immediately following.  This view taken from the west depicts the school as well as a portion of the pear orchard planted to Perez Cushing, proprietor of the Middleboro' Boys' School.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Middleboro' Boys' School Prospectus, 1855

Below is prospectus for the first academic year (1854-55) of the Middleboro' Boys' School operated by Reverend Sylvester W. Marston.  The catalog describes not only the coursework to be undertaken by pupils, but other details of the boarding school, as well.  Among those associated with the school were John Whipple Potter Jenks, principal of Peirce Academy, and Charles C. Burnett, an instructor at that academy.