History of the town of Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts
It is stated in the Introduction to the following History, what the circumstances were which led to its being written. At the solicitation of the Editor of the Abington Standard, a few articles relating to the history of the town were furnished by me for insertion in that paper, without any view to their publication in a book. After about twenty-five numbers had been furnished and printed, I was solicited by many of my fellow-citizens to bring together the articles which had been printed, and publish them in a more permanent form. I issued proposals to see if there would be sufficient encouragement for such an undertaking, and several hundred copies were subscribed for. This seemed to be an approval of what I had written. The idea was to revise and print only what I had furnished for the Standard. But, in preparing to do this, many other subjects presented themselves, and a wide field opened before me. I proceeded to add chapter after chapter, until I had more than doubled the size of the book which I had at first proposed. At this time, also, the price of paper and printing had nearly trebled (owing to the war of the Rebellion, then going on). Under these circumstances I published a card in the Abington Standard, saying I could not issue the book with the additions and extra cost of printing on the terms proposed, without a great sacrifice. The answer was, so far as I could learn, "Go on; we want the book complete." I have acted in accordance with this desire of the subscribers, and have fixed the price with a view only to cover the cost. This will depend on the amount of sales, which I must risk.
At the commencement of the work, I had no idea of the labor and time which it would require to finish it.
It may interest the friends of the undertaking, and citizens generally of the town, to know that I have had the whole book stereotyped, and all the engravings electrotyped ; so that hereafter new editions can be issued, errors can be corrected, new pages Substituted, and, if need be, revised and enlarged; chapters that may have become obsolete, may be excluded, and new ones introduced in their place. Also, new memorials of families, new items of historical facts, and new engravings of family residences and public buildings can be added.
There is a large proportion of the contents of the book which it would not have been possible to get at a much later period. I refer to the information obtained from aged persons, in respect to the first settlement of the town, means of support, customs and manners of the inhabitants, and modes of living, progress of improvement, &c. I should have lost much that is valuable in the book if a few very aged persons had been taken away before I commenced it. The Memorials were aided much in their composition in this way.
In writing the History, I have availed myself of all the sources of information which I could well command, without deeper researches than I had time and means to make. I leave these to future antiquarians. What I have done will, I think, aid them in what remains to be done. I have made much use of "An Historical Sketch of Abington," written by my nephew, the Hon. Aaron Hobart, of East Bridgewater, nearly thirty years ago. I have taken much from the records of the town since I commenced the History; from the different Boards of Selectmen, Town Clerks, School Committees, and other town officers. I am much indebted to the present Pastors of the Churches in town, and to Church Committees, for valuable statistics of their Churches and Societies; to the owners of manufacturing establishments for descriptions of their factories and business; to spirited individuals for engravings of their family residences and public buildings ; to the officers of Ladies' Societies, established for benevolent purposes; to many of the inhabitants of the town, for furnishing memorials of their families and ancestors; and to many aged persons, as referred to above, for much interesting matter of past times. Among them I would name Nathan Beal, of East Abington ; Bela Dyer, of South Abington, and Isaiah Noyes, of Centre Abington, — gentlemen worthy of respect, not only for their age and family connections, but also for their personal qualities. I might here add that I have drawn much information from my own experience and observation, and from my ancestors.
In writing the following History, I have endeavored to be correct. I have impeached no one's motives, and have indulged no prejudice against any sect, society, or order of men. There may be errors and mistakes; it could hardly be otherwise in a record of so many events, ages, dates of births, of deaths, and names of persons — there are over five thousand of the last. But all such errors and mistakes can be corrected, as stated above, by amending the stereotype plates in succeeding editions.
In compiling this History, and looking up documents, I have been often surprised at the want of information in respect to the same, by most of the present inhabitants of the town, especially of the rising generation, and of thousands of those who have emigrated here, and taken up their residence among us. To generations yet unborn, who may come after us, what I have done, with such improvements and additions as may be required, will be invaluable.
The record of the names and ages of over two thousand (2,200) of the children in town, now attending school, will, it seems to me, be hereafter of very great interest, not only to them, but also to their parents and friends. It will, as they advance in life, call up in their minds the forms of each other as they stood side by side at recitation, or sat in their seats ; their teachers and the school committees will also rise up in form before them. And when they become active in the busy scenes of life, and scattered over our extensive country, each one, referring to his book, may call up the scenes and companions of his childhood. In the margin, also, he can mark the changes which have taken place in the earthly condition of his early friends, and an asterisk can be attached to the names of those who have been removed to another world. Several of their names, already, require an asterisk to be so placed.
This History may not only be interesting to the inhabitants of this town, but also to many in other towns, as there is a great similarity in the incidents connected with the first settlement of towns in this vicinity, and generally in all New England. All had their deprivations, trials and difficulties in commencing anew — made similar exertions in providing habitations and sustenance for their families ; their customs, manners and modes of living also were much the same.
I intend to leave the inheritance of the copyright of this book, and the stereotype and electrotype plates, in the hands of my eldest son, Benjamin Hobart, jr., so that hereafter, if occasion should require it, he or his assigns may make corrections, improvements, or may issue new editions, as the inhabitants of the town may require, or be willing to patronize.
Table of Contents
Location. — Elvers. — Saw-Mills. — Timber and Soil 1
Roads. — Their former Location. — The Past and Present Mode of Repairing them, and Making of New Roads 7
Beech Hill. — Location of Roads over it 15
Population, Valuation and Polls. — Their Increase and Amount 10
School Districts. — Changes in them. — Money raised for Schooling. — School Committees. — System of Schooling in Past Times and at the Present Time 25
Schools — Continued 37
Agriculture and Horticulture. — Their State and Condition in Past Times and at the Present Time 71
Agriculture and Horticulture — Continued 83
Statistics of the First Religious Society. — Two First Ministers, Rev. Samuel Brown and Rev. Ezckiel Dodge 88
Rev. Samuel Niles, the Third Minister of the First Religious Society 98
Rev. Samuel Niles, Third Minister of the First Religious Society. — Concluded 106
Rev. Holland Weeks, Fourth Minister of the First Religious Society 115
Rev. Holland Weeks, Fourth Minister of the First Religious Society. — Concluded 123
First Society of the New Jerusalem in Abington 130
Physicians Practicing in Abington in Past Times, and at the Present Time 134
Manufactures. — Their Rise and Progress in Early Times; their State and Condition at the Present Time 140
Manufacture of Boots and Shoes. — The Amount severally made and sold by Firms and Individuals; The Rise, Progress and Extent of this Manufacture. — Concluded 146
Incorporation of the Second Religious Society. — Obstacles at- tending it. — Constitution and Laws respecting the Support of Public Worship. — Modification of them in 1811. — Total Repeal of them in 1833. — Result, entire Religious Freedom. — Statistics of the Second Religious Society, in South Abington, by the Pastor 156
East Abington Religious Society (Congregational) 164
Politics. — Political Parties. — Popular Elections 167
Politics. — Political Parties. — Popular Elections. — Concluded 174
Oration, July 4, 1805 181
Organization of the "First Baptist Church" in Abington, and its Present State. 199
A Statement of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the "Baptist Church of Christ in East Abington," including a Declaration of their Belief and Covenant. By their Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Chaplin 205
Congregational Society and Church in North Abington 212
Historical Sketch of the First Universalist Society, Abington 221
The Catholic Church 225
Proceedings at the Semi-Centennial Celebration, June 10, 1862 227
Municipal Affairs of the Town 239
The First Settlements in Different Parts of the Town. — Some Account of the First Settlers 246
Miscellaneous Items. — Some Account of Slaves and their Owners. — Longevity of the African Race. — The Mulatto or Mixed Race. — Evil Consequences arising from the Union of White and Colored Persons. — Fires. — Tornadoes. — Native Lawyers 251
Miscellaneous Items of Events and Persons. — Epidemics. — Longevity. — Old French War. — Revolutionary War. — Graduates of Colleges. — Banks. — Insurance Office 263
Distinguished Characters, and their Doings, viz.: — Isaac Hobart, Aaron Hobart, Dr. David Jones, Dr. David Jones, jr. Woodbridge Brown, Joseph Greenleaf, Jacob Smith, Daniel Lane, Joseph Torrey, Nathan Gurney, Samuel Norton, James Bates and Micah Pool. — In the Military line: — Col. Luke Bicknell, Major Luke Nash, Col. Brackley Gushing, Capt. Noah Ford and Major-General Benjamin King. — Some Remarks respecting the Author of this Book 275
The First Tack Factory built in Town. — Three Others built more recently. — Boot and Shoe Establishments 286
The Southern Rebellion. — Men, and other Aids for Suppressing the Rebellion. — Commissioned Officers. — Mortality, &c. 296
Southern Rebellion, Continued. — Co-operation of the Ladies 317
Reception of the Returned Soldiers 332
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The following letter which I addressed to the Editor of the Abington Standard, was printed in that paper, together with most of the "Historical Reminiscences" at the time they were written. This letter will show the reasons of my undertaking to write them.
South Abington, March 10, 1859. C. G. Easterbrook, Esq., Editor of the Abington Standard:
I have yours of the 7th inst., inquiring of me "if I might be induced to prepare a series of articles concerning past events and past generations in the Town of Abington;" Stating that this has been suggested by mutual friends, as I am one of the oldest inhabitants in town. You also add, "that you are about furnishing new type and materials for your paper, and should be pleased to commence the publication of such a series from my pen, the first week in April; "and for this purpose, you say, "you have presumed to address mc on the subject, and express a strong hope that I shall look favorably on the request."
I am not now prepared to enter into any particular engagements on the subject of your request. The thing has been proposed to me before by a number of my friends; and I confess that I have had thoughts, at times, of attempting something of the kind, but I have never written a word with such an intent. If I should conclude to write a few articles on past events and generations gone by, I could not be bound to do so at stated times, as weekly or monthly, but occasionally, as I might find it convenient, without any implied obligation to continue it for any definite period.
I am aware, Mr. Editor, when any one undertakes to write for the public eye, he becomes an object of remark and criticism, if not of reproach. In speaking of customs, parties and individuals, it is very likely some might be offended; to avoid this, if I should furnish some articles as proposed, I intend to be scrupulously just and accurate. I would not, however, be bound to give precise dates of events, or ages of persons, or their given names or titles; I should have to draw my remarks principally from memory. I might omit the names of some individuals, and only notice the result of their doings; of public events and measures there will be no need of disguise.
Another thing is generally desired by the public when any one undertakes to write for them ; that is, some knowledge of the writer. I had thought at first to write anonymously, but this could not be done. I am too much identified with past events in this town to be hid in noticing them. I have been a voter over fifty years, and have taken quite an active part in public transactions, — have been in active business over fifty years, and have paid away for labor over (as I estimate) one million of dollars; so I need no introduction to the inhabitants of this town. I have had a good deal to say in town-meetings, and I have always intended to be found on the side of law and order; but my more particular connection with the transactions of the town may be further noticed when I come to state some of their municipal doings.
Within my remembrance, which embraces a period of more than sixty years, things have very much changed in this town. The population then was about 1,400, voters 300, polls 450, — there was but one religious society, and only one chaise. — no light wagons or covered carriages; even since I became a voter, two generations have passed away; those then who became voters at twenty-one years of age would now be over seventy. How few remain of that generation, and how great is the number who have come and gone within that period; they number thousands; and how few of the present population of the town (about 8,000) will ever attain to such an age?
But few of the present generation have any adequate ideas of the state of society, the customs and manners, the style, modes and means of living, at the period referred to, or even forty years past. That generation had their trials and difficulties, their sorrows and joys, and were not without their contentious, but were, on the whole, perhaps, as comfortable and happy as the present inhabitants. Society is not always improved according to its advantages; favors and blessings are often abused; past generations labored under many disadvantages from which we are relieved, and we have entered into many of their labors. Their morals, to say the least, were as good as ours, and, certainly, heinous crimes, and the breaking down of order in society, did not prevail then as at the present time.
In reviewing past times we are apt to think meanly of the then inhabitants, because they did not come up to the standard of our own times; but the reproach is, perhaps, more applicable to us than to them. Have we improved the greatly superior advantages which we have over them? A great many new inventions within a few years have changed the whole face of society, and added greatly to the facility of doing business in all the departments of industry; but the contrast will appear more striking when we come to describe more particularly the state of society at the time referred to.
In connection with these views of a want of respect for those who have preceded us, we may even notice that, at the present time, terms of reproach and spite are bandied about, without any definite meaning, against many great and good men who have but just passed away from us, and even against many worthy men and patriots now living, especially if they are aged. They are nick-named "Old Fogies," and individually an "Old Fogy," and this by "Young America." Now there is no definite meaning to these terms. "Old Fogy" is used as a term of reproach generally against a person who does not join our party, or dissents from our views. It is often used to reproach the infirmities of age.
The other term, "Young America," is equally indefinite, and is used as the counterpart of "Old Fogy ism." It does not mean, and it is not used, to designate America as a young nation in comparison to the old nations of Europe, but as a cant word, to denote the doings of young bloods, spirited youths, projectors of great and daring operations, whether right or wrong, leaders of parties, and the Administration when they want to acquire or add foreign territory to our now vast domains, whether by the sword or purse. It may sometimes be used to denote worthy objects, as the progress of the mechanic arts, manufactures, agriculture and commerce.
To the younger portion of the inhabitants of the present day, who are just commencing active life, sketches of former times, if properly made and contrasted with present times, might be quite interesting; for it is surprising how little is known and realized by them of events even of only twenty or thirty years past. It would show them the superior advantages which they now possess for improvement in education, social and domestic comforts and enjoyments, and add new obligations to rightly use and improve such advantages.
I will only add, in conclusion of this introductory article, (if it should prove to be so,) that I do not intend to enter into any controversy on any of the subjects or statements which I may make, and assume no responsibility, except as to their truth. My present idea is to state some reminiscences of past times — of men and things, — of the state of society, — of domestic economy, — of rural scenes, — of public and private acts, with such anecdotes as may come to mind ; and I may add such remarks as may occur from such a review.