History of the town of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts

Soon after my return from Europe in 1864, the thought occurred to me to write a History of the First Congregational Church and Parish in Canton. My father had been its pastor for many years; and I had read with interest an historical sermon preached by him at the dedication of the present meeting-house in 1824.

I had been clerk of the parish, and had been much interested in looking over the old records, and deemed that portions of them might be wrought up into a readable narrative. With this view I began to make extracts from the records, and while residing in New York City devoted my leisure time to arranging the materials then in my possession, and nearly completed what now appears in this volume as the ecclesiastical history of my native town.

On my return to Canton in 1869 I was surprised t;o find that large portions of the records had been published in a paper printed at Canton many years before, called the "Massapoag Journal." I found, moreover, that many extracts from the town records had also appeared in this paper, and so my history was laid aside for many years.

In looking over my father's old papers, I accidentally came across a letter from his friend, the Rev. Thaddeus William Harris, at that time librarian of Harvard College; in this letter he urged my father to write a history of Canton.

It then occurred to me that I might employ my evenings in compiling a history of the town. Since then (1872) I have devoted myself with more or less assiduity in collecting materials for the work. I have ransacked old attics, talked - with the oldest inhabitant, consulted the records of the General Court, the Probate Office, Registry of Deeds, and Superior Court at Boston, the Registry of Deeds and Probate Records at Dedham, and the libraries, both public and private, of Boston and New York.

When I have found records accurately printed, I have not scrupled to appropriate them, after comparing them in all cases with the originals.

Every statement I have made in this work I have authority for, either from records or well-authenticated tradition.

I acknowledge myself indebted for courtesies or information to the following persons, George Hilloon, the Librarian of the New York Historical Society; John Ward Dean, Librarian of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society. To Ellis Ames, Esq., Mrs. Nabby Maynard, Samuel Chandler, Augustus Gill, and to many others who in my own town have assisted me with documents or information, I am under great obligation. This work, like all of its kind, is incomplete. Volumes might be written about those matters that have been omitted, and much that has been written might without loss have been left out I have endeavored to discriminate as well as I could.

Time is slowly obliterating the records of the past. Be fore they shall have been rendered completely illegible, is it not well to gather up and preserve what might otherwise be forever lost? It is a duty we owe to ourselves as well as to the memory of our ancestors to secure in a permanent and durable form whatever may be gained from fast-perishing records, from the voice of tradition, or from the memories of those who are now on the stage of life.

Our attachment to the place of our birth is strengthened by the recollections of the events of former days. The more of quaint and curious lore that is associated with one's birth-place, the dearer and deeper are the memories which hold him to his old moorings and bring fond recollections back to his heart.

The treasures of the past are open to one who will but ask, and the light of other days softened by distance falls upon him. By his memory he can renew his intercourse with the departed, ponder upon their worth and talents, their excellences of life and stability of character, and be proud of an alliance with such nobility, rejoicing that the life they led has in a measure survived their bodily dissolution.

Should I succeed in rescuing from oblivion the men of other days, the honored and the loved in their time ; and should I succeed in interesting my reader, as we proceed from the early days of the untutored savage to the events within the memory of those now living, my modest enterprise will be happily fulfilled.


Table of Contents

I. The New Grant 1
II. The Ponkapoag Plantation 10
III. The First Settlers 46
IV. Ancient Deeds and Grants 61
V. The Gathering of the Church 83
VI. The First Minister 98
VII. Roads and Ways 119
VIII. Schools 134
IX. Burying-Grounds 148
X. Early Mills. Incorporation of Stoughton 166
XI. The Second Minister 176
XII. Taverns 206
XIII. Civil History, 1726-1750 235
XIV. Some Old Customs 248
XV. The Third Meeting-House 264
XVI. The English Church 277
XVII. The Neutral French 290
XVIII. Music 306
XIX. Militia 314
XX. The War of the Revolution 331
XXI. The War of the Revolution (Continued) 348
XXII. Richard Gridley 360
XXIII. The Powder-Mills 380
XXIV. Independence. The Salt-Works 387
XXV. The Loyalists 401
XXVI. Worthies of the Revolution 412
XXVII. Shays's Rebellion 426
XXVIII. Civil History, 1775-1800 434
XXIX. The Third Miniver 438
XXX. John Downes 450
XXXI. Incorporation of Canton 458
XXXII. Topography 465
XXXIII. Fourth of July and Other Celebrations in Canton 483
XXXIV. Prominent Men of the New Town 497
XXXV. The Fourth Minister 505
XXXVI. The New Town. War of 1812 516
XXXVII. Roger Sherman 524
XXXVIII. The Rise of South Canton. Manufactures 529
XXXIX. Orthodox, Baptist, and Universalist Churches 547
XL. Reverend Benjamin Huntoon, Reverend Orestes

A. Brownson 556
XLI. Physicians 565
XLII. Literary History. Societies 571
XLIII. Town-Houses. Memorial Hall 590



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Immediately upon their appointment, the committee began the work assigned them, by reading through the manuscript left by Mr. Huntoon, a work which occupied them during nearly one hundred meetings. While the work, so far as it had been carried by its author, was substantially complete, it was found that it had not been revised or arranged for the press, and that in order to bring it within the compass of an ordinary volume, a careful discretion must be exercised in striking out redundant and superfluous matter, including the many repetitions which must creep into every manuscript which, like this, accumulated gradually by the labors of many years. Moreover, the manuscript was in such form that it was impossible to determine what space the matter would occupy in print, so that much of the editorial work had to be postponed until the book was put into the press. It seemed to the committee that the editorial work, including the making of the necessary index and prefatory matter, would be done to most advantage by those who had already such knowledge of the subject as was to be obtained by a careful reading of the whole mass of manuscript, and the seeing the work through the press was accordingly undertaken by Mr. Endicott and Mr. Buswell of the committee. The making of the illustrations was intrusted to Mr. Sidney L. Smith, of Canton, as artist, and the plates therefor, except the frontispiece, were made by the Boston Photogravure Company. The maps are by Mr. Frederic Endicott, of Canton. The printing and binding have been done by Messrs. John Wilson & Son, of the University Press, Cambridge; and the Editors desire, in this place, to acknowledge the assistance which they have received from the accomplished proof-readers of that house, not only in the matter of verbal correction, but by way of valuable suggestion and criticism.

The committee found that Mr. Huntoon had left untouched the history of the town during the War of the Rebellion, so far as such history relates to the service of its soldiers in the field and its citizens at home; and it was at first their intention to have this omission supplied, so far as might be, by some other hand. But it was found that in order to carry out this plan it would be necessary to omit from the book other matter properly belonging to it, which the committee believed they could not with propriety do; and so they reluctantly abandoned the plan of adding a "war chapter" to the work, hoping that at some time the services of Canton's citizens and soldiers in the great conflict may be recorded in enduring form.

The publication of the book has been hastened as fast as the work to be done and the engagements of the Editors would permit. The committee, however, deem it proper to say "that the printing of the book was delayed for fully a year, by the failure on the part of the persons furnishing the plates for the illustrations to perform their work promptly, a failure for which neither the artist nor the Editors were responsible.

The book, as now presented, is, in the strict sense of the words, Mr. Huntoon's. While it has, of necessity, been condensed, the committee believe that nothing of essential importance has been omitted from it, or the omission of which its author would not have approved; and with these words of explanation the work is submitted to the town.