Greetings from spooky Easton! Well, things have been a little spooky here this week, as a major nor’easter Tuesday night and Wednesday left more than 50% of the town without power and caused nearly thirty road closures, causing school to be cancelled for three days. The Museum faired well, with no damage or power loss and only a few branches down. I hope to have power back at home sometime this weekend, and I am grateful for all those people who are working so hard to restore services.
Thank you to all of you who supported us through the Shaw’s bag purchase program. I do not have the final numbers just yet, but I will let you know how we did as soon as I know.
Back around 1694, Easton was found to be settled by seven brave pioneer families, one of whom was John Phillips of Weymouth. He came around the same time as William Manley, and lived in the area of Morse’s Corner (Belmont Street and Washington Street) in South Easton. Phillips became the first Town Clerk in Easton, the first Militia Captain, served in the expedition against Quebec in 1690 (he was probably a captain before arriving in Easton) and was married to Elizabeth Drake, sister to two other early settlers here. Fast forwarding some fourteen or fifteen generations, we find two of his direct descendants to be the topic of today’s story.
Brothers Austin (1912-2002) and Ivan Phillips (1917-2003) were a regular sight around Easton’s Furnace Village. Austin lived in an antique cape house at the end of South Street near Highland Street, and Ivan lived on a small lane known as Walnut Street that ran through the woods from the other end of Highland Street to what is now Eastman Street going into Mansfield. I did not know Ivan well, but I knew Austin very well. Austin was in charge of the Furnace Village Cemetery on South Street for many decades and kept a watchful eye on that place from his house next door. Nothing went unnoticed! If anyone should be lurking around the cemetery after dark, Austin would be there to make sure they would leave without causing trouble (he was always well armed with an old pistol and fortified by Jack Daniels). Many times he had the chore of digging up “wacky tobacco” planted by some of the locals in the extreme rear of the cemetery, which was not cleared, and provided a good place to grow something you did not want to be found – except no one could avoid the watchful eye of one of the Phillips brothers. Once, when I was investigating the ruins of an old mill on South Street, I came up from down below street grade to find Austin watching me. He had a pen and paper in his hand, ready to take down my license plate number. It turns out that for some time people would park a car along South Street, make their way through the woods, break into homes on Highland Street, and then get back into their car on South Street and make their getaway. Austin caught on immediately to their plans and began taking down plate numbers of any cars he suspected of unusual activity.
Getting back to the cemetery, we find the real reason for today’s story. Austin and Ivan, two inseperable brothers, shared one other thing together. They were grave diggers! When I was young, I never saw a digging machine in the Furnace Village Cemetery. All the graves that needed to be dug were done by hand, compliments of Austin and Ivan. Think about that! Two older gentlemen getting out their wheelbarrow and shovels, and a ladder, dutifully fulfilling their service to those who now reside in the cemetery, and with dignity, providing the final resting place for so many of their family, friends, and others who had need of their services. The two brothers were proud of the way the cemetery was well kept and especially proud that a digging machine, which could cause damage to surrounding stones and the lawn, would not be needed as long as they were able to continue to dig graves by hand. Finally, after many years and lots of digging, Austin and Ivan had to cease their services. The reason? They got too old to climb the ladder out of the graves! After all, they were in their eighties by then. Now the two brothers make their home in the very place they took such good care of. May my two favorite grave diggers rest in peace.
Until next week, stay well,
Hello from beautiful, historic Easton! Today is a sunny day, but fall weather is on the horizon, with showers arriving in the next few days and a cool down in temperatures arriving soon. According to the weather report I heard this morning, we could see temps in the 30's overnight. A killing frost probably is not far behind.
The Shaw's Give Back Where It Counts program is nearly over! So far, more than 20 bags have been sold - I bought mine last weekend - and we are very grateful for your support, as each purchase earns the Museum $1. Thank you to Shaw's for choosing us as the October recipient of this program!
With a chill in the air not too far off, it will soon be time to light up the wood stove, and that means I'll be bringing out the matchbooks. Those matchbooks are much more than just a light though, and many of them serve as advertising pieces for local institutions. Today's tidbit is just that, but what is inside is not what you might think.
Dating to the 1970's, a matchbook giveaway from the North Easton Savings Bank served patrons in a special way, all wrapped up in a clever advertising campaign. At 2 3/8" x 3" when closed, the matchbook is much larger than one would expect. It is large enough to be easily placed in a shirt pocket where many people would keep a pen handy. That gives a clue to what is inside the match book. It contains a small notepad of plain paper, 25 sheets of it, perforated at the bottom for easy removal. When I worked as a machinist, I always kept three things in my shirt pocket - a pencil or pen, a steel rule, and a notebook. It seems silly to do that today with all of the options available on electronic devices to do the same thing as my pen and paper would do, but growing up, I remember most people who worked always had something handy to take notes with.
This bright yellow matchbook / notebook reminded the user each time of the services that were provided by the bank - various loans, savings accounts, savings clubs, travelers cheques and even life insurance. The rear cover struck a themed note, reminding the bearer to "Make a Note Now" to save regularly, check out mortgages, and refer a friend to the bank for those aforementioned items. This advertising piece hit just the right "note!"
Until next week, stay well,
Greetings everyone! Today is a beautiful day here at the Museum. Leaves are finally getting their fall colors, the days have been warm and the nights cool. But colder weather is on the horizon, and as soon as we get a real cold snap, those colorful leaves that grace our trees will be on the ground!
Thank you all for supporting us with the Shaw's Give Back Where It Counts program, where we receive $1 for each of these reusable bags purchased in October. To date, twenty-two bags have been purchased (I'll be getting mine this weekend) so half way through the month we are doing good! If you are in the market for a new shopping bag, please consider purchasing one of these special bags to support us!
Two Easton institutions are celebrating landmark anniversaries this month. The Immaculate Conception Church on Main Street is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and Easton Baptist Church at the corner of Bay Road and Rockland Street is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Congratulations to both organizations who have been faithfully serving the Easton area in so many ways for so many years!
Our historical nugget today comes from Joe Evans, Archivist and Museum Collections Manager, Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of California. While going through the collections housed there, he came across a rare document from Easton! Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Evans, that document is now in our collection.
The War of 1812 (June 1812-February 1815) was an unpopular war, and the years leading up to it were a difficult time for our young nation. War between France and Britain caused economic issues for American traders as both France and Britain attempted to block the United States from trading with either of the other countries involved. Lawmakers sometimes took bold stances to support America. One of these men was Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) who had an interesting career in both business and politics (much more successful in politics!). A native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Gerry rose to prominence following the French and Indian War. He served at the Constitutional Convention, signed the Declaration of Independence, but refused to sign the Constitution until it had the Bill of Rights added to it. Gerry served in politics at various levels, including Governor of Massachusetts, being elected in 1810, and again the following year. However, after some creative redistricting gave him and his party a favorable advantage, and charges of taking money from a lobbyist surfaced, he lost a hard fought battle for re-election in 1812. Using his national connections, he lobbied President James Madison for a position as a Boston customs collector. Madison, however, needed a vice-president, and after joining the ticket, Gerry found himself elected as the 5th Vice-President of the United States. Unfortunately, he took sick in Washington, D.C. and died in office in 1814. Today he is best known for "gerrymandering," the process used to alter districts for one's own or one's party's political advantage. A good biography of him can be found at
Our document, a scan of which is attached, is an official document that attests to Easton's votes for Governor and Lt. Governor during Gerry's ill-fated 1812 re-election bid. This paper would be filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to certify the election results of Easton voters. It records 150 votes for Gerry, and 69 votes for his opponent Caleb Strong. The Lt. Governor votes from Easton were 151 votes for William King, and 69 votes for William Phillips. The Selectmen of Easton, Calvin Brett, Daniel Macomber, and Josiah Copeland signed the paper, and Town Clerk Howard Lothrop attested it to be true.
Until next week, stay well,
Hello from Easton! Today the sun is out in full force, and a warm day is welcomed. Colors are appearing rapidly around town as leaves turn their beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow!
This week I ask you to join me in congratulating the Easton Lions Club as they celebrate 90 years of service to Easton. From their beginning in 1931, the Lions have sponsored many public health initiatives, from school dentist visits and treatments, to today's vision programs, and so many other great things. Their annual events such as the Holiday Festival and their fishing derby, just to name a few, are special. Their relationship with the Easton Grange has been such a benefit for both groups. If you have not been to the thrift store, check it out!
Today I have attached the last of the 1968 Gym Jam photos. I hope to get a few names from these pictures, and I thank those who have sent some along. One of the events on the program was Boys Tumbling, and the two photos here must be from that event. Can you imagine how much practice it must have taken to do these? I don't think I would want to be the young man on the bottom of the pile, and I know I would never be able to "fly" over the twelve boys doing headstands! Such athleticism is something to truly be admired.
The second attachment is five of our boys striking their best pose. Again, names are needed.
We are missing photos of the girls events at this Gym Jam, and if any are out there, please consider sending them along to add to the collection. We are able to copy any photos you might not want to part with.
Wishing you all a terrific week,
Shaws Supermarket in Easton has chosen the Easton Historical Society and Museum to be the recipient of its "Give Back Where It Counts" reusable bag program! For the month of October, we will receive a donation of $1 for each bag sold. These bags are on a special rack near the Courtesy Booth, and only sales of these "I Give Back" bags will benefit the Museum. You can do two great things by purchasing one of these high quality reusable bags: you help the environment, and you help your Museum. If you live out of the Easton area, the tag attached to the bag can be used to direct proceeds from your purchase to us. I hope you will take time to check it out.
All the best, and stay well,
Hello from the Museum! It was cool enough here yesterday to run the furnace, a sure sign of things to come. Even so, I hope we can all enjoy some terrific weather before the next bout of rain settles in.
Reminiscences Volume 12 is now available at the Museum and in our on-line store! This most recent edition features 113 pages of historical pieces on such diverse topics as the Toll House Restaurant, a trip to the remains of Flyaway Pond, memories from the late Lee Williams about the Easton Jaycees, The Easton Nursing Association by Hazel Varella, a few ghost stories along the Bay Road, and many other writings. Thanks to a very generous donation from Mrs. Carol Misiewicz in memory of her late husband Dr. Robert Misiewicz to offset the cost of printing, we are able to offer the book for $10.
The Easton Community Calendar is also available at the Museum and other fine establishments around town. Free for the taking, and made possible by the North Easton Savings Bank, the calendar follows the school year and is full of information on Easton organizations, elected and appointed officials, Easton school sports, and other groups. Dates for meetings are included on the calendar pages as well as school events, vacations, early release days, etc.
Today I am attaching two more photos from the 1968 Gym Jam. These photos are among materials donated in memory of the late Tim Carlson. The events captured on film are the Boys Pyramid, and a tribute to the 1968 Olympics. The pyramid looks like a feat of engineering as much as it was a feat of athleticism. More than twenty-five young men, along with some apparatus and well placed wood supports, enable the pyramid to be created. Balance, combined with strength and stamina, allow this remarkable form to take shape. One small mis-step, and disaster results. Note that there are very few mats to cushion one's landing should misfortune strike!
In the following photo, below the familiar Olympic banner, the boys are painted in gold and pose to represent a number of Olympic events. How many different events do you see here? In those days, both summer and winter Olympics were held in the same calendar year, so sports from both Olympics were being represented.
Next week I will share two more photos from the Gym Jam. As always, names are needed if you recognize any of these fine athletes!
Stay safe and well,
Curator: Frank Meninno