Happy Saturday Morning! Early morning showers won’t dampen our plans for the Memorial Day weekend.
Many thanks to all who responded to our request for help! We appreciate those who are able to help as we prepare to reopen the Museum on June 11 + 12.
Today our "then and now" photo features a prominent Easton landmark, the Soldier’s Monument. Located at the intersection of Center Street and Depot Street, the area was once known as Monument Square. In 1882 the area immediately adjacent to the monument was a busy area. On the northwest corner stood the Town Hall. Across the street, near the site of the current Center School, was the Town Poor Farm, and the original Centre School, now a music and antique shop. There were two churches in the area as well as parsonages. The Town Pound, a place for stray farm animals to be left for claiming, was also here. Depot Street was an important link in colonial times as it connected two early villages, South Easton and Furnace Village, as well as intercepting Bay Road which was one of the “King’s Highways” and a stage coach route. The location of the monument is also very near the geographical center of Easton and that was important once North Easton began to quickly develop with the arrival of Oliver Ames and the shovel company.
Following the Civil War, as people returned to their former way of life, the south was heavily devastated with the loss of cities, towns, plantations, railroads and shipping, and was left with a shattered economy. In the north, the physical losses were not so drastic, with a strong war economy and no loss of infrastructure. However, the effect on returning soldiers on both sides was equally devastating. Many suffered medical issues from wounds or sickness and could not perform their prior work. An untold number of soldiers suffered from depression, PTSD, or other emotional inflictions that could not be diagnosed and had no real treatment options. It took a generation to try to begin to heal the land. The assassination of President Lincoln left an open wound for many years that only added to the hurt felt by a slowly healing nation. In Easton it took almost twenty years before thought could be seriously given to erecting a suitable monument to commemorate those who gave their lives to preserve the Union.
On Memorial Day 1882 the Soldier’s Monument was dedicated in memory of the forty-seven men who gave their lives in the war, and in honor of all those who made so many sacrifices and survived. The dedication book records that some two thousand people were in attendance. For years platforms were erected as a parade viewing stand for veteran’s speakers, and other dignitaries, and today (excepting the pandemic when people could not gather) appropriate ceremonies continue to be held in remembrance of our Civil War dead.
In our old photo, we look at the monument and behind it Center Street running north towards North Easton. There are urban myths about Civil War memorials in the north, many of which feature a soldier. The myth is that the soldier’s look south to keep watch. A survey of Civil War monuments will show that is not entirely true. In Easton’s case, the monument is placed at the main road in the area and established a true center for government and civic activities, as well as overlooking the parade route from the G.A.R. Hall in Eastondale to the Town Hall.
Today’s photo, taken in front of the former Read house, has raised some questions! The entire length of Depot Street has been under construction for two years now, with relocation of power poles, the widening of a heavily traveled road, additional turn lanes, and sidewalks making up the bulk of the work this year. A major component will be the redesign of the intersection of Center Street, Depot Street, Purchase Street, and Porter Street. Maybe it’s my age showing, but traveling south on Center Street to Depot, and turning west, means turning my head nearly backwards to see oncoming traffic, a very uncomfortable experience. Traveling east can mean a lengthy wait for a break in traffic. Those turning in either direction from Purchase Street run into similar issues. In order to accommodate improvements to the intersection, the Soldier’s Monument will be moved some fifteen feet to the west, allowing Center Street to be relocated to better align with other streets. Lights and turning lanes will certainly be a welcome improvement. The scaffolding around the monument is the first step in preparing it for moving. Untouched since its installation in 1882, the process of moving our memorial will be a delicate one as engineers study how it was originally assembled, how much of it should be dismantled, and of course providing a proper footing and area around the base for viewing. In a few months this familiar spot will change form, and hopefully for the better.
Stay well, and enjoy Memorial Day,
Curator: Frank Meninno