In 2002 I asked for and received permission from the AHS to reproduce this work in digital form as it had been out of print for many years. It was one of the most popular posts on the original site and I received many emails from people who remembered Mr. Studley fondly.
Since this is a long document in this format, the Table of Contents on page 5 will be made into live links to help with navigating the various chapters.
May 1, 1992
Local artist, T.A. Charron has designed the logo for Attleboro’s Tri-centennial in 1994.
The logo incorporates
The logo incorporates images of Attleboro past 300 years. One can notice the horseshoe which represents the hard work and luck it took to clear and successfully farm the land first hundred years.
The second hundred years are represented by the jewelry appearance of the design and the chains, who’s manufacturing industrialized the growing town of Attleborough.
The last hundred years, the double arch bridge in the city’s center represents the network of railroads and highways that have brought together people of many cultures who have settled in Attleboro.
The bridge is used to also symbolize the community’s strength and unity during the years from 1694 to 1994.
The three stars symbolize the blood, sweat and tears spilled by all the people of Attleboro who stood up to preserve our freedoms in the past 300 years.
Note: logo is being used with the permission of the Tri-centennial committee. The proceeds from this book go to the Historical Society
This is the work of my husband, A. Irvin Studley, in which he records the history of Attleboro from the time of the North Purchase to the end of World War I .
It is hoped that this will be used by the present Attleboro Historical Commission for research and possible publication.
Presented to the
Att. Hist. Comm
Alice D. Studley
(Mrs. A. Irvin Studley)
This is an abridged publication of Mr. A. Irvin Studley’s book, .” History of Attleboro from the Time of the North Purchase to the End of World War 1″
Retiring — Principal A. Irvin Studley, who has been a teacher or principal in the local schools for nearly 40 years, will retire from the teaching staff of the city, on Nov. 1. Mr. Studley is shown at his desk, at Bliss School where he has served as principal for many years. He will join the staff of The Attleboro Sun after he retires and will do some tutoring during his spare time. -Sun photo by Adams.
Courtesy of the Sun Chronicle and Miss Caroline Spier
This is not a complete exhaustive and detailed history of Attleboro. It is not intended as such. It is a simple narrative as complete as time and space allotted will permit as interestingly told as the limited ability of the author makes it possible.
There are doubtless mistakes. If so, readers will please be forgiving. The facts are as nearly correct as the the writer could ascertain.
If some things are left out which you would have wished to find, it is either because they were unknown to the writer or not thought to be of enough general interest to be included in so brief a sketch.
Almost any chapter could have been made the subject of a whole booklet larger than this.
Only those facts and incidents have been selected which the writer though would be of interest to most people.
And so dear reader this sketch of Attleboro is placed before you in the hope that you may enjoy reading it and that it will develop in you a deeper love for your native or your adopted community, as the case may be.
Attleboro has a past of which it may be proud, a present record of achievement worthy of its historic past. What its future shall be depends upon what you and coming generations shall make it.
Table of Contents
17 Land Difficulties
20 Indian Troubles
23 Manners and Customs Strange to Our Times
31 Schools and Education
48 Private Schools
52 Schools Funds
54 Industrial / Agricultural Attleboro
66 Durable Suspenders
68 Attleboro in War Time
78 Elijah Fisher’s Journal
79 Post War Problems
80 Civil War
83 Spanish War
84 World War 1
89 Page From School Committee Minute Book
92 List of Illustrations
HISTORY OF ATTLEBORO FROM THE TIME OF THE NORTH PURCHASE TO THE END OF WORLD WAR 1
What we now know as Attleboro once covered a much larger area. (See maps) It was known as “North Purchase” or “Rehoboth North Purchase”, and was bought by Captain Thomas Willett of Wannamoisett (Indian name for Swansea, Mass) in behalf of a number of settlers of Rehoboth and nearby settlements who were known as proprietors. A deed to this land was given by Wamsutta, or Alexander, Chief Sachem of Pokanokett, the older son of Massasoit. Included in the territory was the present Attleboro, North Attleborough, Cumberland, Rhode Island, known as Attleborough Gore and a part of Wrentham and Foxborough. The purchase was made April 8, 1661 and held by Capt. Willett until April 10, 1666 on which date he turned it over to representatives of Plymouth Colony and they in turn to certain inhabitants of Rehoboth and other towns.
It seems fitting to insert here a brief sketch of Capt. Willett for whom the Willett School in Attleboro is named, since he played such a prominent part in the original purchase and settlement of Attleborough. He was a merchant in England, went to Holland on business, where in Leyden met Pilgrims, he believed in their religious ideas and lived with them in Holland for some time before coming to America. His knowledge of Dutch manners, customs and language was useful to him later in America. He came to Plymouth about 1630, a young man between 20 and 24 years of age. He was intellegent, well educated and became very useful and distinguished in Plymouth. He was interested and active in surveying and settling other parts of the colony and in purchasing land from the Indians, with whom he made friends. They had great confidence in him and in their deeds spoke of him as “our loving friend Capt. Thomas Willett”.
The Pilgrims at Plymouth sent him to their trading house at Kennebeck to act as agent for them. In 1647 he succeeded Miles Standish as commander of the Plymouth Military Company. From 1651 to 1665 he was assistant governor in the Plymouth Colony.
When the English took New Amsterdam from the Dutch the English Commissioners requested the Plymouth Colony to release Capt. Willett from his official duties there in order to assist them in organizing the new government of New York. Here his knowledge of the language, manners and customs of the Dutch together with his reputation for honesty and fairness won the confidence of both the conquered Dutch and the victorious English. He was made the “First English Mayor of the City of New York” and was elected a second time. The Dutch trusted him to such an extent that they chose him a referee to decide the disputed boundary between New York and New Haven colonies. For several years he was one of the commissioners or delegates of the United Colonies Capt. Willett spent the last of his life in Wannamoisett now called Swansea. In 1665 the Plymouth court gave to Capt. Willett in recognition of his services in buying the tract known as North Purchase, about 600 acres of land at High Squisset now Old Town, North Attleborough. This farm was on both sides of Seven Mile River beginning near Newell’s Tavern and was laid out in great regularity in parallel lines. Capt. Willett died in Swansea and was buried in Bullock’s Cove Cemetery in the present town of East Providence, RI. Although not a resident here he owned extensive lands in what was once Attleboro, and played such a prominent part in its original purchase that this digression may not be out of place.
In order to explain the term Rehoboth North Purchase it seems advisable to relate the facts concerning the Settlement of Rehoboth which was begun in the spring of 1644, at a place called by the Indians Secunk or Seekonk. Rev. Samuel Newman of Weymouth, Mass, and a large part of his congregation formed a company for the purpose of making a new settlement. They bough from Massasoit, Sachem of Pokanoket, a large tract of land including the present Rehoboth, Seekonk, Pawtucket, East Providence and part of Swansea. Part of this territory was a large level treeless plain ready for farming. Many settlers gathered here. In 1645 the settlement was found to be within the territory hence under the control of Plymouth Colony, and it was incorporated as a township and named Rehoboth, a Bible name meaning Room, perhaps signifying wide open spaces with plenty of room.
The leader of this settlement, Rev. Samuel Newman, continued as their pastor and guide for 20 years. He was a very learned man and the author of a Concordance of the Bible, a very great work for one man to accomplish. While he worked at this in Rehoboth it is said that he was obliged to use pine knots for light because of the scarcity of other material. He was an ancestor of Walter J. Newman who for many years held various public offices in Attleboro. This tie, together with the fact that many other settlers from Rehoboth were pioneers in the settlement of Attleboro, is sufficient reason for this brief mention of Rev. Newman. In the year 1694 the North Purchase was incorporated into a township by an Act of the General Court of Massachusetts and named Attleborough.
The first white man to settle within the boundaries of the original Attleboro was William Blackstone. He was a most eccentric but lovable character. He came from England soon after the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, probably about 1625 or ’26. Here he built a house in which he lived alone, cultivated the land, and planted an orchard in which he grew the first apples to be raised in Massachusetts. He lived on a peninsula called Blackstone’s Neck, when Gov. Winthrop’s company arrived in 1630. Here was a good spring and Winthrop’s Colony moved there from Charlestown. He was a Church of England clergyman educated at Emmanuel College and Cambridge University. Some mystery surrounds the reason for his leaving England to live alone in the wilderness. It is quite possible he did so to escape religious persecution. Having invited Winthrop and his Colony to Blackstone’s Neck he soon found them to be intolerant and overbearing. They even attempted to put him out of his own property. They made it so unpleasant for him he felt obliged to move. He said he left England to escape the Lord’s Bishops and he left Boston to escape the Lord’s Brethren. The company finally bought title to all his property except his house, garden and pasture , about 6 acres in all. His house probably stood on Beacon Street about midway of that side of the Common which was once his “park and pasture”. In 1635 in some unknown manner, attended no doubt with great hardship he made his way with his cattle and household goods through the trackless forest thirty five miles at least to the eastern banks of the Pawtucket
River now called the Blackstone. This was in the Rehoboth North Purchase within the limits of what was once Attleboro, called Attleboro Gore, now Cumberland, RI. Here in seclusion he built a house, planted an orchard and garden, laid out a park and developed fields for pasture and tillage. This was ten years before the settlement at Rehoboth and a year or two before Roger Williams settled at Providence. Blackstone’s house which he called “Study Hall” stood near the river where the brook called Abbott’s Run enters it. Near the house was a gently sloping hill which he called “Study Hill”. East of the hill was his orchard. The location is is in the present town of Lonsdale, RI. about six miles from Providence. Here for 24 years he lived alone, his nearest neighbor being Roger Williams, whom he visited occasionally. Wandering Indians probably visited him on their hunting and fishing expeditions. He was always friendly with the Indians and this fact may have had something to do with the postponement of hostilities which broke out soon after his death. When about 60 years in age after more than 20 years of solitude he seems to have longed for companionship. He must have returned to Boston and in what persuasive way we know not, induced a widow, Mrs. Sarah Stevenson to marry him and return with him to his wilderness home. Here they continued to live together nearly 14 years, until her death. He died about 2 years later, at the advanced age of 80. He had amassed a considerable property as revealed in an inventory of his estate made two days after his death. This showed ownership of over 260 acres of land, some of it in Providence, and a library of over 185 volumes, quite a collection for those times. Among these were “paper books” so termed, probably hand written, perhaps his reflections on his wilderness life and experiences. What they really were we shall never know for apparently all were destroyed by fire in the Indian war which broke out soon after. Blackstone seems to have been a kindly man, who loved solitude yet did not hate his fellowman. He enjoyed study and contemplation but disliked the frictional disputes, intolerance and persecution of the religious leaders of that day. Although he differed from Roger Williams in his religious views, yet it is said that he occasionally preached for him, and though disagreeing they “agreed to disagree”.
Interesting anecdotes told of Blackstone are that he tamed a cream colored bull to which he used to ride to Providence, Boston and elsewhere when he went to visit friends. This is not unlikely as horses were very uncommon in the colonies in those early days and would have been of little use since there were no carriages and no carriage roads. Moreover we read of other
instances which cattle were used as beasts of burden, especially at the wedding of John Alden and Priscilla in Plymouth. Mr. Baylis in “Memoirs of Plymouth Colony” says that Mr. Blackstone was also remarkable for his love of children. It is recorded also that when he visited Providence he carried apples from his orchard to give to children, the first they ever seen and probably the first ever raised in Rhode Island. Some of the trees planted by him were living 140 years afterward. One writer records that “he had the first of that kind called yellow sweetings that were ever in the world, perhaps the richest and sweetest apples of the whole kind”. He was also fond of roses, which he grew at Boston if not at Study Hall. His life at Study Hall was not wholly free from the selfishness of others. Pioneer settlers encroached upon his lands, just as his brethren had done in Boston. Situated as he was near the “Wading Place” or Ford in the Pawtucket now Blackstone River, settlers would naturally pass through or near his domain, but how soon settlers began to intrude is not certain. However it is known that in 1650 the town of Seakunke voted to layout a road for persons going to Providence or Mr. Blackstone’s. The Old Mendon Road, now in Attleboro, also passed by his place across what was then the only passable fording place in the river. Here in a delightful spot far from the haunts of his fellow men lived the first settler within the bounds of the North Purchase, a man whose life has just enough of mystery about it to make it interesting and whose memory is perpetuated in many works of man and nature. A granite monument suitably inscribed erected in the yard on Lonsdale Co.’s Mt. Hope Mill marks his grave.
Thirty three years after the territory known as the North Purchase was bought, the number of settlers had increased to such an extent that it seemed desirable to make it into a separate township. The inhabitants of North Purchase addressed a petition to the Council and Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in which they gave their reasons for desiring to be made an independent township. They stated that the territory was about ten miles by eight miles in extent and was ” in our apprehension land sufficient for a township” and that there were “already about thirty families on the place”. Thirty families on in an area of eighty square miles certainly was not overcrowding. They enumerated their reasons in a manner calculated to be most persuasive and convincing to the General Court as follows:
“First and principally for the honor of God and our chiefest good in that our
distance is far to go on the Lord’s days — come of us ten or eleven miles to Rehoboth to the public worship of God, which in the winter season is very inconvenient for us to go, and especially for our children — and also the great burthen we sustain in going so far to traine — attend Town Meetings and to work in their highways, and our own in the mean time neglected.
2ly In that if we were a township we should quickly (we hope) procure an able Orthodox Minister to teach us, and also a schoolmaster to instruct our children, which would incite more able and desirable inhabitants to come and settle among us, we having lands and other commodities for their encouragement.
3dly In that we being as Frontiers in danger of the enemy between Rehoboth and other places, should if we were a township be in a better posture of defense when we are compleated with officers amongst ourselves.
4thly We might further add the benefit might redound to their Majesty’s service, there being a great store of ship timber, and Coopers stuff wh. might with more facility be conveyed to the waterside were our habitations settled nearer”.
This petition dated Oct. 17, 1694 was signed
Your humble Supplyants
for an in the name and behalf of the rest of the Proprietors of the said lands. The arguments are very revealing of conditions and customs of that day and are worthy of further comment.
Religious observance was rigidly enforced however great the distance from the meeting house. Services lasted all day an were often held more than once a week. When we consider that the mode of travel was by horseback or on foot, that there were no roads such as we know, that the churches were without heat, we can appreciate the force of their first reason, that in winter, especially, church attendance was “very inconvenient”. Yet
they wished to be loyal supporter of “the public worship of God” and wanted their children to grow up to be so. In those days the men had to attend military training or general muster which distance also made a “great burthen”.
The Town Meetings were held in the church or meetinghouse as it was then called which was at Rehoboth- now Rumford. It was customary then as it is now in small country towns in Vermont for all able bodies men to take their turn at working on the highways. In going to Rehoboth to work the roads much time would be consumed so that their own highways were being neglected.
The settlers of Attleborough were scattered no doubt over a wide area mostly in what is now South Attleboro, Adamsdale, Londsdale, Old Town, Hoppin Hill and the northern end of North Attleboro. There second reason stressed further their interest in and desire for religious and secular education. They recognized the importance of this in attracting new and desirable settlers and mentioned that land and other attractions were to be had. As a frontier settlement they reminded the General Court that they were exposed to great dangers being so far from the governing body at Rehoboth and powerless to act without their sanction whereas if they had their own officers they could protect themselves and serve also as a protection to their neighboring settlements.
And lastly and most convincing they suggested that they would be of much greater service to the English government in supplying needed ship building material and lumber for barrels, hogsheads, and casks. This was undoubtedly true since much of the land was covered with fine timber of every kind. This petition was granted and an act of Incorporation of the township called by the name Attleborough authorized Oct. 18, 1694. The name Attleborough was derived from these words At-le-burgh meaning at the borough, fort or castle. It was named after Attleborough, Norfolk Co.Eng. history as the principle place near Bungay Castle, seat of the Mortimers – Earle of March.
The new town was probably named by Thomas Daggett and John Sutton who with his wife and four children came from Attleborough, England. The
John Woodcock with his sons and their families soon after the first division of the lands among the proprietors in 1669. He build a public house on the “Bay Road” and fortified it as a garrison. It was known for many years as Woodcock’s Garrison. It stood in what is now North Attleboro not far from the junction of Routes 1 and 1A near the Plainville line. This garrison was a well known meeting place in the great Indian War known as King Philips War. It was probably the only house except its immediate neighbors on the Bay Road between Rehoboth and Dedham, the main road from Rhode Island, Bristol and Rehoboth to Boston. This road ran from Rehoboth through South Attleboro, then called “the city” to West Attleboro (Old Town) thence to Woodcock’s Garrison, over Ten Mile Hill (now Watery Hill) to Jacob Shepardson’s in what is now Foxboro then through Dedham and Roxbury to Boston.
This garrison was one of a line of forts between Boston and Rhode Island. It was a famous place, a convenient public house for travellers and a military outpost and meeting place for troops during Philip’s War.
John Woodcock was a character who deserves more than a passing mention. He was the first of three who signed the petition for incorporation. He must have been a man of considerable importance, as only men of reputation were licences to keep an Ordinary of Public House. He came from Roxbury to Rehoboth and from here to Attleborough. His name is found on many town offices and committees. He was several times “Deputy to the General Court” from Rehoboth. He was shrewd, hearty, fearless and daring – a man suited to the times and circumstances under which he lived. He hated Indians and had little regards for their rights. Once he took into his own hands the settlement of a debt an Indian owed him for which the authorities sentenced him as follows: “1654 John Woodcock of Rehoboth, for going into an Indian house and taking away an Indian child and some goods in lieu of a debt the Indian owed him, was sentenced to set in the stocks at Rehoboth an hour on Training day, and to pay a fine of forty shillings”. (Old Colony Rec. Court Orders Book 3)
Woodcock was a great land owner. About his garrison he owned 300 acres and in several parts of the town he owned other plots totaling about 600 acres, part of which was on Bungay River. He had a large family, at least
fourteen including his sons and their wives together with laborers and assistants. He had a blacksmiths’s shop, barns, a large garrison house, and his forest. In spite of the many hardships of frontier life and the many attempts of the Indians to kill him he lived to a great age. After his death the marks of seven bullets were counted on his body. As already stated he was a bitter enemy of all Indians and several times was in great danger of his life from them. Perhaps his hatred of Indians was justified, since at the opening of King Phillip’s War a small band of savages attacked his garrison, killed one of Woodcock’s son-in-laws and one of his sons, named Nathaniel, wounded another and burnt the sons’ house. These men, when attacked, were working in the cornfield near the garrison house. This field was between what is now Route 1 and Route 1A just south of the old cemetery at the junction of these routes. The Indians who had hidden in the woods attacked them without warning. The men ran to the garrison leaving Nathaniel’s body in the field. The Indians cut off the sons head and stuck it on a long pole which they set up on a hill in front of the house, in plain sight of the family. This so enraged Woodcock that he swore to never make peace with the Indians whom he hunted with great courage and determination
Nathaniel was buried where he fell and the spot has ever since been a burial ground. Previous to this attack six soldiers had been sent by the Plymouth government to protect this settlement, but had at the time been withdrawn. Woodcock was in desperate need and sent to the authorities of both Plymouth and Mass. Bay Colonies for help. His request is so interesting that it is included here.
Honored Gover, and Council
I make bold to inform your Honors how God’s afflictive hand is upon me and my family. God hath been pleased to give the heathen commission to break in upon us, who have slain two of my family, and another of my sons sorely wounded, shot with several bullets in the shoulders- but in the midst of these our afflictions God hath shown us Mercy – I was encouraged by our authority to keep my station, but of a sudden they were pleased to call off my garrison soldiers, not giving me any warning and I am in very great strait what to do – we are but 14 of us and but six that bear arms – and most of us sick. I would entreat your Honors to consider our afflicted condition to send
me some assistance for the present till my family is able to draw off – and as my house and family have been serviceable to the Country I desire I may not be forgotten by both Colonies, but would entreat your Honors to send me half a dozen men to relieve my family, for if I were to go away I could not carry my provisions away with me. I have near a hundred bushels of corn in my house besides other provisions – and I bless God for it, and am very loth to go away and leave it to the heathen. We do judge there is not above twelve or sixteen Indians that have done all this evil to our neighbors at Wrentham – and I would entreat your Honors to send me a surgeon to dress my wounded son. I hope there is not danger to come if they come by night. Not to trouble you any further at present, begging your prayers, hoping God will move your hearts with compassion speedily to send us some relief – so I rest Yours to serve in what I may, John Woodcock
April the 26th. I hope I shall be able to satisfy what charge will come upon me.”
The council took action and ordered a body of 78 soldiers and their officers gathered from various places to march to and meet at Dedham and from there to proceed to Woodcock’s where they were to meet and Indian guide who would show them where King Philip and his Indians were hiding.
To return to the early settlements, one was made at the Falls, so called. later Falls Factories, now Attleboro Falls. The falls which were used to furnish water power for saw mills and grist mills attracted settlers as did also the banks of streams along which grew natural meadow lands. They were very desirable in a country much of which was covered with thick forests.
As far as can be learned John Daggett of Rehoboth was the first person to settle around the falls – He owned the land immediately surrounding the falls and the water privilege. The first mill to be built there was for grinding corn. It was owned and used by Joseph Daggett, son of John Daggett before mentioned. This was probably the first mill of any sort in Attleboro.
On March 30, 1703, this interesting vote was passed in a town meeting- that Joseph Daggett of Rehoboth have the privilege “that the stream at the Ten Mile River Falls shall go free of all sorts of taxes until a corn mill has the constant custom of three score families, and if a saw mill be built, that to bear his equal share in public charges in said town”.
The southeast corner of the town (South Attleboro) was settled by people from Rehoboth. The Bay Road the main route from Bristol of Boston (see map) passed through this settlement. This is what is now Newport Avenue and the Old Town Road.
This was undoubtedly the first road in town although not town built, but made by and for the convenience of persons passing through the town. The first town highway was probably Mendon Road. That South Attleboro once called “The City” was settled quite early can be learned from the recorded notes of of the town meetings. For example we find that on July 21 1714 it was noted – “that two acres of land on the hill before Mr. David Freeman’s where the Burying place now is, shall be laid out for a Burying place for Attleborough”. This cemetery or grave yard is on the knoll at the curve of the road where Read St. joins West St. at So. Attleboro.
Again in 1701 on Mar. 25 we find the town meeting voted and appointed a “Training place to be on the South side of David Freeman’s house, between the two ways, viz. the Bay Road and the road that leadeth to Nicholas Ide’s house. This road to Nicholas Ide’s house must have been Read St. since the easterly end of this road is known even today as the Read and Ide neighborhood. This helps us locate quite definitely the situation of David Freeman’s house which seems to have been on the Old Post Road or Bay Road near the junction of Newport Ave. opposite the cemetery, and the training field was between Read St and the Old Town Road. As early as July 12, 1697 construction of a town pond was voted to be put on undivided land between the lands of Danial Shepperson and James Jillson near the Bay Road and in Mar 1699 Daniel Shepperson gave land for a pound “at a place commonly known and called Red Rock Hill by the road-side by a pine tree, which pound is to be built 30 feet square and finished by the last of June 1700”. At this meeting the house of Daniel Shepperson was appointed “to be the certain known place for Town Meetings” he giving “free liberty and comfort” to the people until some other place should be provided. This would seem to locate less definitely than in the case of David Freeman, Daniel Shepperson’s house on the Bay Road or Old Town Road or Old Post Road not far from Red Rock Hill.
The first lands were held by proprietors who purchased shares in the association. They were entirely separate and distinct from the town (Rehoboth) organization. They elected their own officers and committees and appointed surveyors for laying out the lands. At a regular meeting of the proprietors a dividend of a certain number of acres to a share was voted. The share holder would then choose his location and call the surveyor and committee to assign him his amount. The clerk would record it in the proprietor’s books and this would be his title to the land. He might transfer his share by eed or by sale.
Some unauthorized persons cut timber on the undivided lands, this timber was seized and an investigating committee appointed to look into the matter and bring such legal action as the case required.
A dispute over the northern boundary of North Purchase began in 1708 and continued until 1790. It first arose between the colonies of Mass Bay and Plymouth in 1640 when a commission from each colony agreed upon a line which was to run as follows – From the mouth of “Bound Brook” with a direct line to “Accord Pond” lying five or six miles from Weymouth and from there in a straight line to a point three miles south of the southernmost point of Charles River. They intended to reach by a straight line from this point the most northerly point of Plymouth Colony on the easterly line of Rhode Island, but in surveying when they reached within about three miles of the proposed spot they were off their course and that they would, if they continued in the same direction arrive far south of the intended point. Instead of going back from the beginning and running the whole line over they made an angle and took a new course towards the north so as to reach the point they first intended. This caused the dispute. The line was run five or six times. In 1664 an effort was made to fix the true line. The commissioners at the time agree that the line was not correct because it was “wholly within Plymouth lands”. At the angle where a new course was taken stood a large white oak tree long since gone. At this station was erected a stone monument by authority of the state legislature, by the towns of Attleborough and Wrentham. This stone marker known as the angle tree stone stands in North Attleborough. It marks the boundary between Mass. Colony and Plymouth Col. This line was supposed to be straight, about forty miles miles long and marked the boundary between Chicatawbat’s territory on the north and Massasoiot’s on the south. After 1820
a new boundary line between Attleborough and Wrentham was established which really was the true ancient boundary. This is now the line between Wrentham and No. Attleborough and between Norfolk and Bristol Counties.
Another boundary dispute concerned the line between Rhode Island and Plymouth Colonies. Part of this line was the Rehoboth North Purchase westerly boundary. It was settled temporarily by a royal commission “till his Majesty’s pleasure be further known concerning them”. Still another dispute concerned a strip of land between Rehoboth and the North Purchase known as The Mile and a Half. This strip 1 1/2 miles wide was claimed by both Rehoboth and Attleborough. In 1668 the Court decreed that this belonged to Rehoboth, but in 1670 it was restored to Attleborough.
It appears from the records of the proprietors that “squatters” sometimes settled on their lands. We find these records in the proprietors’ books. May 19, 1752. “chose a committee and gave them full power to eject any person or persons out of the possession of those lands they have possessed themselves of, within the North Purchase Grant without the consent of the Proprietors”.
Every age has its eccentric characters. One such is recorded in the Proprietor’s Books. Joshua Barrows, a poor man, witty, extemporary rhyme maker, totally unable to read and write appeared at a proprietor’s meeting June 5, 1727 and presented the following oral petition in rhyme:
Your Honors now I do implore to read my poor petition
I hope your hearts will be open be to pity my condition.
Ten acres of the Common Land I pray that you would give
Then thankful I will be to you as long as I do live.
Such a kindness, I must confess, from you I don’t deserve;
But when in health, I freely work. Why should you let me starve?
From day to day my daily bread I get it by my sweat;
But to my sorrow, I beg and borrow When sickness doth me let.
No more in rhyme here at this time No more I have at hand
And so I’ll end, your faithful friend and servant to command.
Who could refuse such a plea? The record says “Upon hearing of the aforesaid petition of Joshua Barrows, there were sundry persons in said meeting, which were proprietors, which gave him land to take up upon their
rights”. In all 13 acres were laid out to him.
Mention has already been made of early roads. The earliest in Town seems to have been Mendon Road part of which is still known by that name. Another early and frequently mentioned is called the Auld Road towards the Bay, and the old highway as we go into the bay. These scattered settlements must have had the need for communication with the parent settlement at Boston on Massachusetts Bay hence we find a Bay Road leading from Taunton to Boston, from Newport and Bristol through Attleborough to Boston and in various other parts of Massachusetts. Old Bay Road as already traced ran from Rehoboth through South Attleboro to West Attleborough or Old Town as it is now called, up South Washington and North Washington Sts. in North Attleborough, over Watery Hill, then called Ten Mile Hill, through Foxboro, Dedham, Roxbury to Boston. Along this road was a chain of garrisons and taverns of which one still remains, Newell’s Tavern in Old Town. The Barrows Tavern which formerly stood near the Lincoln School was torn down in recent years.
Over this road many a weary traveler trudged his way on foot or horseback, soldiers marched to fight the Indians or to repel the British in the Revolutionary War, stagecoaches carried mail and passengers from Boston to Providence, and in these modern days the automobilist seeking the quiet of the countryside detours from the main highway over the part of this “Oulde Bay Roade” which still runs through Old Town and passes the Newell Tavern and the pretty white country church. In stagecoach days it was known as the Old Post Road. Other roads less definitely traceable were laid out in the neighborhood of Blackstone’s Study Hall. The record reads, “Jury to lay out roads Oct. 3d and 4th 1684 – Laid out the Country road towards Mendon and Dedham viz the R. to Ded. from the gate at the N.W. end of the town, thru the lane and 2d division and great Plains in the ancient road, and along that road until it comes to a heap of stones upon the ten mile hill, to the Massachusetts line, wh. way we have laid out 4 R. wide except it be between John Woodcock’s land where it is laid out 40 feet or upwards”. This would seem to be the Olde Bay Road from Woodcock’s Garrison over Watery Hill. The gat at the N.W. end was perhaps the gat in the garrison fence.
The same jury “laid out a country highway to Medfield from the aforesaid Country highway to Dedham. North Main Street and South Main Street formed what was known as the East Bay Road in order to distinguish it from the Bay Road or Oulde Bay Roade already mentioned. The East Bay Road is now sometimes called the New Boston Road. What is now Pleasant Street was once appropriately known as the Norton Road and Park Street equally appropriately was names Ridge Hill Road as indeed it was, as may be seen by the observant traveler who journeys from the intersection of Maple and Park Streets to Briggs Corner. The ridge on which the road originally ran may be clearly seen in places with the lower swamp land on the easterly side and the cleared fields on the southerly and westerly sides.
All these roads have been much changed in the intervening years both in location and condition. It is difficult for us these days of modern travel over hard surfaced roads to visualize the time when creaking ox carts and horse drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation over winding roads deeply rutted and little more than trails through dense woodlands and sparsely settled regions. Old roads have a curious fascination but we must not pursue them further although they are worthy of a complete history in themselves.
Some mention has already been made of Indian troubles. A fuller treatment should be given since Attleboro, like all other frontier towns of New England, had its share in the Indian Wars. At first the Indians were friendly but with further encroachment of the whites and a growing conviction on the part of the redmen that they would soon be driven from their hunting grounds they prepared to defend their homes. We have seen how they surprised Woodcock’s Garrison and killed two and wounded another of his family. Another engagement known as Pierce’s Fight took place in what is Cumberland, R.I. near the Blackstone River, at that time (1676) part of Rehoboth North Purchase, afterwards Attleborough. Settlements all over Massachusetts had been attacked by the Indians. The Plymouth Colony fearing another attack ordered out a company under Capt. Michael Pierce of Scituate. Accounts differ as to the number in the company. The most reliable seems to be that there were 63 English and 20 Cape Indians. With this company Capt.
Pierce marched from the garrison in Rehoboth on Sunday morning March 26, 1676 toward Wm. Blackstone’s where the Indians were reported to be. Here he found four or five who pretended to be lame and wounded. The whites followed them into the woods where they were soon surrounded by at least 500 savages, commanded by Canonchet, a Narragansett Chief. Capt. Pierce, although outnumbered, courageously followed them as they retreated slowly into the woods. Having drawn him on into a trap another band of about 400 Indians now appeared and he was thus completely surrounded. The Indians were on both sides of the Blackstone River so preventing Capt. Pierce from withdrawing across the river. Retreat and escape were impossible. The white resolved to sell their lives dearly. The account reads “Capt. Pierce cast his men into a ring, and fought back to back and were double-distance, all in one ring, whilst the Indians were thick as thy could stand thirty deep”. For two hours the whites held out killing from one to two hundred of the Indians, but at last they were overpowered by the enemy and Capt. Pierce and 55 English and ten Cape Indians were slain. Various reports, based more or less on tradition, state Capt. Pierce sent to Providence for help, but the message was not delivered at once and help could not be sent in time. Another report was that Pierce sent a message to Providence by a man who “attended meeting” there before the expedition left the Seekonk garrison but the messenger, now knowing the urgency of the message did not reach the captain at Providence in time. Amos, one of the friendly Cape Indians, stood by Capt. Pierce and fought until it became hopeless, then smearing his face with power like the hostile Indians, he escaped. Several Indians escaped by similar strategy. One hid behind a large rock where he was discovered by his pursuer. Raising his cap on a stick he drew the fire of his enemy who in the next instant was shot dead. Another pretended to be pursuing an Englishman , raising his tomahawk as if to strike him so both escaped. Another hiding behind the roots of an uprooted tree bored a hole through his protecting breast work and was able to shoot his pursuers as they approached. The loss amounted to about one third of their regular force. Not more than eleven whites and nine Indians returned. (This was a severe blow to the Plymouth Colony).
Woodcock’s and Rocket’s Adventure with the Indians is another instance in which the tables were turned and the Indians rather than the whites were completely routed. This occurred in the old part of Wrentham, now Franklin, probably about the same time as the attack on Woodcock’s Garrision already
described. Rocket was one of the witnesses of the original government deed of Rehoboth North Purchase. He is said to have taken his family to meeting ten miles to Rehoboth or five miles to Wrentham over the rough trails. While searching for a stray horse he discovered about sunset, a band of forty-two Indians. He suspected they planned a surprise attack on Wrentham in the morning while the men were about their work. He followed them secretly until they camped for the night. He then hurried to the settlement and warned the people. It was decided to attack the Indians in the early morning. A company of thirteen under Captain Ware was organized in Wrentham and nearby settlements. The women, children and the aged were sent to the garrison. Just before daylight the company surprised the Indian encampment just as they began to break camp. The attack was so sudden they were completely confused. Some leaped down a rocky precipice ten to twenty feet high. Some were over taken and killed. Two trying to hide in “Mill Brook” were found and killed. Woodcock carried a long musket called a buccaneer. This he is said to have fired at a fleeing Indian at a distance of a quarter of a mile, breaking his thigh bone and then killing him. This is quite a feat of marksmanship when we consider the type of weapon used in those days. From 20 to 24 Indians were killed and not one white man. The large rock where the Indians were camped is still called Indian rock.
In Cumberland Rhode Island is a spot known as “Nine Men’s Misery” or “Dead Men’s Bones”. Here nine men were killed at one time during King Philip’s War. A large part of this event is traditional but is based upon some historical evidence which confirms much of the tradition. Nine men probably part of Captain Pierce’s company became separated from the rest of the force. They discovered a number of Indians whom they attacked and what it’s called “Camp Swamp”. A large number of Indians rushed out of the swamp and surrounded them. These nine men hopelessly outnumbered, fought with their backs to a huge rock until all were killed. The rest of the party hearing the fighting hurried to their aid but too late. They were buried where they fell and the spot marked by a large pile of stones. Years later their bones were uncovered and examined by physicians. One was found to be a man named Benjamin Bucklin or Buckland from Rehoboth. Identity was proven from the fact that he had an unusually large frame and a double set of teeth. His name is mentioned in Rehoboth North Purchase records as one of four from Rehoboth killed in Pierce’s fight. This fact together with the tradition seems to indicate that these men attempted to escape by hiding in “Camp Swamp” but
were discovered and killed. When Rehoboth people first visited the scene to bury the dead these were not found but at a later date were discovered. This would account for it being given as an incident apart from Pierce’s fight.
Manners and Customs Strange to Our Times
In those days Church Affairs were settled in the town meeting – church and state being one. The settling of a minister, the building of his house, the granting of his lands, the fixing and collection of his salary or support where all the business of the voters in the town meeting assembled. Schools were hardly less important in the minds of these pioneers than the church, in the schoolhouse was usually built close to the church.
Roads from settlement to settlement had to be built and maintained. This too was a town meeting affair, but there was no lighting, curbing, hard surfacing, sidewalks, gas, water and sewer systems to be kept up. The unfortunate poor have always existed, but they were more unfortunate than now. At first the settlement or others took them into their families and the town paid the expense. At Town meetings the names of the poor were read and they were auctioned off to those who were willing to care for them. The lowest bidder received the privilege, if such it could be called, of caring for these unfortunates. One unable to work for a part of the keep would be a greater expense, hence would bring a lower bid, and as we might assume most such unfortunates would be either unable or unwilling to work, bidding would probably not be high, brisk, nor highly competitive. The first mention of poor on the town records is Oct. 5,1714. “Memorandum, eleven shillings of the money that was received of Capt. Leonard for the poor went to pay Hugh Gay’s rate, and the other four remains in the town stock for the poor”. Daniel Peck, Oct. 22, 1722, presented the following bill to the town for care of poor persons. For care of Martha Scot and her child, as follows: 8s, 6d. For doctor; 10s, 6d. For three weeks board in sickness; 1 pound, 1s, for board other 7 weeks, 11s, for the child for five weeks, and four days; total 2 pounds 11s.
In 1761 the town appropriated equal sums for schools and for care of the poor about $250.00 each. It was not until 1825 that a move was made to care for the poor in one place. A committee of three was chosen by the town “to make a purchase of house and lands for the poor”. After two years,
during which we may assume the committee was searching for a suitable poor farm, the town voted, Sept. 20 1827 “that the town and State poor should be moved to the house purchased for the town for the purpose of a house for them, as soon as may be convenient, and there supported under the direction of the overseer of the poor”. Thus, after all this time, the report of the purchasing committee was accepted. The farm and the house were in North Attleborough on Watery Hill. Later the house was burned as a result of someone’s carelessness in taking up hot ashes in a wooden pail, and one or two persons perished in the fire. After the Almshouse fire a special town meeting was called July 12, 1847 and it was voted to build another suitable for the use of the town but not in the same spot.
A committee of seven was named to secure a new location and dispose “of the present Almshouse Farm” and select a place for a new building and its probable cost. The committee’s first report concerning a certain farm was not accepted and the selectmen finally sold the old farm in April 29, 1848 for $1600.16. One is tempted to speculate a bit on the sixteen cents as well as on the reason the first report was not accepted and the sale taken out of the hands of the committee. Perhaps some voters suspected undue political influence had been used. Some time before this the town must have received a special gift for the poor. Perhaps it was a bequest. It was voted that “whether the almshouse is sold, the E. Draper donation be invested in the purchase of another farm”. It would be interesting to know who E. Draper was, why he made a donation and how large it was.
In Nov. 1848 the farm which belonged to Col. Ira R. Miller was purchased for $3,250. This farm contained 109 1/2 acres. It is the one still used in Attleboro as the City Home.
Cattle and swine were allowed to roam everywhere. Cattle were marked in various ways and swine had nose rings. Enclosures called pounds were built in various parts of the city to hold stray animals or those which had caused damage to property. In 1714 it was voted that six persons should build pounds at their “own cost and charge”. In 1700 Daniel Shepperson gave a piece of ground to set a pound on “at a place commonly known and called Red Rock Hill by the roadside by a pine tree, which pound is to be built 30 feet square and finished by the last of June 1700.
In April 1828 it was voted that horses and neat cattle were not to be allowed to run at large. So long as they were allowed to roam at will the owners had to have some identifying mark. Many pages in the town records are filled with descriptions of these marks. Some are queer as the following will show :
“The earmark of the creatures belonging to Thomas Butler is as follows – viz – A swallow tail on the top of the near ear. Entered Oct. 19, 1919 A.D.” “The ear mark of the creatures of Benj. Ide Jr. is as follows – viz – two round holes in the right ear, being the ear mark that was Sam’l Healys. Entered Nov. 12th 1750”. Whereas the earmark of the creatures of John Robbins Jr was a cut across the underside of the right ear, – it being often times not easily seen, it is altered – and is two half pennies on the underside of the left ear. Entered Dec. 16th, 1750”. “The earmark of the creatures belonging to Michael Sweet is a plain crop of the top of the left ear, and a slit across the underside of the same year, and was formerly Benj. Butler’s. Entered Aug. 6th 1763”.
A record of animal marks for 1788 reads “ Ear mark of Peter Thatcher is a swallow tail on top of the right ear, and a slant across on the upper side of the left ear”. Then whether by design or realizing that Peter Thatcher’s ears were not so marked, the clerk added “Creatures mark”. These are amusing records were of course made in all seriousness but from the above we may well wonder whether our sober serious-minded ancestors were filled with a dry wit and droll humor which we lack.
In 1826 cattle horses, and swine were not permitted to roam at will and have not been since.
A strange custom which is still observed was called “perambulating the lines” between this and the surrounding towns. Frequent mention of this is made in the early records. Boundary lines were difficult to settle and many controversies arose over them as has already been mentioned. Even today property boundaries are often not clearly defined.
In 1795 the records of town meeting show that money was paid “Capt. Joel Read for taking a plan of the town in part sum of 4 Pound 7 Shillings 6d. Jacob Ide
for assisting in this work and making boundaries etc, the sum of 2 Pounds, 9s , 6d. Expenses of Ebenezer Daggett for three days surveying work 17s, 6d”. Less than $1.50 per day. No wonder boundary lines were indefinite and not permanent.
Attleboro has never had a large negro population but it is interesting to note that mention was made of them in very early times. The first reference is in the the town books. “Dec 26, 1704. Joseph Read, Negro” had a “lott” of twelve and a half acres laid out to him; and two other lots containing six and one forth acres in 1707. “John Read, Negro” had lands laid out Nov. 17, 1719. A family of negroes of this name lived on the lands of the Daggett farm on “new Boston” road and these may have been the lands laid out to them. Another interesting record is an order on the town treasury for 1784 as follows:
“Pay to the widow Anne Newell for Boarding Mary Fuller, Black Child, one year to the 18th of November 1784, 5 Pounda, 4s, and clothing said child, said term 19s. Board at 50 cents a week and clothing for a year at less than $5.00. One cannot help wondering what it must have been like. Still another record of a negro comes from an inscription on a grave stone in the old Woodcock cemetery. Here it is –
Here lies the best of slaves, now turning into dust:
Caesar the Ethiopian, craves a place that id just,
His faithful soul has fled to realms of heavenly light,
And by the blood that Jesus shed, is changed from black to white.
January 15, he quitted the stage, in the 77th year of his age, 1780
The story of Caesar is an interesting as this epitaph. While still a baby he was given by his mother to Lieutenant Josiah Maxcy, who at his death gave Caesar to Levi Maxcy. Both Josiah and Levi Maxcy lived in the old Woodcock garrison house from 1730 to 1780 during which time it was a place for entertainment of travelers. Here Caesar was a waiter and so became widely known. After his death many of these travelers used to stop over to visit his grave and read the quaint inscription. He was a simple hearted,
honest, faithful servent. No wonder his young master, Levi Maxcy paid him such a tribute on his grave stone.
Another mention of a negro is found in a document signed by John Sweetland in 1778 giving his servant, Warrack a negro man, his freedom. A more complete account will be found under the chapter dealing with the Revolutionary War period.
This account is of interest for another reason aside from the fact that it mentions a colored person. On May 6th, 1794 Dr. Bezalee Mann informed the people at town meeting that he had “taken into his house Abraham Babcock I’m a mulato man” who belonged to Westerly Rhode Island. It seems strange to us that the good doctor would feel obliged to inform the town meaning of such an act, but this was the proper and lawful thing to do. Very early in the town’s history, laws were passed making it necessary to obtain permission from the proper authorities to reside in town. This may not have been such a bad idea. It doubtless prevented many undesirable from becoming Town charges. In 1790 – 91 a number of persons were to leave town because they had not been given permission to live here. One was Doctor Abijah Everett, another Abraham Tuckerman, gentlemen, another Ezra Brown of Rehoboth, “yeoman”. Some whee called “transient persons” and one Moses Read Yeoman of Rehoboth, was warned to depart within 15 days. It seems strange to us at such apparently respectable people as doctors and gentlemen would be classed as we today would class tramps and gypsies. This warning was undoubtedly a formality which must be observed, after which, desirable persons, who had failed to secure a residential permit could and probably did secure one. The records show that many so named continue to reside here. Shiftless and worthless persons were doubtless put out of town.
The quaint language of the town bylaw is interesting and is here given in part: Jan 31st. 1697 or ‘8 At a town meeting legally warned for the making of “some town orders or by-laws touching persons disorderly coming into town who have no rights or lands in the same but are strangers and foreigners” these orders were passed. “The inhabitants then met did make the town orders or by-laws, for said town which are as followeth- it is therefore ordered and agreed upon by the inhabitants of Attleborough and voted in said meeting that no person that is a stranger shall be received as an inhabitant without the consent or approbation of said town or sufficient security given to
The town by him or them that shall take in or Harbor any person contrary to that order; more over the Selectmen are appointed to take due care and sufficient security in the behalf of the town of and for all such persons as shall receive in or harbor any stranger or foreigner; or to give order and warning to such stranger or foreigner to depart the town according to the as the law directs, and that was all convenient speed after knowledge or notice given of the same. So observing from time to time that the town be not charged with unnecessary charges.
The second order or by law was touching: “Indian forinners and strangers that have been complained of or for uncivil carriages and behavior towards some of the inhabitants of this town; for the prevention of which the inhabitants being desired to give their advice did meet and agree and by joint consent who voted and passed this act, that no forrin or Indian stranger should be allowed to come into town, being armed under hunting pretense nor suffered in the same to abide in Drinkings and Shootings at a unreasonable times of night and threatenings to several persons which is contrary to the laws of this province and disturbing to several of this town; neither is any person or persons whatsoever with in this town allowed to take in or harbor Indian or Indians armed other than such as hath been allowed or shall be allowed without the unanimous consent of the inhabitants at any time hereafter, but every person or persons transgressing against this order or by law shall pay a fine of five Shillings each day for the use of the poor of this town for every such offense”
The first town meetings Of which there is record was held May 11, 1696. This is probably not the first as the town was incorporated about a year-and-a-half before. Town meetings at first was held in private houses. At one held November 23, 1696 several persons agreed to give sums “by way of free gift for the buildings of a meeting house”. By this was doubtless meant the church which was known as the meeting house and which both the town and the church business was conducted. At this time so few were allowed by law to vote in the town meetings that it was ordered that “all the inhabitants and town dwellers” should have a right to vote. In 1700 it was recorded at the house of Daniel Shepperson was appointed “to be the certain own place for town meetings” he giving “free liberty and comfort to the people, until some other place should be provided”. Meetings were held at nine o’clock in the morning. Business had to do chiefly with the minister’s house, lands, the
church and its affairs. At first meetings were called in “His Majesty’s Name” or in the name of the “Province of Massachusetts Bay.” In October 1776 however the meeting was for the first time called “In the name of the State and People of Massachusetts Bay, in Newingland” and this or “Government and People of March 20, 1781 is the first one recorded as called “In the Name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” By this time the State Constitution had been adopted, several years before the adoption of the United States Constitution, and three men from Attleboro had been members of the State Constitutional Convention. Between 1792 and 1825 a change in the place of holding town meetings was made from private dwellings to the church for we find on record Sept. 19, 1825 at a town meeting “held at the Old meeting house in the west parish” it was voted that the clergy should become members of the school committee. This “old meeting house” was evidently the second church building at Old Town, the third one which is now standing having been built in 1828.
By this time other than church affairs were engaging the attention of our forefathers and they evidently considered it proper to have a regular town meeting house. At a town meeting held Sept. 20, 1827 it was voted “that the selectmen shall receive proposals respecting a building for holding town meetings, from individuals if any should be made, and report at an adjournment of this meeting.” Things appear to have begun to move faster than usual in those days for on Apr. 3, 1828 barely 6 months later these selectmen with two others chosen by town vote were “to Draught a plan of a town house and also a cite, and report to next meeting.” On May 5, one month later, at a meeting held in the vestry of the East meeting house (the present White Church) the Committee report was accepted and the selectmen were to attend to the building and have it completed” by the first of November next.” The plan was very simple. The house was about square with a peaked roof. The location of “Cite” chosen was the nearest possible to the geographical center of the town. It was on the east side of West St. just a few rods to the south of Clifton St., or as the record would have been then “on the road leading from the East Village (Attleboro center) to the “city” Just opposite the residence of the late Dr. Alfred Martin (now Oscar Peterson’s farm). The carpenter, “Uncle” Jacob Capron was paid $80 for his labor. Thirty one years later (1859) the town voted $300 to repair the town hall and a week later they decided to build a new town house “to be located near Robinsonville” (now Attleboro Falls) and appropriated $8,000 for it; and
chose a building committee, but they finally acted upon the first vote to repair the old hall. This must have served the purpose for 12 years more. By this time the number of voters had doubtless outgrown the capacity of the hall, because in May 1871 the town “voted that the town lease the Agricultural Hall for three years, at $500 per annum, for first and second floors if needed. “The first town meeting held there was on May 3, 1872. And meetings were held there until the town was divided on July 30, 1887. After the division the first meeting in Attleborough was held in the South Main St. Engine House Aug. 13, 1887 and it was then and there voted that “As the Agricultural Hall, where we have formerly held town meetings, has ceased to be within the limits of the town of Attleboro, by reason of the setting off of part of the territory, the selectmen are instructed to notify the Attleboro Agricultural Association that the occupation of their property by the town of Attleboro will be discontinued from this date.” From then on the town meetings were held in various places until 1914 when Attleboro became a city. The original town seal was a shield surrounded by a circle. Within the circumference and partly surrounding the shield were the words – Town of Attleborough Incorp. 1694. On the top of the shield was one half a mill stone and from upper right to lower left across the shield were seven links of a chain. In the upper diagonal of the shield were a locomotive and a factory, in the lower half a plow. Thus were symbolized early and later industries and transportation. When Attleboro became a city the town seal was retained and a larger circle circumscribed about it in which were the words City of Attleboro Mass. Incorporated 1914. A new city seal has now replaced this. A committee was appointed by the mayor to redesign the city seal and a design submitted by George E. Nerney was selected and adopted by the city government. On the coat of arms of our mother town, Attleborough, England, is the tongueless lion of the Albini family. The legend is that a member of this family overcame a lion, tore out its tongue and gave it to the Queen of France. This feat is thus represented on the coat of arms of this family. Attleborough known as Rehoboth North Purchase was deeded to the English by Alexander or Wamsutta chief of the Wampanoags. His name, signed in a crude way, by what may be roughly compared to the Greek letters, Lambda Chi Lambda sealed the purchase. These symbols, the tongueless lion, the Greek letters on a shield surrounded by a golden chain, now very appropriately form the seal for the city. Around the whole are the words City of Attleboro, Massachusetts, 1694. Thus are mother, daughter, original owners and we bound together within the golden chain which symbolizes so well Attleboro’s chief industry for so many years.
Schools and Education
Rehoboth proprietors, they voted “that the meeting house shall stand in the midst of the town,” and a lot for the schoolmaster was very early set apart, usually near the meeting house.
Since Attleboro was once Rehoboth North Purchase, her early school history is connected with Rehoboth’s. It is therefore proper to quote from Rehoboth town records regarding schools up to 1694, when Attleborough became a separate town. In fact, there is no record of schools in Attleboro before 1716, over 20 years after its incorporation. This is not strange, since in 1710 there were only 30 families in all of what was then Attleborough.
In 1677 the town of Rehoboth voted “that Daniel Smith should write to the young gentleman at Dorchester, to signify to him, that it was the town’s desire that he would be pleased to come up and teach a school according to those former invitations that our Reverend Pastor made to him.”
It would seem from this, that attempts had been made before to induce some young man, probably known to the minister, to serve as teacher. Whether Daniel Smith was able to persuade him, is not known, nor is the name of the young man.
In 1680, the selectmen had engaged a Mr.. Edward Howard to teach for it twenty pounds a year in country pay, and his diet, besides what the court doth allow in that case.”
Mr. Howard must have given general satisfaction, for the next year the town directed the selectmen “to endeavor the utmost to re-engage Mr. Howard to keep the school another year.”
In 1683 the selectmen hired a Mr. Taylor to keep school for one year; he to be paid in money and diet.
In 1698 Rehoboth voted “that a school master, as the law directs, should
be attained” and the selectmen were to “agree with him, for his encouragement to keep school.” In those days the selectmen hired and fixed the pay of school teachers, all of whom were men. At this date is found the first mention of a school house. It had to be repaired and “made fit for to keep school in.” How long before it had been built, is not known.
The first teacher from Attleborough appears to have been Thomas Robinson who was evidently a descendant of George Robinson, a shareholder among the proprietors of Rehoboth North Purchase. He was engaged by the Rehoboth selectmen on March 15, 1699, to keep a reading and writing school for a term of three months, “to begin the first, or second week in April, at the farthest.” “He is to have three pounds, half in silver money, the one half of it when he has kept half the term, and the other half when his quarter is expired: the last part of his pay in corn equivalent to money.”
At first only boys went to school, but in December 1699 in Rehoboth, “the selectmen agreed with Mr. Robert Dickson to keep school in Rehoboth for six months, who “engaged to do his utmost endeavor, to teach both sexes of boys and girls, to read English, and write, and cast accounts. In consideration of said service, the said selectmen, in the town’s behalf, do engage to pay him thirteen pounds, one half in silver money, and the other half in good merchantable boards, at the current and merchantable price; the boards to be delivered at the landing place, at Samuel Walker’s and Sergeant Butterworth’s pier.” This pier was at Seekonk Cove at the mouth of the Ten Mile River. Evidently this was an experiment in co-education, results of which the hard headed selectmen and perhaps the teacher, felt some doubt. Their phrase “to do his utmost endeavor” would lead us to believe that Mr. Dickson might have had doubts about the ability of both sexes to learn.
In 1647 the first law in the world, providing free public education through general taxation, was passed in Massachusetts and Rehoboth and later Attleboro must have acted in accordance with this law.
The first curriculum was very simple, including only the “three R’s; readin, ritin, and rithmetic,” but by 1708, grammar was added.
In 1712 the town voted a special appropriation of thirty pounds annually for the support of schools. One “neighborhood” was to receive ten pounds
and “be obliged to maintain an English school;” all the rest of “the town had the remaining twenty pounds” and had “to maintain a grammar school.”
If there were only two schools in-town, as this would seem to imply, some pupils must have traveled long distance or were denied the benefits of such education as was then available. No mention is made of separate schools for Attleboro up to 1716, more than twenty years after its incorporation as a town.
On March 20, 1716 by those who were “by the providence of God inhabitants of Attleboro, it was voted and agreed upon that Deacon Daggett should be school master.” Whether or not Deacon Daggett was a success as schoolmaster is not known, but in December of the same year, a town meeting was called “for to consider and resolve what they will do with Respect to the Hiring of a School master and see whether they accept of Mr. Josiah Jacques as school master on any of those terms Mr. Freeman has agreed for him, the said Jacques. It was voted to hire Mr. Jacques of Mr. Freeman for one year for a school master, and to pay Mr. Freeman twenty pounds in current money or this province, or proportionately for less time, if he should not stay so long.”
Since Mr. David Freeman had negotiated for the school master, it might be said that he conducted a sort of Teachers’ Agency. He lived near the South Attleboro cemetery and it seems probable that the first school was in that part of Attleboro. There were no school houses and for almost one hundred years, schools were kept in various homes.
In 1717 Thomas Cathcart of Martha’s Vineyard was schoolmaster and received thirty pounds. At that time Attleboro included what is now Cumberland, North Attleboro and Attleboro, all in one school district, containing perhaps five hundred people.
In December 1718 a town meeting was held “to consider what may be done respecting the school, to see where the town will place it; whether by a committee that may then and there be chosen to manage that affair, or any other way that may be thought proper.”
The town “voted and agreed that ye school should be kept seven months
in one quarter of ye town at a time, and that quarter shall have power to place the school as they shall think most proper and convenient.”
A committee of five was appointed to divide the town into quarters, and to name the order in which the quarters were to receive the benefits of the seven months’ schooling. No reports of this committee can be found, but it may be assumed that this plan was followed until 1737, when the town was divided into four districts, or quarters, namely Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest.
One George Allen seems to have been a popular teacher as he served at least four years at intervals, and received considerably more than his predecessors. Whether he received more because of efficiency or because board was not included in his salary does not appear. It was quite customary for schoolmasters to board round and persons sometimes offered to board them. Later it was settled in town meeting. Sometimes the teacher had to be carried to and from school, and one record reads, “Paid Mr. Ebenezer Tiler for horse hire going to fetch ye school master.”
Some years no school was kept, but no reason is known.
Teachers or schoolmasters were usually men and quite often the most prominent men in town. John Robbins, Jr. was one of these serving not only as teacher, but as town clerk and selectman for several years.
In 1744 a state law was passed authorizing the division of towns into school districts. Towns of fifty families had to provide instruction in all the English branches, and towns of one hundred families had to provide in addition, instruction in Latin and Greek.
The next year Attleborough “voted to choose a committee to divide the town into five parts and the Gore to be one part. It was voted also that the school be kept in two places, six months each, in each part, during the next two years and six months.”
The committee made the division and named the houses where schools were to be held. This began the district school system which came some years
later. By the above plan the school was moved from one section to another, and from house to house. It would appear that two schools were kept at the same time in Gore. for example, for six months and then the two schools would be moved to another section to remain six months. After two and a half years the schools would return to the Gore, so that for two years every section would be without schools.
The same year that this change was made, the town voted on this question: – “To see if the town will vote any money to be expended in keeping woman schools.” This was a new idea and required such careful consideration that the matter was laid over to an adjourned meeting, at which it was “voted to raise thirty pounds old tenor money, to encourage ye keeping of woman schools.” About thirty years after the first mention of schools in Attleborough some attention was given to the public education of girls. It is not certain whether boys and girls attended the same school, but the separate appropriation would seem to indicate that separate schools for girls were held.
Woman’s place was considered to be in the home and an education beyond what was required to enable her to fill that place was not thought necessary, so that this vote in 1745 was quite revolutionary.
For about twenty five years, little or nothing is found in the town records relative to schools. Perhaps the town fathers outdid themselves in adopting such revolutionary ideas as “women schools” and needed a long period to recover.
In 1771 the town records stated that in the east part of the town there was “one week’s additional schooling.” Why, is not stated but doubtless it was not at the request of the pupils.
Before this time “diet” had been included as part of the teacher’s compensation. From now on, however, this matter was not decided by the town, probably because the salary was increased enough so the teacher could feed himself. In November 1771 the population had increased and spread over more territory so that “increased facilities for educational advantages were required.” So, a committee was chosen “to divide the town into twelve parts and appoint the places where school shall be kept.” The committee met and decided that there should be thirteen divisions. They so reported and
recommended that “the town meet again and vote upon it.” This was done and thirteen divisions approved and the places for keeping schools were named.
As before stated, men of considerable note were often schoolmasters. Elisha May was one who served as early as 1768 and again about this time. He was a member of the legislature for over twenty-five years and town moderator over forty years.
In 1769 Ephraim Starkweather of Rehoboth was teacher of the “Grammar School” for a year. He, likewise, was a man prominent in civic life, a member of the Committee of Correspondence during the Revolution and in 1775 and 1778 a representative to the General Court and State Senator from Rehoboth for three years.
In 1776 the town “voted to divide the school money, that each one may have his equal part. Voted that no person shall send out of his own quarter. Voted that any quarter that neglects to improve his money within the year, shall lose it. Voted that each quarter shall draw one thirteenth of the money raised for schooling.”
These items are interesting and deserve brief comment. Regardless of the number of pupils in any one quarter, all quarters were to receive equal shares. This might result in one quarter being able to secure a better school to which some pupils outside the quarter might be attracted. To prevent this, no one could attend a school outside his own quarter. Furthermore any quarter which neglected to provide for a school within a year forfeited the share.
This division into thirteen districts continued until 1789. In 1782 – 83 one Ebenezer Bacon was schoolmaster in the section known as “Lt. Bolkcom’s quarter.” This was probably Lt.William Bolkcom who is recorded as serving in the Tenth Campaign, three months at “Howlan’s ferry” in 1776-77.
In 1784 it was “voted to Double the School money.” Evidently it was done, since Samuel Tingley received two pounds, one shilling and four pence for keeping school one month and boarding himself, whereas the year before Ebenezer Bacon had received two pounds and eight shillings for keeping school two months. Even with double the money, Mr. Tingley received about fifty cents a day. Truly school teaching was not a highly paid profession.
In 1787 it was voted to divide the town into twenty quarters, but it was not done and the next meeting “voted and agreed to let the quarters stand as they be, and the money shall be divided among the quarters according to the number of children in said town from four to sixteen years old.”
This was the first time school money was divided according to the number of children. Obviously it was a much fairer way. It continued, with some changes for nearly one hundred years until the “district school” system was abolished.
In 1789 when the state law first authorized towns to set up school districts it was opposed because the voters thought the town meeting which appropriated the money should have the say as to the spending of it. They did not like the idea of delegating that power to districts.
Later a law left it to the discretion of the town to appoint a committee to appraise district school property. In order to get a fair unbiased appraisal, committees were often chosen from near-by towns.
On the town records for March 13, 1789 is found, “This may certify that William May is appointed by the selectmen to keep a Grammar School in the town of Attleborough. Ebenezer Tyler, Town Clerk.”
A town meeting held March 17, 1789 “Voted to choose a committee to divide the town into twenty quarters for schooling.” A committee of thirteen was chosen.
In 1808, about eight years after, the law permitting towns to divide into defined school district was passed. Attleborough chose a committee and divided the territory in eighteen districts. This committee’s report, describing exactly and carefully the boundaries of these districts is copied word for word on the town records, over the names of the committee.
The first mention of school houses is in 1804 when the town gave the school districts authority to raise money and build houses, “to select a spot where to build and to act upon any other matter that may be deemed beneficial to said districts, and not contrary to law.”
It seems likely from the records that the first school building erected under this authority was at Oldtown and the next was at the Fall’s Village, the selectmen signing the necessary warrant. After 1808 all districts from time to time erected schools under like authorization. Committees known as It prudential committees” were elected by the town. These received and spent the money appropriated for the districts and made contracts with teachers. One or two were chosen from each district who were a committee “to view and inspect the schools.”
In 1804 the first common text books for use in all schools in Attleborough were selected by a committee of nine, three of whom were ministers and one a doctor. The majority of this committee was re-elected several times. A comparison of the books then, with those of today, would be very interesting.
The per capita allowance for schools was in 1798 – – 58 cents; 1801 – 75 cents; 1807 – – $1.00. This allowance of $1.00 continued up to 1820.
At the present time the cost of education per capita in Attleboro is between $80 and $90. This in itself shows how much superior in material equipment is the modern school. We hope and believe, also, that children are better prepared for living in a more complex world than their ancestors ever knew.
In 1829 the prudential committees, which had been elected by the districts, were elected in town meeting. In 1830 a change was made in the method of dividing school money among the school districts.
All districts having 50 scholars or over, were to receive one dollar for each pupil – all districts having less than 50 pupils, were to receive two cents more than the dollar for every pupil less than the established number – 50. Thus, a district having 35 pupils, would receive two cents for each of 15 pupils, or 30 cents plus one dollar – or $1.30 per pupil, for school expenses. This method tended to equalize the appropriations so that the smaller districts would not be at a disadvantage.
A sort of superintending school committee had been elected about 1808 “to view and inspect the schools.” They apparently had served without pay for in 1838 it was voted “to make the superintending school committee a reasonable compensation for services.” A sum of money known as the “Massachusetts School Fund” had been raised through sale of land in Maine when Maine was a part of Massachusetts, and through military claims made by Massachusetts against the United States for militia service in the War of 1812. This money had been set aside as a permanent fund for the encouragement of public schools, one half the income to be distributed to towns in amounts ranging from $100 to $200, according to the town’s valuation – those having higher valuation to receive less.
The other half of the income went to towns and cities having valuations under 10 million dollars in proportion to the number of children between five and fifteen years of age.
In order to receive this money a town must have at least one high school and raise by taxation at least $3 per capita for children five to fifteen years old.
The school committee could use not over 25 per cent of the amount received for reference books, maps and apparatus.
In 1887 Attleboro’s valuation was over $6,000,000. The appropriation was approximately $100.
Today, the valuation is approximately 283 million dollars and state reimbursement to Attleboro on School Account was over $25,000.
The reports of the school committees for 1845 and 1847 are interesting, but too lengthy to be included. A few excerpts and a summary must suffice.
“Schools have generally been prosperous and useful – the youth have been educated in knowledge and virtue. This is one step forward but they should not rest satisfied but go on to higher attainments. There is no end to the possibility of advancement in education.
“Free schools are the greatest safe guard to Republican institutions.
“A generous expenditure will repay ten fold in increased knowledge, virtue and happiness. Education is not an ornament but a ‘necessity in a free government.’ Appropriations for education should be in proportion to our standing as an enterprising, industrious community.”
“Irregular attendance is an evil of the past year which ought to be remedied. Non-attendance is the parents’ fault. Attendance for the past winter was below 80%. District No. 20, Hebronville, has a remarkably high attendance not far from 100%. This should inspire other districts to equal effort.
” The whole state with its high educational tradition has a bad record of school attendance. What must it be in other states with less provision for public education.”
“The whole nation should be able to pride itself on the educational attainments of its people. Public schools should prepare for future participation in public affairs. Boys should be taught the State and National Constitutions, General principles of government and civil history of the country.”
“The blessings of education should be extended to all. Let us make men with trained minds rather than monuments of wealth, pomp and power.”
The report for the winter of 1846-7 deals with “School Houses,” “Parental Influence,” “Irregular Attendance,” and has many interesting comments which throw much light on that highly praised American institution “The Little Red School House.”
Let the School Committee of 1846 speak:
“Why are our school houses in their present condition? Out of twenty three only three or four are model houses; the others are in very bad order. Why – – – is there so much neglect, indifference and even opposition – – – why are our houses left unrepaired, unpainted, unornamented, unprovided with needful apparatus?
“The day for cheap school houses, cheap teachers, and cheap apparatus has gone by. It is a sin and a shame we should content ourselves with present accommodations.”
“Our attention has been called to the unfavorable location of many school houses. Location is important. It should be selected with reference to natural advantages, exterior ornament and beauty and adaptation to design (of building). This has been greatly overlooked and under-valued.”
“School houses are situated in cold, bleak places; under the side of a hill down in the sand, on the very borders of the carriage path of the highway, sides fronting the open field or public road, or in the woods out of sight. Most are without yards, without shades, ornamental shrubbery, destitute of paint, without and within; foundations dilapidated, open to the wind, without blinds, without curtains, summer and winter.
“The interior of some is in such a state as to forbid description. The rooms are quite too small. Correct reading, a branch of education of first importance, can not be secured in any school house in the west part of the Town.”
“The benches are exceedingly inconvenient, many positively -injurious. (Once) seats made of four legged plank, even slabs just from the sawmill could be endured, but that age is past. Most of the seats are very unfit for their design, so long, so high, so narrow, so confined as to disturb the order of the school, to harass the mind and torture the body and to oblige the children to seek release by any means in their power; by asking for recess; by reclining on his side; by resting his elbows on his limbs; by propping himself by bracing his knees against the desk, or by placing the elbow on the desk and the hand under the chin.”
“There is no ventilation except when openings in and around doors and windows or through the ceiling is sufficient for ventilation.”
“The entry is filthy, the stove and stove pipe rusty, the plastering covered with paper balls, perforated with nail notes, stained with smoke or water from the leaky roof, the floor unswept, the benches and walls bearing marks of much time spent with jack knives, (and) revolting indications of marks of much time spent with jack knives, (and) revolting indications of
immorality, vulgarity and vice.”
“Some have had unsuitable fuel. One had green wood which the teacher cut and built the fire. One had too long wood which made the stove smoke.”
“Some of the houses are more of a nuisance than anything else – others disgust, render heedless, inactive and unfaithful, the teacher; and tempt the youth; producing idleness, loss of self respect and growing depravity.”
“Apparatus, such as blackboards, globes, maps, charts and time pieces, are all much needed. These are essential to teachers’ success.”
“These deficiencies demand immediate attention and an efficient remedy.”
Parental influence should be so strong that no one can counteract or abate it. Hence they should cooperate with each other, with the teachers and the committee.
Teachers and committee members may be discharged but parents continue on. No teacher can succeed when hindered by parental influence.
Parents and teachers should settle any differences by private interview and mutual explanation. It is an injustice to subject teachers to mere suspicions and distrust.
Parents have no right to interfere with the management or discipline of any school. Dissatisfied parents who remove their children from school do them more harm than any one else.
Irregular attendance is the fault of the parents and can be remedied only by them.
The committee praised the work of the school in Dist. No. 8 mentioning the improvement in writing, and the proficiency in reading, Geography, map making, grammar, arithmetic and algebra.
The number of pupils in the 24 schools ranged from 12 in Dist. No. 3 to 80 in Dist. No. 22.
Schools kept from 8 weeks in Dist. No. 6 to 29 weeks in Dist. No. 9.
It is interesting to note that of twenty-two teachers named only nine were woman, whereas today by far the greater number are woman.
Teachers were paid from $8 to $30 per month with board allowance ranging from $4 to $9.
Today Mass. laws require that no teacher shall be paid less than $1200 per year, or approximately $100 per month.
In 1850 several attempts were made to burn various school houses. Perhaps the very critical report of the committee in 1847 convinced some that one way to correct the conditions was to burn up the buildings, or perhaps some pupils felt that schools were no longer necessary to their welfare and happiness. The selectmen offered a $500 reward for information and the town voted itself “a committee of the whole” for the protection of property, but so far as is known, the reward was not claimed, no arrests were made and no further fires broke out. Whether or not the school buildings were renovated is not known.
In 1851, a high school was contemplated and a committee of six appointed education costs per capita had risen to $4.50 by this time. The committee appointed in April reported in November and suggested that high schools be established in accordance with a law which required towns to have at least one school “whose teachers shall be qualified to instruct in the history of the United States, bookkeeping, surveying, geometry, algebra, general history, rhetoric, logic, and the Latin and Greek languages.” If one central place could not be found, two or more schools could be kept whose terms together must equal twelve months. A town which did not do this was liable to a heavy fine amounting to twice what was ever raised in one year for schools. The school appropriation was then $4,150 so that the fine would have been over $8,000. The committee recommended three high schools, one in the east, one in the west, and one in the north district. The town meeting voted the schools and appointed the town school committee to make inquiries
and arrangements and report.
Not until April 1853, two years later, was there any further action. Then $600 was appropriated to carry out the vote of the town in accordance with the law requiring high schools. The committee reported and recommended three high school districts but action was delayed until June 1856, when a committee of nine, three from each of the three districts, north, east, and south was appointed to consider the proposed three high schools. It was voted to build two instead of three, one at North Attleborough, one at East Attleborough (now Attleboro) and $12,000 was appropriated “for constructing suitable school houses and purchasing lots to locate the same; one moiety thereof to be expended upon each building and lot.”
The committee could not agree on locations and the matter rested until 1967. Then the town again voted to establish a high school at East Attleborough and one at North Attleborough and appropriated $3,000 for their support.
A high school was thereupon organized in 1867 in each of the two districts. The one at the North was located in a small two room building on South Washington Street nearly opposite the present high school. Later it was moved to near the end of East Street just behind the present Masonic Temple. It was last used as a storage house by W.H. Riley & Son. Mr. Burrill Porter, the first principal served more than twelve years.
The one in the East district, now Attleboro, was in a building known as the Straw Shop. This was on South Main Street on the site of the present Briggs Hotel or Apartments. It was on the second floor which was reached by an outside stairway. Here it continued until at least 1874, perhaps longer. In 1878 it was located in what was known as the “Middle Building” on the Sanford St. School lot and continued there until the new high school building was built at the corner of Bank and Peck Streets in 1882.
After fourteen years of delay, building sites were chosen, $25,000 appropriated and a building committee appointed April 4, 1881.
In March 1882, $6,000 more was appropriated to complete the buildings and $500 voted for necessary apparatus for both schools.
In March 1884, another appropriation of $242.92 was made for the high school buildings, making the total cost $31,242.92. The one in North Attleborough, which was burned, was on High Street on the site of the residence of the late Dr. Carley. The one in Attleboro was used as a high school until 1914 and as a grammar and vocational school until 1941. It has since been tom down.
Both were built on the same general plan and at the time were the very best in school buildings. That they were well built is attested by the fact that one was used for nearly sixty years but educational progress demands more modem, up-to-date equipment. “Time makes ancient good uncouth” and so gradually the old gives way to the new.
In 1869, the town took over the school property from the district committee and the appraised value set at $33,230.74.
In 1883, the old district school system was abolished by the State Legislature. This required the town as a whole to take over the school system. An appraisal was made in 1882 and the value set at $36,595.44. At this time free text books were furnished whereas before this, each pupil purchased his own.
In 1872 the Dog fund was voted for use of common schools and continued to be so used for many years; so that a person who owned a dog helped thereby to provide “schooling” for some child.
In 1882, the school population and the number of schools had increased so much that the school committee could not satisfactorily keep in touch with all the schools and they recommended that a superintendent be hired. In March 1853, the town appropriated the money and in May a superintendent was engaged. In the report of the superintendent for the year ending February 1886 are enumerated the many things which he was required to do. It reminds one of Caesar’s comment that he had to do all things at once.
In 1885 money was appropriated to bring children in from outlying districts and this practice had continued to the present day when even greater
centralization of schools is the tendency.
At one time, 1810, only one child of school age was reported in Mechanicsville. Not until 1850 can even an approximation be made of the number of pupils in school. At that time there were perhaps 900 pupils and the per capita cost of education was about $4.50.
In 1880 there were 1,541 pupils and the cost per pupil had risen to $11.39. This increase has been continuous until now, 1943, when the number is 3,194 and the per capita cost is over $90.
More and more subjects have been added to the curriculum, so that today teachers must be trained specialists, instead of the most prominent citizen as was once the case.
In 1886, for the first time in Attleboro, two women were elected to the school committee. In 1855, the town voted that the Bible or the New Testament be used in the public schools “at least once per day by all the scholars of sufficient intellectual attainments in the opinion of the teachers to read the same.”
Mention should be made of the private schools and special school funds which Attleboro has enjoyed through the years.
The first private school was probably The Franklin School. On February 5, 1800 twenty-five of the most influential men in town met in the house of Benjamin Bolkcom, one of the group, and agreed to build a school house, “nigh the meetinghouse.”
Jonathan Peck also one of the founders, was hired to build the house for $328, and to have it done by September. In 1802, the school was incorporated in order to protect the gift of land on which the school house was located, which Abijah Everett, physician and Abigail his wife, had deeded to the proprietors. This school was to promote virtue and instruct “youth of each sex in such languages and such branches of the Arts and Sciences as the said Trustees may from time to time think Expedient and within the Income and funds of said school to support.”
The proprietors met in October 1802 and elected officers, appointed a committee to draw up by-laws and in November voted to rent the school house for 24 dollars per year. In December the first “preceptor” Mr. Israel Day, Jr. was chosen and it was voted to. let the house for a singing school.
Rev. Nathan Holman, Moses Thacher and Preston Cummings taught here at various times. They probably secured pupils by their own efforts. A “Woman’s School” was kept here in the summer (1803). As incorporated the school was in the south parish but in 1804 the legislature changed it to read East parish because by this time that part of Attleborough was called the “East Precinct.”
In 1805 the proprietors voted to allow a singing school to be kept, provided it did not interfere with the school usually kept.
In 1806, the rent was “relinquished” to the person who had used the building, probably because the securing of pupils was not successful.
In 1815, permission to use the school house for conferences at one shilling (12 1/20) per meeting was voted, and rent for that summer was one dollar a month.
In 1824, the Franklin School Corporation voted “to lease their school house lot to the Incorporated Congregational Society in the Second Precinct in Attleboro for the term of Nine hundred and ninety nine years for a meeting house lot, the rent to be paid annually.” They also voted to sell the school house “at Public auction.”
When this was done, the building became the property of District No. 18, and was moved to the west side of South Main Street just below the present railroad arch. (1945)
The building was described as “a little building, painted yellow.” It was square with a hip-roof. In one end opposite the door, was the teacher’s desk on a raised platform. The scholar’s seats, probably long modern benches were “in four tiers, each one higher than the other; the boy’s on one side, the girls on the other.” Heat was furnished by an old-fashioned wood burning box stove.
When the first train went through it passed close to the school house and the excitement of the children can, in some measure, be imagined. The teacher warned them to keep their heads inside or they might be “taken off by the cars.”
This building was afterward moved down South Main Street and made into a residence. It is now (1945) a part of the residence of Mrs. Rena Goff Rounseville.
There was a private school called a “classical school” kept in South Attleboro at one time between 1805 and 1820 by a Mr. Wheaton, a graduate of Brown University. Little is known about it and it is assumed that it existed but a short time.
Between 1832 and 1836 a private school was kept in North Attleborough by Miss Lurinda Forbush, daughter of the Baptist minister there. Later, as Mrs. Barrett, she became well known locally and nationally as a great temperance worker.
North Attleborough Academy
In 1833 an association was formed to found an academy in the north part of the town. A piece of land was purchased at what is now the corner of Washington and Orne Streets. Here a two story building was built. The first floor and one half the second floor were to be used for a school. The other half of the second floor was used by Bristol Lodge A.F. and A.M. The lodge had bought shares in the academy association and so could make use of the building.
The first principal, Isaac Perkins, had been principal in the once famous “Day’s Academy” in Wrentham. He took pupils to board and his house was called “the school boarding house.” He remained until 1844. The school evidently flourished as he sometimes had more than one assistant.
The school continued under four other principals until about 1852. For
several years the building was unoccupied. About 1855, it was moved a short distance south and it was used as a hardware store and a grocery store. It has since been tom down to make way for other more modem buildings.
East Attleborough Academy
About 1840, one Nathaniel W. Sanford of the New York State who owned practically all the land now included in the area between Dean, Bank and North Main Streets and to the Bates Theatre offered land to be used as a site for a school for higher education than the town then provided. This land now on Sanford Street was long known as the “Academy lot.”
An association was formed to build a suitable house for the school. A proposal to join with the school district was not favored and it was decided to sell shares to stock holders and thus erect the building. Mr. Joseph W. Capron, familiarly known as Uncle Joe Capron, was greatly interested in securing subscriptions and Mr. John C. Dodge was a large contributor.
It is not known how many held stock but there were 108 or I 10 shares. They sold at $12.50 each. In 1842, the trustees reported $1,455.50 spent and $1,417.05 subscribed – deficit $38.50. They asked for $250 more for proper completion of the building.
School was opened in it in 1842. It is the present office of the superintendent of schools and is therefore the oldest building used continuously for educational purposes in the city.
The deed given by Mr. Sanford acknowledges receipt of $300 from nine prominent men of Attleboro, trustees of Attleborough High School.
Twenty five years before a town high school was established a privately built high school was in operation here. By the deed, this land was to be held in trust for the Proprietors while they maintained a building there and no longer. The deed also stated that the proprietors must maintain all the fence adjoining Mr. Sanford’s property.
Later the Academy Association leased the property to District No. 18,
for ninety-nine years. This made it possible to move the building from the middle of the lot to the spot where the present (1945) Red Cross headquarters is, and a larger school building later known as “the Middle Building”, Sanford Street School was built on the original spot.
In 1883, the school districts were abolished and this new building and the rights of the association lease were bought by the town. The academy building was again moved in 1889 to the spot where it now stands.
In this building in 1851 was held what was known as “The Opatic Institute. This was a school of higher learning. The fees were small, and the education offered limited to certain branches. The principal was James M. Bailey. The conducted a very successful school which continued for several years. Instructions were given to both sexes in subjects in preparation for college. The school specialized in preparing pupils for teaching.
Special attention was given to instruction in anatomy and physiology, and making and reading maps and charts on these subjects. There was also a cabinet containing rocks, minerals and fossils.
Weekly exercises were given in declamation and composition. Higher branches of mathematics and the ancient classics were taught. Instruction was given on the piano and lessons given in drawing, sketching and painting. A prospectus advertising this school gave the following rates:
Board, tuitions, etc..
Common English Branches $4.00
Higher English Branches 4.50
Penmanship, extra .50
$.25 extra for incidentals.
Board from $1.50 to $2.00 per week in neighboring families.
In 1852, the second year of the Institute, the membership was:
Winter term enrolled 40
Spring term 46
Fall term 53
(page 51, centerfold of book)
One hundred of these were from Attleborough.
At one time the “Union High School” so called was kept here by two of the school districts. Pupils from these districts paid nothing but those from other districts were charged tuition.
Small private schools were held in various parts of Attleboro at different times but none lasted very long. One for small children was kept for several years by Miss Lizzie Blanding, a former public school teacher. She was one of the “old school” and had marked success in teaching children to read who were too young to enter the first grade when schools opened in September. Private kindergartens have been conducted recently by Mrs. Wendell and Mrs. Bertha Wells at the League House on Bank Street.
At the present time there are twelve school buildings in use as schools including the Ingraham building used as a Jewelry Trade School. Several other buildings once used as schools are still standing but used for other purposes. Present school buildings in the order of their construction are:
Old Academy Building 1842
South Attleboro “City School” 1884
Sanford Street Grammar Building 1890
Carpenter Street School 1894
Plat School 1895
Capron School 1896
Pleasant Street School 1898
Dodgeville School 1900
Farmers School 1901
Richardson School 1901
Briggs Comer School 1905
Washington School 1908
Bliss School 1909
Tiffany School 1912
High School 1914
Lincoln School 1925
Finberg School 1929
Willett School 1943
The Jewelry Trade School opened in 1934.
The Continuation or Vocational School opened in 1920. There have been seven superintendents since the first was elected and five more since Attleboro and North Attleborough were divided. Mr. John Laing Gibb served as Music Supervisor from 1902 to 1944.
Manual Training began in 1910 under Mr. William F. Eastwood in a school building on So. Main Street now used as a church by Good News Chapel. Physical Training was introduced in 1920. LaSalette Seminary, a school for training young men for the priesthood was opened in the former Attleboro Sanitarium, or Attleboro Springs in September 1942.
Many people have made generous bequests to Attleboro for school purposes. The first and largest was made by Abiathar Augustus Richardson, who died in 1843 leaving in his will, his entire estate, to be used as a school fund. The interest, but no part of the principal, to be expended by a board of twelve trustees. In 1843 the gift was worth $11,000. It has increased to over $60,000. This fund has provided many features for the schools which would not otherwise have been possible. Drawing and music supervisors were paid, musical instruments, tools and manual training equipment, maps, reference books, visual education equipment of all kinds were bought and films rented from the income from this fund.
One small fund originally about $700 was bequeathed to South Attleboro, then District No. 8 by an eccentric Frenchman named Joseph A. Richaud. What has become of this fund or what use was made of it is not known.
Another fund was derived from the estate of Milton Holmes of the Holmes neighborhood in 1863. This fund was managed by trustees and in 1889 amounted to about $2,100. The present amount and disposition of the fund is not known to the writer.
More recent educational funds are:
Joseph Finberg Educational Fund which is a trust fund of $12,500 set up in 1921, the income from which is loaned to worthy graduates of Attleboro High School to enable them to continue their education further. Many Attleboro boys and girls have been helped to go to college through his generous fund.
The Attleboro Student Aid Fund was established in 1940 by five Attleboro Women’s Clubs. A graduate of Attleboro High School is chosen each year to receive $100 from this fund to be used for higher education in a college or vocational school.
The Helen W. Metcalf Prize Fund was established in 1919 by the Attleboro Pierian Club. A prize of $5.00 was to be given annually for excellence in English throughout the four years in high school. This was in honor of Miss Metcalf, formerly a teacher of English in Attleboro High School.
In 1939, Miss Metcalf s brother, Louis P. Metcalf, left by his will, a trust fund from the income of which $100 was to be used annually to perpetuate and increase the Helen W. Metcalf prize.
This trust provides that all income over $100 shall accumulate until the principal becomes $100,000; after which all the annual income shall be used for school prizes. When the income is over $2,000 the excess may be used for other school prizes, but no other prize may equal or exceed the amount of the Helen W. Metcalf Prize.
A grammar school pupil to be eligible for a prize must learn the Massachusetts Bill of Rights, and the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States and also must read the Constitution of Massachusetts and of the United States.
This fund is now over $55,000.
There are several very active Parent Teacher Associations in the various
individual schools, which testify to the keen interest which Attleboro parents have, from the beginning, taken in the welfare of their children.
In the beginning of her history Attleboro was a purely agricultural community. We have seen how Blackstone established himself on the banks of the present Blackstone River, cleared the fields, planted an orchard and laid out a park; and how Rev. Newman and his followers were attracted to the open fields and plains of Rehoboth. Later we find that Capt. Thomas Willett acquired a large tract of land suitable for farming on the banks of the Ten Mile River in what is now North Attleboro.
The early records of the town contain many references to agricultural pursuits. A report of the valuation of the town made in 1792 is thought to be of sufficient interest to be included in part at this point.
A Count of the Valuation Taken and Completed this 7th Day of November 1792, by E. Bacon. A. Richardson, J. Ide.
Polls Rateable 16 years old & upwards to 21 years 81
Polls Rateable 21 years old & upwards 303
Male Polls not Rateable, not Supported by ye town 89
Male Polls not Rateable – Supported by ye town 5
Dwelling Houses 215
Acres of Tillage Land 1282
Bushels Of Rie 2666
Bushels of Oats 472
Bushels of Corn 9264
Peas & Beans 111
Acres of English and upland mowing 1860 1/2
Tons of Hay yearly produce of the same 736 3/4
Acres of fresh meadow 1944
Tons of Hay yearly produce of same 1188
Acres of Pasturing 5288
Cows the same will keep 1069
Barrels of Cyder 1503
Acres of Woodland 4450
Acres of Land covered with water 215
Number of horses 3 years old & upward 138
Steers & Cows 3 years old etc. 861
Oxen 4 years old etc. 311
Swine 6 months old 375
Common Land 697 acres
Acres in the town 28,363
The above acreage accounts for but little more than half the area of the town, but even this shows that the principal industry was farming.
A comparison of the number of animals owned in Attleboro now with those owned in 1792 might be of interest.
It is interesting to note that there are in present day Attleboro only 100 more cows and 200 more pigs than were reported in 1792 and there are 38 less horses than then and no oxen at all reported now.
One odd item is 697 acres of common land because we have none such now. This was land owned by the whole town and often used as a pasture ground by neighboring farmers.
It might be thought that our early settlers were hard drinkers when we consider that for 478 men there were reported 1503 barrels of cider, or over three barrels per man. Let us be charitable and say it was intended for vinegar and not for drink.
Where now stands the First National Bank Building in 1765 one Jonas
Richardson owned a large farm extending from the comer of Park & South Main Streets toward the south and east along both of these streets.
The first industry other than farming and closely connected with it and made necessary by it was doubtless the operation of grist mills or “Corn Mills.” Probably the first one in Attleboro was built before 1703 at Attleboro Falls at the place then known as “Ten Mile River Falls.” It was owned in 1703 by Joseph Daggett of Rehoboth. (See account in earlier pages.)
Saw mills were an early necessity in the preparation of the timber for construction of houses. Some time before 1701 John Woodcock gave to his son Jonathan a saw mill which stood on the Bungay River. Sometime before 1742 a saw mill and a grist mill stood at the end of Mechanic’s Pond not far from the present site of the Watson Factory. These mills made use of the water power from the falls. An attempt will be made to trace the gradual development of Attleboro from a purely agricultural community to an almost entirely manufacturing city. There are still in the outskirts and just outside the city limits large dairy and poultry farms but all of Attleboro’s people now depend on imported food stuffs, whereas once the people were entirely self supporting in every aspect.
Interest in agricultural pursuits was sufficiently great in Attleboro down to 1890 to maintain three Agricultural Societies during the years from 1800 to 1890.
The first, known as “The Attleboro Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts and Social Intercourse,” was founded Feb. 22, 1804. The annual meetings were held on Feb. 22 in honor of Washington, “patron of order, and the friend of man.” It had a library of 300 volumes of very heavy style reading matter, no novels and romances. Their hall as on the second floor of the school house at West Attleborough now called Oldtown. This was on the same lot as the “Old Powder House”. The association shared the expense of erecting the school house. Addresses were one hour long; after which the social part of the evening consisted of discussions on politics and the tapping of the liquor kegs.
A second society founded in 1805 was called “The Social Library and
Farmers’ Historical and Geographical Society.” They had about 200 volumes of the same style literature with geographical, historical and agricultural works. Both these societies were disbanded and the books distributed among the members.
In 1868-69 a series of lectures on agriculture was given in the Baptist Church vestry. At this time it was proposed to organize a farmer’s club. A meeting was held March 29, 1869 at the Falls school house and the association for “the advancement of agriculture as an art and as a science” was begun.
In August 1869 “a field meeting was held on the farm of S.M. Stanley. This was something quite novel and a decided advance in the history of farmer’s clubs.” Field meetings were held at various later dates at other farms.
The first “fair, and market day” of this association was held Oct. 14, 1869 at the old town house on West St. In March 1870 the association bought land in Robinsonville (now Attleboro Falls) at the junction of North Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. and started the building afterward known as Agricultural Hall. Other buildings were added and a half mile race track, at that time one of the best in New England was built. This society was of great benefit to the farmers and the yearly fairs were patronized by thousands for miles around. Later this became a stock company and was incorporated as “The Attleborough Agricultural Association.”
There was a division in the board of managers; one represented the farmers, the other represented the horsemen. The farmers objected to horse trotting and large purses, the horsemen opposed a fair made up exclusively of farm products. This disagreement eventually resulted in a foreclosure on the fairgrounds property and the fairs and horse racing were never resumed. The land is now laid out in house lots and dwellings are now occupying the spot where for many years farmers and sportsmen held a gala day once a year.
Interest in agriculture is kept alive today by Oak Hill Grange which has a hall on Locust St. Here the society meets regularly and once a year holds a fair by which they call the attention of the public to the importance of agriculture and kindred arts & sciences. It is well that this is done for after all
it is the basic industry on which all of us depend for food and clothing.
One of the first industries of which we have any very complete record is a Bloomery or Iron Foundry. A low grade iron ore was abundant in the bogs and swamps and much wood necessary to supply the fuel was found in the nearby forests.
These foundries were established early in the settlement of New England. One in Chartley was started as early as 1695 and may have been the inspiration for one here. This was in what was once called East Attleborough in the section called Mechanicsville. This is what we now call Mechanics St. Attleboro near the place where Watson’s Factory stands.
One Robert Saunderson, an English emigrant, a merchant from Boston is the first who is definitely known as the owner of this forge. In a deed dated Feb. 22, 1742 “in the sixteenth year of the king’s reign” Saunderson is called “Forge Master” but the date of his establishment of the works may have been earlier than this.
He built a remarkable house here which will be described in the chapter on old houses.
This Forge or Bloomery changed hands several time before passing out of existence. Robert Lightfoot, merchant of Boston, bought it in 1742 or 43 for “2000i current money of the province.” The property consisted of “about fifteen acres of land, including the Forge Pond, together with a forge containing three fires, and a coal house, Pigg house, two dwellings and granary, a stable on said premises standing, and all the utensils belonging to and proper for such a forge in good going order, the whole being under ye occupation of Thomas Baylies.” The pond we now call Mechanic’s Pond. The coal house was used for storing charcoal for the furnaces and the Pigg house was not for swine but for the short molded bars of iron known as “pigs.” This description indicates that it must have been an extensive business.
Lightfoot continued as owner until 1759 and a Mr. Thomas Cobb appears to have been a superintendent. In 1759 Robert Lightfoot of Newport, R.I. sold this property to which a third dwelling seems to have been added, to Thomas Cobb of Taunton.
In 1765 Mr. Thomas Cobb sold this property to his son Jonathan Cobb, although he seems to have lived in the “mansion house.” Perhaps he was the “silent partner.” About 1800 Jonathan Cobb sold to Nathaniel Robinson who worked the forge for a while, but later changed it to a blacksmith shop, grist mill, etc. This was again sold in 1809 to Elijah Ingraham of Pawtucket, Ezra & Jabel Ingraham, and Henry Sweet of Attleboro. Ore for this forge was obtained from the low land at the intersection of what are now Chestnut and So. Washington Sts. in North Attleboro. The forge was evidently abandoned, probably due to scarcity of iron ore and wood and a cotton mill erected in 1811. This was the first cotton mill in town and the beginning of a large and thriving industry which lasted almost 100 years and which is not wholly extinct today.
This factory, known later as Mechanic’s Factory, was built about two years when another known as Farmer’s Factory, because neighboring farmers contributed funds for the building, was built on Farmers Pond not far from the present Mossberg Pressed Steel Plant. A business of this kind attracted workers and as transportation then was unlike today living near to the factory was desirable. The company built long rows of tenement houses, identical in appearance, in which the workers lived. In this way little villages sprang up. Attleboro had Mechanicsville – Farmer’s Village – Dodgeville – Hebronville, at Attleboro Falls – Briggsville, now Briggs Comer – Blackintonville at Simmons Crossing and Lanesville now Adamsdale.
Some of these tenement houses still exist in these villages. A cotton mill originally called The Beaver Dam Factory was once on the race way of Whitings pond in the town of Plainville which by change of boundary was once within Attleboro limits. This factory later became a nail factory where all kinds of cut nails were made. The Falls Factory built in 1813 stood near the spot where, since the earliest days of the settlement, a “corn mill” and a saw mill had stood. In these mills as in all New England cotton mills up to 1814 only the cotton yarn was spun. This was then taken out to the homes where it was woven into cloth on hand looms. At the site of the “Farmers Factory” already mentioned once stood a nail factory and a grist mill. The pond there was only about half its present size. At the Farmers Factory shoestrings were made at one time and braid for use on hoopskirts and later thread and knitting cotton. Later this factory was used as an iron foundry and
ranges and furnaces were manufactured.
The City Factory, built in 1813, was the only cotton factory on the Seven Mile River. This is where the Braid Mill is now, corner Read Street and West St.
This factory had changed hands many times and has engaged in various manufactures. It once produced ladies’ jackets, leggings and mittens. Dying and bleaching have also been done here.
Lanesville Factory on Abbott’s Run was built in 1826. Around it grew a neat little village called Lanesville. It is now called Adamsdale. It is interesting to note here that of the 50 employed in the mill in 1893 all but seven were of foreign birth or ancestry. Dodge’s Factory built in 1809 by Jam. Ebenezer Tyler was, in 1834, the largest mill of its kind in town. Nehemiah Dodge who later owned the mill gave it the name by which it and the village about it, are still known. This was also the largest mill in Attleboro in 1893 when Daggett’s History of Attleboro was written.
In this mill the famous “Fruit of the Loom” cotton cloth was made.
The Atherton Factory built about 1812 in what is now Hebronville manufactured both cotton and woolen goods. On this spot, once known as “Chaffee’s Mills”, a saw mill and a grist mill were early built. Two Quaker merchants of Providence owned the property after the Athertons until 1848 when B. B. & R. Knight purchased it. Around these two mills grew up thriving villages which we know today as Dodgeville and Hebronville.
In 1837 Attleboro had 8 cotton mills and operated over 13,000 spindles. Today comparatively little cotton manufacturing is done anywhere in New England; many of the mills having moved to the South.
About 1815 power looms began to take the place of the old hand looms and this gave rise to a new industry in Attleboro. In 1827, colonel Willard Blackinton began the manufacture of power loom shuttles. His factory, known in recent times as as the “Old Shuttle Shop”, stood on the little pond on North Main St. opposite the R.F. Simmons Co. It is thought that a part at least of
the “Old Shuttle Shop” stood at one time. on the river on the opposite side of the road, about halfway down the north side of the R.F. Simmons Factory. Here the stream is so narrow at one point that one could almost jump across. At one time there was a foot bridge here and evidence of a dam and a canal or sluice way which led the water from the mill wheel across the road and into the pond. In the factory which doubtless stood there, parts of flint lock muskets evidently were made, as boys living in the neighborhood fifty years ago used to pick up parts of the old locks.
The “Old Shuttle Shop” is gone but on the spot stands another building and the place once known as Blackintonville is now a pretty little park called “Blackinton Park.”
The manufacture of jewelry and metal products gradually overshadowed the manufacture of textiles.
This industry, because of which Attleboro has become known throughout the world, was really the second industry to be developed, the first being the forge or Bloomery already mentioned. In 1780 an unknown man known only as “The Frenchman” began making jewelry and brass butts for doors in a small shop in what is now North Attleboro, not far from the corner of Chestnut and South Washington Sts.
This unknown “French man” is supposedly the first to make jewelry in Attleboro. In this small way began the great industry by which many thousands of people have since earned a livelihood. It is regrettable that nothing more is known of the founder of this industry to which Attleboro owes so much.
One David Brown worked with him for about 25 years and is supposed to have learned his methods and whatever tricks there were in the trade. In 1807 the first jewelry manufacturing company was formed and the first factory for this manufacture was built on Commonwealth Ave. in what was known as Robinsonville or Attleboro Falls. The company was composed of Otis and Obed Robinson. After 1812 Mark Baldwin and Milton Barrows became partners. Soon a new brick shop was built in Robinsonville and in 1930 was still standing and in use.
Here were made by this firm on a large scale the first metal buttons ever made in the United States. These were for Army, Navy, Police, Firemen and State Militia uniforms. Earlier than this, however, in 1793, Edward Price who came from Birmingham, England brought with him machinery and materials for manufacturing buttons. For almost seven years he carried on a small business in a little shop on North Main St. not far from the Legion Hall. Later he moved to North Attleboro where he continued in business for nearly twelve years. Here he joined with Col. Obed Robinson and his brother Otis and gave them a start in the business. Price took up cotton manufacturing and never returned to button making. In this factory under the firm Robinson, Jones Co. the first die ever used in the jewelry business was cut and struck. Their machinery was first run by horse power and later by water power from the Ten Mile River. For gilding these buttons $15,000 worth of pure gold was used per year.
It would be impossible in a work of this size to even mention all the many patents developed through the years, but a few are so unique as to seem worthy of note. One was for a “Button Machine” which automatically cut and completely made pants buttons from tin plates at the rate of 23 per minute. Government contracts for millions of these were filled during the Civil War. They were known as “Hatch’s Patent Metallic Pantaloon Buttons.” In 1884 Mr. Peter Nerney patented a swivel for use on a chain known as the “Nerney Patent Swivel.” Two firms manufactured a patent separable button which was quite a novelty in 1890.
One was called “The Original Separable Cuff and Collar Buttons” the other “The Original Separable Sleeve Button, Collar Button and Stud.”
There were said to be over 2,000 styles of these buttons. It is said that jewelry was manufactured very early in what is known as the Old Price Homestead on Mt. Hope St. about 3/4 of a mile toward the south from Watery Hill in North Attleboro.
The Price Factory built about 1830 off Mt. Hope St. Attleboro Falls was the first to use steam power for jewelry manufacturing. In this building about 1860 hoops for the then fashionable hoop skirts were made. While it can hardly be classed as jewelry it is interesting to note that the first hoop skirt made in the U.S. was made in Attleboro in 1836.
The first jewelry manufacturing factory in what is now Attleboro was started in 1831 in S.A. by Dennis Everett and Otis Stanley. They made watch chains and watch keys by which the early watches were wound. Later they moved to North Attleboro.
A jewelry firm known as Thompson, Hayward & Co. was established in Mechanicsville now Mechanics Street in 1851. This was the first organized jewelry firm in the territory now called Attleboro.
From these humble beginnings the jewelry industry here has grown to gigantic proportions. It is an industry which requires workmen with imagination and skill. While much of the manufacturing is done by machines, the artists, the designer, the creator even of the machine must possess a talent of which no machine is capable. It is this individual and personal quality which characterizes Attleboro jewelry and makes it recognized and sought for around the world.
A few odd bits of information relative to the jewelry business are inserted here before turning to other industries. About 1845 a Mr. J.H. Hodges is said to have been the first in Attleboro to make brass jewelry and have it electro plated. This was in a shop in Old Town on the Seven Mile River near Newell’s Tavern. The shop had a variety of uses. First a blacksmith shop, then a cotton mill, a- button factory, a jewelry factory, a pattern making factory, a dye house and bleachery.
It was an unknown Frenchman who gave jewelry to Attleboro, so too it was another unknown Frenchman who assisted Attleboro jewelers to get their metal waste refined. He used to stop over in North Attleboro on his way to Boston and make collections of the tiny scraps in a handkerchief as he went from shop to shop. These he took to Boston to be refined. It was not until 1854 that a refinery was started in North Attleboro.
Not only metals but jet and horn have been used in manufacturing jewelry. In 1893 jewelry engravers, chasers and designers received about $2.50 per day.
In 1887 it could be said that “There is no other town in the country where so large a jewelry business is done.” This can no longer be said since Attleboro is now a city but it can still be truly said that Attleboro jewelry is the equal to any in the world.
Closely connected with the jewelry industry of recent years is the manufacture of silver goods. Several firms have engaged in this line, chief of which is the Watson Company. Another industry founded by Frank Mossberg, a Swedish immigrant, now flourishes. Its products are iron and steel goods all of which are now connected with the war effort. Mr. Mossberg has to his credit over 300 patents. Two automobiles, the first in Attleboro were built in his factory. He was the inventor of the roller bearing, perhaps the greatest invention in modern machinery. So the iron industry with which Attleboro’s Industrial Life began returns once more after almost 200 years. Thus does History repeat itself.
Other industries once prominent in Attleboro life, some of which still exist deserve mention. J.M. Fisher, who afterward became a prominent citizen and jewelry manufacturer gained his first experience in metal craft in assisting an elder brother in the manufacture of sabres for the Civil War when 12 years of age. Swords and sabres were forged here by H.N. Daggett in the basement of old Steam Power Building.
A thriving hoop skirt business was built up in Attleboro from a sample brought here from N.Y. by H.N. Daggett, Sr.
Nails, shoe strings, fish lines, braid for hoop skirts, thread, knitting cotton, planing machines, boots and shoes, coffin trimmings, kitchen ranges and hot air furnaces were once manufacture here. One range was named “Attleborough” and a furnace was called “New Golden Eagle.” Ladies’ jackets, leggings, and mittens were once knitted by the Nottingham Knitting Co. at the “stupendous rate of 40 dozen mittens per day.” A tannery and leather manufacturing plant was located in the center of S. Attleboro for over one hundred years. This industry, now gone, grew from a small plant in which the power was furnished by an old horse that walked slowly round and round turning the old mill in which the hides were ground and softened, to a company employing sixty people occupying a large modern three story wooden building. Steam driven machinery replaced the old horse whose hide
may have been one of the 25,000 or more used yearly to make belt leather and raw hide lacings known throughout the United States. There was also a tannery on Elm St. in North Attleborough, but the date and extent, of the industry is not known.
Brief mention has been made of the manufacture of power loom shuttles (Page 60). At first these were made by hand. It took twelve men to make 25 dozen a week but after machinery was developed 15 men could make 200 a day for a hundred dozen a week. The best ones were made of persimmon or box wood from the south. Apple trees wood made an inferior grades. The price varied from $1.00 to 250 each, depending on the grade, the demand and the volume of production.
With the development of the jewelry business there came a demand for paper boxes. This industry began in 1852 in a shop at Farmers’ Village not far from the Steam & Electric Company Plant. This and other box manufacturing establishments still continue to supply containers for Attleboro jewelry.
In the horse and buggy days several kinds of carriages were made in Attleboro; and many wheel wrights shops, big and little, flourished. Nearly every village had its wheelwright shop. There was one at Briggs Corner owned and operated by Daries Briggs. He made almost every kind of wheeled vehicle including wooden wheels for velocipedes and wooden clamps for boots. One John Stanley began the manufacture of carriages in 1858. He built business and express wagons and repaired and remodeled other vehicles.
Later in East Attleborough, now Attleboro, one Enoch Bailey made beautiful light double carriages or “carryalls” and buggies.
Several coffin trimming manufacturers have existed in town since 1864. One was on County St. near the bridge in a building recently torn down.
On Feb. 22, 1868 was started an industry which remains to the present day, R. Wolfenden & Sons, Bleachers & Dyers. This began in a small way as “The Attleborough Dye Works, Robert Wolfenden, Proprietor.” The plant has increased in size and volume of production, until now, it has been said that it is the largest of its kind in the United States if not in the world.
While the jewelers were designing new styles for the adornment of the ladies, two enterprising young men conceived the idea of manufacturing a new kind of suspender. They called themselves “The Durable Suspender Company” and their patented product was known as “The Adjustable Durable Suspender.” A description of the article written by an enthusiastic wearer sounds like a midway hawker’s sales talk at a country fair. It is almost too amusing to leave out and is given here at the risk of being too lengthy.
The “durable” consists of the ordinary web bands which are attached to nickel plated trimmings, which consists of buckles in front and a buckle behind with strong, tasty chains of adjusted lengths and peculiar pattern, and a patented device in the form of a spring button loop. One of the main features wherein the Durables differ from all others is in the method of fastening in the back, without sewing or riveting, in such a way that the webs are adjustable and interchangeable. This can be said of no other suspender in the world, and these points alone make it worth the cost. The webs are connected at the back by a specially designed buckle, and cannot possibly pull apart, and the angle at which they are adjusted can be changed to fit any shoulders. There are other advantages over suspenders of familiar patterns and we think they will be readily seen and admitted by all who will carefully examine the Durable. They are easily buttoned and unbuttoned; they will not soil the clothing; the tempered loops have a peculiar elasticity which takes the strain from the buttons in case of sudden stooping or any unusual movement. The webs can be reversed or changed if desired. The trimmings can quickly and easily be adjusted to the webs of old suspenders. They feel more comfortable than the old styles. For laboring men who have to buy suspenders frequently, it will be a real economy to purchase the Durable, while those who are looking only for style or comfort will find their wants fully met by its use. The chains are of a style that fairly entitles them to the name Durable. The buttoning loops are made of tempered wire which is cut the desired lengths by a machine, and then bent just the required shape by another ingenious machine constructed particularly for the purpose. At each end of the loops which extend upwards is a small ball, which prevents the points, which otherwise become exposed, from wearing the clothing. They also serve as convenient in buttoning and unbuttoning. The webs are made especially for the company, which at present is manufacturing only in trimmings.
In these days of rubber shortage just to think of 23, 28 and 36 strands of rubber in a pair of suspenders almost marks one as unpatriotic and yet these contained these amounts in finely woven imported web in different patterns and sold for $7 a dozen, wholesale. This seems to have been the first major effort to introduce a new line of industry to Attleboro.
About 1800 on a site later occupied by the Union House Hotel on Railroad Avenue stood a small shop where twelve Scotchmen made bed ticking and apron checks on hand looms. These men, two of whom were named Riley and MacPherson, were from Scotland or Northern Ireland. They were doubtless the first to engage in cotton manufacturing in Attleboro.
For seven or eight years after 1804 nails of all kinds were made in a factory at Deantown by Ephraim and Asa Dean. Hooks and eyes once used extensively on ladies’ garments in the “gay nineties” were once made here as a sideline by a jewelry firm. These were “carded” at home by women and girls. Straw for making straw hats and sun bonnets was braided in the homes and straw manufacturing was carried on in what used to be called the “Straw shop” now the Briggs’ Hotel on South Main Street.
Bricks were made in several places at various times. Blacksmith shops were numerous and there were several harness and saddle maker shops which are quite unfamiliar to the present generation.
Identification badges and tags for soldiers are new only in their design. In 1863 one Attleboro firm, one of whose members was a discharged disabled veteran, began making gold, silver and rolled plate army badges, emblems and regimental identification badges for soldiers.
A great variety of materials is used in the manufacture of jewelry products – jet was once the style; horn, leather, celluloid, shells, glass, real and imitation stones as well as base and precious metals have been used.
Now that the use of metals is restricted, a new material known as plastic has been developed. This is cheap, durable and capable of a great variety of uses and although not comparable to the precious metals, satisfies the desire
for personal adornment.
It is not possible in so brief a work to even mention the many firms engaged in various manufacturing enterprises. The number and variety of articles manufactured here would be surprising even to Attleboro people. So far as possible to ascertain a list of Attleboro made products is appended at the back of this booklet. In fairness to all, no one company is given prominence, since this is not primarily an industrial history.
Attleboro in War Time
Attleboro has a military record of which it need not be ashamed. At one time Attleboro had four companies of militia and one of cavalry. One more company was organized for special service in the War of 1812.
Other companies were organized in Revolutionary Days and existed as late as 1834.
An independent company was the Washington Rifle Corps formed in 1815 with 47 men. The state disbanded militia companies in 1840 and Co. I was organized in 1887. This was taken over into the Federal Service in World War I and State Guard Co. A. 31st Regt. is now our military organization.
In 1861 Co. I 7th Regt. Mass. Volunteers was organized here and men from Attleboro served in several companies of many Massachusetts and Rhode Island Regiments throughout the Civil War.
From the earliest days when John Woodcock and Capt. Pierce and their fellow townsmen fought the Indians to the present world conflict, Attleboro men and women have shown a remarkable courage and fortitude in time of war.
There were doubtless men from Attleboro who served with the King’s forces in the French and Indian Wars so called, for we find an allusion to it in an address adopted here in town meeting in January 1773 and sent to the Committee of Correspondence in Boston. These are their words in part stripped of most of their high sounding terms and phrases – In the year 1745 when the British trumpet sounded war from beyond the seas to the Americans – instantaneously a political convention is called. – one messenger runs to meet another – to tell the
whole Province that the Kingdom was invaded. Forth with orders are issued and at the beat of the Drum volunteers paraded the ground like well harnessed soldiers with courage bold, and like the war horse, mocking at fear, marched – to the high places of Louisburg – stormed their entrenchments – and made a conquest of the city to the crown of Great Britain. And in the last war that hath been upon us, we have joined our British brethren, warring and fighting through seas of blood until we subdued the Canadian Province to the crown of our Sovereign Lord George the 3rd.”
This is written in general terms and does not prove that Attleboro men took part in these wars, but it seems hardly reasonable to suppose that men of such caliber as we have seen with Capt. Pierce and John Woodcock would have failed to respond to such a call.
In the Attleboro Museum of Art and History is a drum which was carried in the Siege of Louisburg by an Attleboro soldier.
As early as 1766 we find evidence of the determination of the people of Attleboro to stand firmly for their rights in the following words taken from the instructions to their representative to the “Grait and General Court of this Province,” Deacon Ebenezer Lave. “We think proper to give some Instructions, and first not to Give up any Privileges that we Enjoy Either by Charter or as Subjects of Grait Britton.”
Referring to the Stamp Act Riots in Boston occasioned by the attempt of Great Britain to force the colonists to buy stamps for legal papers and other documents they instructed their representative as follows: “Be frugal of the Province’s money and not to vote for any uncommon Grants perticklerly as to Loses that Sume has Sustaned in Boston in the year 1765 by Rioters and tumultus Proceedings and are willing to Bear our testymony against them, yet we see no Reason why the Province should make up those Losses and thair four instruct to vote against it.”
In September 1768 the town “voted to Build a house for Keeping the Town Stock of ammunition in for the future.” This house for storing ammunition is in Oldtown and is known as the “Old Powder House.” From this store ammunition was drawn for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The powder used in 1775 was by vote of the town “Replast” in March 1787.
Certain it is that they began early in 1773 to take a stand for their liberty and their rights against Great Britain in what culminated in the Revolutionary War. On January 18, 1773 in town meeting they began to discuss their rights, to deny the claims of Great Britain as to her authority over them and to make preparations for defending and maintaining their rights.
A part of this spirited and somewhat defiant address has already been quoted. The language is stilted and flowery in accordance with the style of that time. A summary of its meaning and a few short quotations will serve to show their determination.
It begins by paying due respect to King George the 3rd; prays that Protestant Kings may continue forever to rule England, but reminds the King that even Kings and Princes are not Gods, but human beings and must die. They inquire what they have done to incur his displeasure and incite him to cause their ruination. They remind him of their loyal service in the French and Indian War and the taking of Canada. They warn him that they are determined to fight to the death for their privileges. “And after all this, shall we be conjugated, enslaved and ruined? Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath lest they be discouraged on the one hand and encouraged on the other. We esteem our privileges tantamount to our lives, and the loss of them, death in consequence; and since there is no new discovered America for us to free to, we are almost ready to think that we will let go our plough shares and pruning hooks to be malleated on the anvil, and not give up our dear-bought privileges to any Power on earth.”
Here we can see and almost feel the iron hand half hidden in a velvet glove. The same spirit and much the same language appears almost three years later in the Declaration of Independence. They go on to define their privileges as those granted in their Charters and disclaim any power of England over them except as expressed their charter. They claim their charter has been infringed upon at least five particulars.
1st. By appointment of a Royal Governor.
2dly. By appointment of Royal Judges.
3dly. By compulsory payment of salaries to useless office holders.
4thly. By Substitution of Courts Martial for jury trials.
5thly. By transportation out of territory for trial.
It would have been interesting to have heard the patriotic orator or town clerk read the stirring words of this address to the assembled voters on that January 18, 1773.
On September 12, 1774 the first “Committee of Safety” was chosen. This committee was to join with the committees of the other towns in this county “to consult the safety and peace and prosperity thereof, as well as the whole government and continent, upon any emergency.”
Such a committee was chosen each year until the close of the Revolutionary War. Sometimes the War Committee is referred to as the “Committee of Safety”, the “Committee of Correspondence”, the “Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety.”
Although the Royal Governor had dissolved their representative government they chose on Sept. 29, 1774 a Representative to the General Court at Salem a committee man to join the Provincial Congress to be holden at Concord on the second Tuesday of October next.
On Dec. 6, 1774, the town established a “Superior and an Inferior Court to hear and determine controversies that have arisen or may arise in this town.”
This was in defiance of the British government which had placed a Royal Governor over Mass.
At the same time that these courts were established and five superior court and seven inferior court judges chosen it was voted “That we will comply with, stand to and abide by the Resolves, Instructions and Directions of the Continental and Provincial Congresses” and “that all persons who refuse to comply with them shall be treated as “Infamous Persons”. Now an infamous person in the minds of those patriots would be as welcome in a community as a skunk at a lawn party. Such a person might expect to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail or perhaps hanged to a convenient tree. The First Continental Congress which was directing the action of the colonies in this crisis had met about three months before this. It was the doings of this body that they voted to support.
About one year before this in Dec. 16, 1773, Boston patriots had thrown into the harbor about $90,000 worth of tea. As punishment for this England had closed the port of Boston. This caused great suffering as Boston was a sea faring town. People were out of work and starving. This led to two actions by the voters of Attleboro. On Dec. 16, 1774, it was voted to choose “a committee of Inspection to inquire and give notice of all persons who shall presume to make use of any India Tea after the first of March next” and the “affair of the chest of tea at Capt. Richardson’s, was left discretionary with the Selectmen.” It would be interesting to know more about this gentlemen and how he came by the tea as well as what disposition the Selectmen made of the matter.
In Jan. 1775 a committee of thirteen was chosen to secure “subscriptions for the relief of the suffering poor in the town of Boston.”
It was customary to call town meetings in the name of the King but on May 16, 1775 the meeting was called “By request of the Provincial Congress.” Events seemed to be bringing the inevitable crisis nearer and nearer.
Representatives to the Provincial Congress and to the General Court were regularly chosen.
One Capt. John Stearns seems to have been very capable and efficient as he was elected in May 1775 and again in 1776. In 1776 he requested that a committee be chosen to draw up instructions for the representative, so that he might know the wishes of the voters and -vote himself in accordance with them.
A few extracts from their instructions are here given “If the Continental Congress should think it best to declare for Independency of Great Britain, we unanimously desire you for us to engage to defend them therein with our lives and fortunes.” This was in May 1776. It is interesting to note that the same phrase was used by Jefferson about a month later in the closing sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
Other instructions given to Capt. Stearns recommended the fortifying and defending of seaport towns, “especially the Metropolis of this Colony”, (Boston had then less people than Attleboro has today) the increasing of the bounty paid to soldiers to encourage enlistment, that soldiers be kept with the officers under whom they enlist so they will feel better acquainted, that the expense of aiding the
Boston poor should be a public expense and not borne by the individual towns, and that if Independence should be declared that “the probate and register office be lodged in each town.”
It was voted at this time to pay out of the town treasury the ___ minute men who marched to the Battle of Bunker Hill. A later record shows that 87 soldiers were paid six shillings each (about $1.50 at present rates) “for marching on the alarm occasioned by the battle at Bunker Hill.”
After the British left Boston military activities centered around New York. Soldiers who volunteered to go there were given 12 pounds instead of 3 pounds.
In Oct. 1776 the town meeting was called for the first time “In the name of the Stat and People of Massachusetts Bay, in Newingland”.
The break with Great Britain was complete. Talk of Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union began to be heard early in 1778 and a committee was chosen to prepare instructions to the town’s representatives, Messrs. John Stearns and William Stanley. Instructions of the town to these gentlemen are in part, as follows –
We shall rejoice at the arrival of the happy hour when the Independent States of North America have a Union established upon equitable terms to continue as long as the sun and moon endure.
We are sensible of the utility and necessity of such a union to our present exertions and the success of them, as well as for the strength and flourishing condition of these States hereafter. We would, therefore, be as distant as possible from offering anything to obstruct the speedy accomplishment of a thing so desirable” —
Then follows a request for explanation of certain articles and objections to others. The report ends – “With the fore-going emendations and explanations, we desire you to use your endeavors that the Delegates in Congress be empowered to ratify the aforesaid Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.” At this time the General Court had enacted a law calling in Bills of Credit or State Money. The voters of Attleborough addressed a petition to the General Court asking for a repeal of this act on the ground that it would cause a depreciation in money values and harm the poor, especially. The petition is in part as follows: – “as it is
the intention of the Assembly of this State and the Continental Congress to bring down the price of labor and produce (goods) perhaps five (or) six parts; Consequently said votes must double five times the value they were took for beside the interest, — whether will it be easier for the poor to pay said money where a day’s labor will pay two shillings – – It seems to be implied in said address, (House of Representatives to the people) that the rich and ill disposed persons in this State have got such advantage of the poor that there is no remedy. – – the poor must suffer –Let that be granted –it is not policy in our opinion to crush the poor at this day if it be possible to avoid it till America has obtained her freedom, for if this Continent must be defended and set at liberty by arms the poor must do it, for the lowest capacity must be sensible that a man that has by monopoly got these increasing notes will never enter into the service of his country for the little or nothing encouragement that soldiers have at present, or if the Court intend to hold the levies by draft from the militia as seems intended in the case, a rich man does no more than a poor man — his estate does nothing. They requested that the money be called in “by degrees as it was put out, that is one emission at a time by taxing the inhabitants of said State until the whole was called in.” War brings its problems and the people of that day had theirs no less than we, although on a smaller scale.
The town adopted in Aug. 1779 a form of rationing in conformity with the decisions of a “convention held at Concord for regulating articles of merchandise and country produce” and voted unanimously “to conform ourselves to the proposed regulations.”
There were no Liberty Loan Drives but money had to be raised for army needs. This was done by town taxations. In 1780 a tax of $24,000 or at present rates about $120,000 was levied to buy 14,000 weight of beef required by the General Court, presumably for the army.
There was no Selective Service in those days although each town was assigned a quota and expected to raise it. Soldiers were paid by vote of the town in addition to the amount granted by the Continental Congress and the General Court of Massachusetts. In April 1777 a meeting was held” to see if the town will give some encouragement to the soldiers to enlist our proportion of the fifteen battalions granted by this state to join the Continental Army.”
A committee appointed reported that the bounty and wages given by Congress and the state were sufficient encouragement for the first year’s service, and that for the second year and the last year of the war the town allow two pounds per month besides the regular soldiers wages, eight months men and Lexington Battle veterans had no extra allowance and for various other terms and places of services the sums allowed from six to ten pounds per man. There seems to have been no fixed rates of pay for we find that when soldiers were needed to complete the town’s quota, a committee was chosen “to engage these men on the best terms possible.”
Army transportation was not as well organized as today. In 1779 Daniel Tiffany was paid ten pounds and ten shillings (about $52.50) for carting soldiers’ packs to Howlan’s Ferry (Tiverton, R.I.) in Sept. 1777. The distance was about 35 miles. Presumably the carting was done by ox team. He waited about 18 months for his pay. While the war was in progress, a convention was called in 1778-79 to consider a State Constitution. A committee which had been appointed could not agree on a report, so on May 21, 1778 the town appointed another committee of seven which made a report. The town voted 51 for; 76 against, the proposed State Constitution. This was called the “Rejected Constitution.”
In May 1779 the town representative was instructed to vote for another Constitutional Convention and in June the town voted 121 for and none against calling such a Convention.
In August 1779 three members were chosen to attend the Convention which was held September 1, 1779 at Cambridge “for the sole purpose of framing a new Constitution.”
This Constitution was framed and adopted and in 1781 the warrant for the annual town meeting read – “In the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Attleboro may therefore take some pardonable pride in having had a part in drafting a State Constitution, older by six to eight years, than the Constitution of the United States.
Now Massachusetts was truly on her own and all connections with Great Britain were totally dissolved. A few interesting facts and anecdotes relating to this period may not be out of place here.
When the Declaration of Independence with the statement “all men are born free and equal” was adopted, it seems to have been taken literally by one Attleboro citizen as this record will show –
“To all People to whom these presents shall Come Greeting. Know all men that for Divers Good Causes and Considerations I have seat at Liberty and Given unto my Servant – Warrack a Negro man his freedom to be for him self and Do hereby Certifie that I have no more Demands on him for any Further service – Attleborough, March 17th, 1778.
Signed in the Presence of us Witnesses.
Richard Ellis, Jr.”
Soldiers from Attleborough served from the beginning to the end of the Revolution – On the alarm at Lexington men marched to Roxbury – others later to Bunker Hill – some to Long Island where Washington was forced to retreat then at White Plains, N.Y. – Ticonderoga – Saratoga – Howland’s Ferry (Tiverton, R.I.) and Warwick.
The patriots often dealt quickly and harshly with the Tories as these accounts will show. The Committee of Safety reported in Dec. 1774 that one Nathan Aldis, a Tory living in Franklin , Mass. was selling British goods. this was in violation of the resolve of the General court. Co. John Daggett called out men from the several companies in the town and marched on a bitterly cold night for Aldis’ place. volunteers, eager for excitement, joined them. They arrived late at night, surrounded his house and ordered him out. He and his friends who had assembled to defend him resisted at first and threatened to fire on the minute men from the windows. The soldiers were ordered to aim at the house. Aldis, finding they meant business, came out at last. He was ordered “to pull off his hat” while in the presence of the people’s soldiers. He was then forced to agree not to “sell any more British goods during the present unhappy controversy between the King and his Colonies.” He was then released. The next morning he left for Boston and was never heard from again.
Another expedition against Freetown known as the “Assonett Expedition” was provoked in this way. One Col. Gilbert, a former British officer came to Assonett in 1762. He was held in high respect there at first. He had been a Colonel in the expedition against Louisburg and in the French and Indian Wars.
But opinion of him changed. He was a Tory and spoke openly against the Provincial Congress as an unlawful assembly. He was persecuted and appealed to Gen. Gage for aid. Arms sent to him were given to whoever would take them to help put down the patriots. A few took them. The Tories were then accused of every act committed about Assonet. A liberty pole disappeared one night and this verse was written:
The liberty pole
They say is stole,
We hear some dreadful stories Last Friday night
It took its flight
And went among the Tories.
The patriots gathered to oppose the Tories. They came from nearby towns and drilled.
One day in April 1775 while marching past Col. Gilbert he came out and attempted to speak to them, calling them “a poor set of deluded rebels.” This enraged them and they determined to teach him a lesson he would not forget. They gathered 2000 strong, but a friend of the Col. heard of it and warned him. He crossed the Assonet River and went on horse back to Newport where he went on board a British man-of-war.
Finding the Colonel gone they rounded up 29 other Tories, 40 stands of arms and equipment and a large quantity of ammunition. All suspected as favoring the British were required to take oath not to bear arms against the country. Nine who refused, were made prisoners and marched to Taunton under guard of the Attleboro company. Under threat of being sent to Sullivan’s mines in Connecticut, they submitted and took the oath of allegiance. They were then released.
One Tory who refused to remove his hat as a sign of respect before a liberty pole, had it knocked off by a soldier’s musket and his head cut; this was the only blood shed in the expedition. Col. John Daggett led this exploit which is worthy of commemoration since it took place ten days before the first open hostilities against the King. It was at Assonett village in Freetown and not Lexington that the first open defiance of the British government took place and
Attleboro soldiers had a prominent part in it.
Sixty minute men under Capt. Jabez Ellis marched to Roxbury on the day of the Lexington Battle. They started at night, marched to Maxcy’s, later known as Hatch’s Tavern, where they rested, then to Dedham where they found tables loaded with food by the roadside for soldiers passing that way, so as to avoid unnecessary delay. After a hasty breakfast they marched on to Roxbury where they arrived about daylight. They marched round and round the meeting house to make it appear that their numbers were much greater. Here they remained seven or eight days and returned home.
At the time of Bunker Hill Battle the cannon could be heard here and the shock was so heavy as to shake the windows and plates on pantry shelves. The town was almost deserted by all men who were able to carry a gun.
Elijah Fisher’s Journal
This record of a private soldier is one of very few preserved. He evidently was a sickly young man yet full of courage and patriotism. Illness forced him to quit the army twice but he enlisted a third time, then tried the navy and was on the English prison ship Jersey. He was in Washington’s Life Guard, so he saw less active service than some others. After his discharge, he, like other Revolutionary veterans, suffered hardships in lack of employment, being cheated of his earnings and being forced to sell his pay warrants for very small sums. After a very trying experience looking for work in and around Boston and finding none he became very much discouraged. This entry in his diary dated May 16, 1703 shows his state of mind:
“The 15th I com Down by the markett and sits Down all alone allmost Descureged and begun to think over how that I had ben in the army, what all success I had met with there and allso how I was ronged by them I worked for at home, and lost all last winter and now that I could not get into any besness and no home which you may well think how I felt, but then Come into my mind that there ware thousands in wors sircurnstances then I was and having food and rament be these with Content, and that I had nothing to reflect on myself and I to do my endever and leave the avent to Provedance, and after that I felt as contented as need to be.”
This shows some thing of the strength of character, and religious faith of one New England Revolutionary War soldier, who, although borne in Norton, lived with his mother and brothers and sisters in Attleboro. At the age of 17 he took part in the battle of Bunker Hill and helped build the earth works there.
In his diary he frequently mentions going home to Attleborough to Mother Fishers who seems to have lived here after he moved to Maine in 1784.
Post War Problems
After the war serious problems were at once apparent – money and taxes. May 16, 1786 “The town vote to chuse a committee – to Serve in county convention – if other towns – see fit to meet them in order to find out the Reson that circulating cash is so scarce, and so harde to be got, and the Reson that taxes are laid so heavy, upon us.” “The present mode of taxation” was thought to act unequally.
An old story heard and pondered by every generation and still unsolved.
Another subject of complaint was the high salaries paid “the first magistrate of this commonwealth and other officers of government.” And for some unknown reason they had a grievance against “The existence of that Order of men called Lawyers.”
Continental paper money which had belonged to the town was sold in 1791 and on April Ist the treasurer received 77 pounds 18 shillings 1/2 pence for it, but how much paper there was is not known. It couldn’t have been a complete April fool joke however. In 1795 the town voted not to pay the militia for service in time of peace arguing that to do so would destroy “Military pride and laudable ambition for which men – have hitherto been so remarkable” – “also it will establish the Military over the civil and introduce a standing army to be supported in time of peace and destroy the essence of our freedom.” For several years after No. 30, 1795 money standards were mixed – dollars and cents being mixed with pounds, shillings and pence.
Attleborough citizens seem to have had no active part in the War of 1812. Two companies were raised from the four militia companies then existing – one
went to New Bedford, the other to Plymouth but saw no active service. About this time the U.S. Government levied taxes on many articles, one of which was a $200 tax on every watch. If one failed to pay such a tax the northeast comer of his farm would be sold. The tax collector levied on the property and several records of such sales here are to be found.
Twelve days after the firing on Fort Sumter the selectmen of Attleboro issued a town meeting warrant. The citizens as usual were not slow in answering the call of freedom. Events moved rapidly. Nine days later the town voted to authorize the borrowing of $10,000 to be used for military needs. Men who enlisted and went into active service were to receive $15.00 bounty and. $15.00 a month in addition to what the U.S. gave to soldiers. Every man accepted for service was to be paid $10.00 a month while drilling and furnished with such uniform as the law required.
Three weeks later another town meeting was held at which time it was voted to furnish volunteers with one Flannel Blouse, Fatigue Cap, a Harelock, (cloth cap cover and neck piece), Eye Protectors and one pair thin pants. The selectmen as a committee to carry out the vote were instructed to pay volunteers $10.00 per month while drilling. The question of furnishing a drum and fife for the musicians of the company and of furnishing Commissioned Officers with uniforms, Regulation Swords, Pistols and such other equipment as they required was dismissed from the warrant. This was apparently too generous even for people who have been noted for their generosity in all worthy causes, even to this day.
On May 3, 1861 President Lincoln’s Proclamation called for volunteers to put down the rebellion. In a very short time Company 1, Seventh Reg. Massachusetts, volunteers consisting of 85 privates and 12 officers was formed and mustered into service on June 15. These men had been drilling for a month and paying from their own pockets, two “Boston Cadets” hired as drill masters. Such was the patriotic fervor at the time but as time went on it became more and more difficult to secure men for service and extra inducements in the form of increased bounties were offered.
In September 1861 the town treasurer was authorized to borrow money to
aid wives, children and other dependents of those who volunteered in the militia and in active service.
The next year President Lincoln called for more volunteers and in order to fill the town’s quota the treasurer was authorized to pay $100 to every volunteer and to borrow $6,300 with which to do this. Volunteers to fill the quota were slow in coming so a town meeting on August 6, 1862 voted to pay a bounty of $200 to all who would enlist before August 15 and no bounties to be paid after that date.
The first call was for three months men. But in 1862 men were enlisted for nine months and on August 23d the town voted to pay $100 each to volunteers. Resolutions in appreciation of the service of Company I were adopted and sent to the captain and to the Taunton newspaper “Gazette and Democrat.”
A company of 76 nine month’s men known as Company C 47 Reg. Massachusetts, Vol. Infantry was formed in the spring and summer of 1862 and claimed by the city of Boston as part of its quota.
In July 1863 the War Department called for a draft. Attleborough was a sub-district under the second district with headquarters at Taunton. Four hundred and four ballots with Attleboro names were placed in the box. One hundred twenty-one were to be drawn. Fifty-three of these were exempted.
When money was needed for recruiting purposes, patriotic citizens subscribed. This was later refunded by vote of the town. In April 1864 money was raised by taxation to pay bounty for soldiers to the amount of not over $125 for each volunteer.
When the town’s quota was raised, it was credited in the Provost Marshal’s office in Boston. For some reason Attleboro was not fully credited and the Recruiting Committee was instructed to investigate. It was found that in three calls Attleboro was 25 men under its quota, but the committee showed that I I men should have been credited which reduced the deficiency to 14 men. The report of the committee from this point is interesting. It reads “To cancel this balance and fill the quota the committee have paid the commutation of six men at
$300 each and of one man in part $175 out of the funds reimbursed to subscribers. The committee have also recruited and obtained credit for 10 1/3 volunteers, which together with the 11 additional credits makes 28, leaving a surplus of 3 towards another call.”
Two things seem strange to us now while we are in the midst of another war, first that a man for $300 could buy himself off from military service and second that one third of a man could be a volunteer. One wonders which third would chose to go to war.
The recruiting committee found it more and more difficult to obtain soldiers as the war entered its fourth year so a sub-committee was chosen to go to Washington where it was reported recruits could be obtained at very low rates. Mr. George D. Hatch and Dr. J.R. Bronson acted as this sub-committee. They met with little success as the Sec. of War had forbidden recruiting from the District of Columbia. Dr. Bronson returned home, but Mr. Hatch went to the front and from the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg engaged sixty men and they were credited to the quota of Attleboro. In this manner Regular Army soldiers were credited to Attleboro. It seems strange now when our boys are compelled to serve that men could be hired as professional soldiers for $150.
Mr. Hatch made three other trips for all of which he put in claim for bounties and services. These were thought exorbitant and remained unsettled for some years.
Organizations of women supplied the needs of sick and wounded soldiers in hospitals and furnished such dainties and comforts as they could to men in camp and on the battlefields. Serving societies were formed in the various sections by which the town was known North, South, West and East Villages, Dodgeville and others. They met in the churches or homes, old ladies and little children, to pick lint for bandages – make garments or knit socks with red and white tops. These groups usually called “Soldiers’ Aid Society” often held fairs frequently raising $150 on each occasion.
A few reminiscences as reported in Daggett’s History of Attleboro must suffice to close this chapter on the Civil War.
By vote of the town parts of uniforms were to be furnished. These ladies agreed to make. A tailor cut them. They were gray with short close coats and military buttons. Trimmings of red were proposed but rejected as offering too good a target for the enemy. Sewing groups met at North Attleborough in Masonic Hall and at East Attleborough in Union Hall. Sewing machines were brought from homes and both men and women ran them. It took over forty days to provide for nearly one hundred men, suits, two flannel shirts, two pairs of drawers, socks, a havelock and a bag with sewing and mending materials. Blankets were also furnished. Cap insignia of raised gold letters were made in Taunton and presented by Mr. Lyman Dean who also gave each soldier $1.50 worth of postage stamps. The drill ground was on the road between Farmers’ Village and Robinsonville or what is now North Avenue. At 4 o’clock in the morning, June 12, 1861 the company assembled on the common in front of the Baptist Church at North Attleborough and marched to Union Hall, East Attleborough where a grand feed was served but few felt like eating. From here they went into camp at Taunton where they remained until July 12th, 1861. On that day they took train for the front and proceeded to Washington, D.C. many alas never to return.
Of a population of between 7 and 8 thousand Attleboro sent four hundred soldiers some of whom served more than once.
A little over thirty years passed in which to enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom so dearly bought when on April 21, 1898
April 21, 1898 the Spanish War began to be noted here in the heavy black newspaper headlines. One May 9, Company I Fifth Reg. Mass. Volunteers departed for Gloucester and there was a general holiday. By 8 o’clock the streets were crowded and Company I commanded by Capt. George Sykes marched to the depot escorted by William A. Streeter Post. G.A.R. many of whose members were in the original Company I of Attleboro. The Bay State Drum Corps led the parade followed by pupils of the public schools and representatives of various civic organizations.
A patriotic mass meeting was held as a farewell to Company I -5th Reg. in the Bates Opera House on June 25 with Rev. E.L. House, chaplain of the
regiment, presiding. A check for $300 was presented the company by a philanthropic citizen, and a public subscription was raised to present Capt. Sykes with a beautiful sword. At a large. patriotic meeting, held July 18th and Attleboro branch of the Mass. VolunteerAid Association proposed by Gov. Wolcott was formed.
Great patriotic zeal was shown even by the youngsters. Some were eager to enlist. Thomas Ireland who had enlisted in Company I as a private was sent home because he was too young. However, he secured his mother’s consent and returned to South Framingham to join the company. Soon after reaching headquarters, he lost the papers and was obliged to come home and have new papers made out. While at home the company was mustered into service with a full quota so that there was no place vacant for Mr. Ireland and he was obliged to return home after all.
The first Attleboro soldier to die in the Spanish American War was Emil Scholz. He was a talented musician and had the distinction of being the tallest man at Camp Alger. He was six foot three in height.
News traveled slowly in 1898. The Battle of Manila which took place May 1, 1898 was reported in papers here under headlines of August 12. This report came by way of Hong Kong under date August 6th. How different from today when by world wide radio network, China and the South Sea Islands talk direct with all parts of the world.
This War was of short duration and peace once more reigned, but not for long.
Early in 1916 trouble developed in Mexico because an outlaw, Francisco Villa had shot American citizens and raided some border towns. Company I was sent to the Mexican border but the whole episode was short lived and was a sort of practice maneuver for the great tragedy which soon followed.
World War I
In 1917 – 18 the world was once again plunged into war and Attleboro again played her part loyally and well. On April 2, 1917, four days before the
recruiting. On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war and the Attleboro Sun bulletins announced it that same day to the people here. Then followed in quick succession the special activities in preparation for war. Funds were subscribed by the First National Bank for a war loan; others were raised for the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A. and the K.of C., Company 1, tobacco and War Library funds, Camp Recreation Funds, Halifax relief, Christmas gifts to service men. Thrift stamps totaling $1108 were sold during Christmas week at the Post Office. $75,000 was raised through the War Chest in two days and the total reached $143,000. Every firm in the city enrolled 100%. A Liberty Bond sale of almost $6,000,000 was reached in five drives. Every drive went over the quota. In the third drive Attleboro was the first city in the county to go over the quota. In the first drive none were too young or too old to subscribe. Mrs. Elizabeth Sturdy, age 92, and O.P. Richardson, 111, age 7 weeks, both subscribed. To aid in Bond sales we had four Minute Men Speakers. A tank rumbled through the streets and even tore down the foundation walls of the burned buildings, corner of Park Street and Railroad Avenue. A war exhibit team was side tracked here and an actor sold bonds from Bates Theatre stage.
The Special Aid group called for knitters and men, women and and children responded, and fearful and wonderful were some of the results but all were willing and eager to do their part. The Red Cross did a wonderful job in preparing surgical dressings.
The State Guard was organized and 75 were on the poster. From April to June 8, 113 from Attleboro entered War service. Four Attleboro boys, Howard Matteson, Charles E. Miller, Francis E. Williams and Irving B. Robinson left high school to enlist and were given diplomas.
On August 17, Company I left for training and in one week were combined with other companies M.L. and K. to make the 101st regiment, which was soon sent over seas. Men who married after May 18, 1917 were put in Class IA. By June 10, 1918 the service flag has 824 stars. Some who were over anxious to get in the scrap had already joined the English or Canadian Armies.
Many anxious days followed after the departure of our boys over seas. Twenty-five were wounded in the raid on Seicheprey in France on April 20, 1918 and Private Vaughan H. Silva was wounded in action for the second time,
while Private T.G. Sadler, Jr. was wounded Oct. 8, 1918 while serving with the “Lost Battalion” which was surrounded by the Germans for seven days in the Argonne forest; the remnant of which was saved by a carrier pigeon “Cher Ami.”
Private Charles B. Cooper of the 7th U.S. Engineers was the first local soldier to land in France. Space does not permit even a brief mention of the many deeds of valor performed by Attleboro boys across but as in all previous occasions, they played their parts well and although some sleep beneath the poppies of France their names and their deeds are not forgotten by a grateful people. Women as well as men shared the hardships of war, often in posts of danger and at the cost of their lives. Such was the case with two Attleboro girls, Miss Ruth Holden, who died in far off Russia while aiding war refugees and Alice Illingsworth Haskell gave her service and her life in nursing influenza victims here at home.
On the home front we had our trials, which are meritable in war but which fade into insignificance in the face of the hardships and the suffering which our service men had to endure. Unprepared as we were and unorganized for war, sacrifices had to be made.
We had wheat less, meat less, sweet less, heat less days and gasoline less Sundays. Use of auto on Sunday was forbidden. Coal was scarce and this combined with a severe winter in 1918 created a problem and not a little suffering. Many cut wood to save coal. The price of coal was fixed at from $9.60 to $11 per ton. Great credit is due to the Hon. Harold E. Sweet, our first mayor, for his untiring devotion during those trying days and to the many organizations at work in the city.
A flu epidemic which reached a total of 1000 cases caused the closing of schools and churches, as a precautionary measure. Public funerals were forbidden. Soda fountains were closed. Community kitchens were established for few cases.
Two local teachers were granted leave of absence to engage in nursing in war work and ten others aided at home in nursing in the flu epidemic. The schools took an active part in the war effort 475 children entered a school garden contest, 60 boys enlisted for farm work and 60 girls in a Special Aid Guard and $12,789 in War Savings Stamps were sold in the schools. So strong was the
feeling against Germany that the study of German was dropped in High School.
Food Production and Conservation was stressed and on Aug. 14, 1918, 1300 home gardens were reported. People were urged by the Food Administration to eat the surplus bean crop. In April 1917 a sugar shortage was quite acute. A Community Market two days a week was established on the Common. The shortage of coal necessitated the closing of theatres and dance halls at 10 P.M. and schools kept only one session to reduce coal consumption.
The Frank Mossberg Co. was doing 100% war work and planned to employ 350 in the manufacture of plane parts. All firms were on a 24 hr. schedule on war orders. Jewelry firms feared for their business as hints came that luxuries would be curtailed. Jewelry was taxed 10% and platinum restricted for Government use.
In the interest of public safety enemy aliens were registered by the police, loafing was forbidden by state law and several were arrested here, the Post Office and railroad bridges were guarded. War always produces hysteria and so it was here. Glass was reported in candy, olives and tomatoes; the stores and office buildings on the comer of Park and Railroad Avenue burned mysteriously and a German plot was feared. A little levity to lessen the tension was introduced in the form of an “Effigy of The Kaiser” which was to record the Liberty Loan Drives. This was stolen, but was later found by the police and publicly buried with appropriate ceremonies. Boys afterward dug him up and completely “wrecked” him.
At last came the Armistice and with what rejoicing was it hailed here. Schools, factories and stores proclaimed a holiday, whistles blew, impromptu parades were staged and wild and hilarious demonstrations of Joy were in order.
Company I returned April 29, 1919. A joyous Home Coming Celebration was held for three days Oct. 4, 5 and 6, 1919. In ceremonies befitting such an occasion thousands of grateful people participated happy that the long bitter conflict was over.
Then came the problem of returning the boys to their homes and their rehabilitation in industry. Of the total 1, 118 including 12 nurses and 2 yeo-girls enrolled in service in World War 136 who did not return were honored by gold
stars in the service flag. They gave their lives in the belief that they were helping to make the world safe for Democracy. Now, 25 years later, the Democracy they died to save is again endangered and we who saw the other conflict through have yet another job to do. God grant that this may truly be the end throughout eternity. Time will tell.
As in every instance in the past so today Attleboro is doing its duty nobly, loyally with a self sacrificing spirit characteristic of the American way of life.
In 1940 when it seemed meritable that our country would be drawn into the world conflict Attleboro men began to respond to the call for increased national defense. The Selective Service Board in Oct. 1940 registered almost 3,600 men of ages from 21 to 36 and later all men from 16 to 65 were registered. But not all waited for compulsory service, and not all who registered waited to be drafted. Some like the youngsters of former days volunteered and were early inducted. Some have already seen much active service.
Company I which from early days has been Attleboro’s Military organization was made a part of the Massachusetts National Guard under Federal control and called to active training Jan. 27, 1941. It became a part of the regular army and was moved to Camp Edwards on Cape Cod under command of Capt. Herbert H.P. Whittemore and Lieutenants Robert H. Geddes and Henry Semire all of whom have since been promoted.
Replacing them as our State Guard is Co. A 31st Regiment under command of Capt. John E. Turner and Lieut. Joseph Gilbert.
Some have already made the supreme sacrifice and rest in far off Guadalcanal, in Africa, the Aleutians or beneath the sea. Their memory is honored in the mute testimony of monuments of stone such as that marking Johnson-Morin Square in honor of the first two Attleboro boys to die in active service. It would require too much space to even mention all the activities that have characterized Attleboro in her war efforts in World War II.
More than 2,500, the pick of her young men and women are in active service. All on the war front and the home front are doing their utmost to speed the day when the world shall once again be freed from the fear of war and want.
Page 224 of School Committee Minute Book
September 10, 1962 to June 29, 1967
is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Studley:
“In Memory of
A. Irvin Studley
Born, Hanover, Massachusetts
August 15, 1884
Died, Attleboro, Massachusetts
February 26, 1965
Principal Sanford School
September 1911 – June 1920
Principal Bliss School
September 1920 – November 1950
Member of the Attleboro School Committee
January 1, 1952 – February 26, 1965
The Studley School was dedicated in his honor
October 3, 1965
“A man who gave all of himself to his calling. I respected him, I liked him, and I miss him.”
S. W. T.
(Sam W. Thomas, Superintendent)
Our appreciation and thanks to:
Instructor Michael Fontaine and Graphics Arts Students at the Attleboro High School.
Printed for the Attleboro Historical Commission and funded by the Attleboro Historical Volunteers whose active members are:
Chairperson Denise Antaya, Secretary – Treasurer Lawrence Fitton, Ruth Nerney, William Nerney, Marian Wrightington, Harold Berberian, Sandy Martin, Leland Sanford and Josephine Mayer.
Typewritten by Ramona Fitton with masterful technical computer assistance from Richard Boucher, Attleboro City Treasurer without whos help this book would never have gone to print.
G. Fox of Emerald Square Mall, North Attleboro for their community involvement.
The ardous task of indexing was executed by Ruth Parmenter Nerney and Lawrence R. Fitton.
Appreciation is extended to Mrs. Alice D. Studley for her kindness in presenting Mr. Studley’s handwritten documentation of the history of Attleboro as he narrated it for posterity.
Our gratitude is extended to Mr. Maurice Robbins for a copy of the map on page 4 as it was taken from the “Indian History of Attleboro”.
This publication is a project dedicated to Attleboro Tricentennial in 1994.
List of Illustrations
2 A. Irvin Studley
4 Map of Rehoboth North Purchase
90 Bliss School Students & Mr. Studley
Pages 93 through 98 is the index section , unnecessary in a modern web document. Use the “F3” key on your keyboard to open a search function for this document within your browser.