Easton Historical Society
It's natural for people to pass on stories. The first written history of Easton was Reverend William Chaffin's 1886 History of Easton. As well as searching out primary sources, Reverend Chaffin listened to stories that dated back to the founding of the town in the 1690's. Chaffin was followed by a number of townspeople who wrote about Easton's history, and in 1948 interested citizens from all parts of town gathered to form the Easton Historical Society. This group met at the Ames Free Library, but unfortunately the records of the Society from 1948-1956 have been lost.
On September 27,1951, the Historical Society performed "Life in Easton Years Ago" from a script by Amory Parker and Ruth Smith based on research by Mrs. Raymond P. Smith. Performers included many notables of the time including Neubert, Alfred, and Frances Morse, David and Oliver Ames, Marjorie Sellon, A. Russel Eason, Ruth Smith, Frank A. Sargent, Jr., C. S. Flandreau, and Priscilla Leighton. A musical scene featured Laurence and Olive Gurney, Sally King, and Royal Rollins, jr.. The performance was held at Frothingham Memorial Hall. The ladies of the Society provided a collation.
The Society remained active into the mid-1950s with members providing written and oral remembrances. Difficulties with research and the competition of television caused the Society to enter a decade of inactivity.
By the mid-1960s academic historians had begun to take an interest in local history at the same time that technology such as microfilm made research easier. On September 16, 1967 17 people met at the Ames Free Library to rejuvenate the Easton Historical Society.
Under the leadership of Edwin C. White, Hazel L. Varella, Duncan B. Oliver, and Gustav Winroth, the Society flourished. The first tour of Richardson buildings occurred in 1968, and the tradition of members presenting their own research began in that year with Aldo Johnson's "Banking in Easton." Another tradition of these early years was the annual book sale run by Arthur Lewis.
Margaret McEntee, Edmund Hands, Jeffrey Nystrum, Duncan Oliver, Hazel Varella, and Robert Brown wrote The History of Easton, Volume II. Hazel Varella and Elise Ames Parker wrote Growing Up At Sheep Pasture. The Society also sponsored a Revolutionay War re-enactment group
Kenneth Jackson, Dorothy Berry, and Edmund Hands led the continued growth of the Society in the 1980s. Paul Berry became the Society's second curator in 1980, a position he held until 2006. Expansion of the Society's collections of documents and photographs was a major goal at this time. Many ingenious fund raising methods were tried with the most successful being Ken Martin's bottle and can drive that continues today.
In 1995 Easton's Neighborhoods, the third book length history of Easton was published. In 1998 after three decades of acquisitions, the Research Committee was formed to catalog and organize the collection. In 1999 the Society's finances were finally put on a firm footing with the establishment of the Robert D. and Sally G. King Trust.
In the new millenium, the Society has been lead by Presidents Frank Meninno (Curator since 2006), Kenneth Michel, and Deborah MacPhee. Renovations at the Station including an upgrade to both display and research areas have been a major goal in recent years.
The most important event in Society history occurred on November 5, 1969 when John S. Ames,Jr., David Ames, Senator Oliver F. Ames, and William Parker purchased H. H. Richardson's Old Colony Railroad Station. Two days later Society Board members received the keys and began to explore the building that would become their home. C. Robert Carpenter was named museum curator in 1969.
Over the next few years restoration of the Station became a focal point of Society activity, Work parties built community spirit while regular meetings, usually held at Oakes Ames Memorial Hall, added more and more information about Easton's history.
During this time Society members helped found the Easton Historical Commission, a government agency tasked with protecting the historic assets of the town. The Society and the Commission collaborated to secure the town's first National Historic Register Districts on Bay Road and in North Easton. In 1971 Duncan Oliver launched a senior class elective, Local History, at Oliver Ames High School. The following year Society members were asked to volunteer in a project to transcribe the diaries of Oakes Ames of Borderland.
The Society was very active during the dual celebration of the town's 250th anniversary in 1975 and the nation's bicentennial in 1976. A recreation of a January, 1775 town meeting attracted more than 400 people to Oakes Ames Hall. Walking tours for elementary students began, a tradition that continues today.