Greetings from the Easton Historical Society and Museum! On this first day of summer we find ourselves preparing for vacations, the Fourth of July, days at the beach, cookouts, and maybe a ballgame at Frothingham Park!
This Sunday, the Easton Shovel Town Cultural District and the Easton Lions Club present the annual Legacy event at the Governor Ames Estate in North Easton. Between noon and 5:00 p.m. you can be a part of the festivities! The event features food and drink, music, various events, children's events, and artwork. This year, the Easton Historical Society and Museum will host the Children's Juried Art Show. Children up to the age of 18 have submitted a wide variety of original art for judging. We hope that you will be able to come by and view these works of art and support both the Legacy event and our young artists!
A few weeks ago, member Earl Nichols was asking about the trolleys that once ran through Easton. So here is a brief history, along with a photo.
As early as the mid-1880's, the Easton Journal was publishing small articles that spoke of a trolley line coming to town. These trolleys were horse drawn vehicles that ran on rails in the road. Because of the rails, these larger trolley cars would be able to outperform the horse drawn carriages and barges that had been used to move people around after the end of the Civil War. More people could be carried from point to point, in more comfortable conditions. Larger amounts of freight could also be carried. Sometime in the second half of the 1880's the Brockton Street Railway Company expanded a line to Easton, running from Main Street in Brockton to North Easton Center. To say that people loved the trolley system is perhaps an understatement! Withing a few years, four trolley lines were servicing parts of Easton, and one could travel to Stoughton, Brockton, Mansfield, Raynham, and Taunton. The invention of an efficient electrical motor in the very late 1880's soon led to the evolution of electric trolley cars. Gone were the horses, and the new electric engines meant more power, and more speed. Competition for customers grew. Too many small lines meant that they could not be economically feasible, and many were either absorbed by larger companies or went out of business. Soon the trolley found itself outdated as cars and busses began to take over roadways, and mass production of affordable automobiles in the boom following World War II changed America's commuting habits. By the 1940's busses had completely overtaken trolley routes, and they provided service to Eastoners into the 1970's before they too ended service.
The photo below was taken about 1900 and shows a trolley at "Monument Square." Today we know it as Depot and Center Street, and the site of our Civil War Soldier's Monument. Taken from approximately the front drive of the current Center School, it shows the Easton and Mansfield Street Railway Company trolley heading towards Mansfield. You could catch this ride in North Easton Center, then by way of Center Street to Depot Street to Foundry Street to Highland Street, and in Mansfield along East Street and Pratt Street, find yourself in Mansfield just shy of the Mansfield Railroad Station. (The railroads did not like trolleys as they took ridership from them. As a result, trolleys were not given permission to cross railroad tracks. In this case, the end of the line in Mansfield required a 300-400 yard walk to get to the train station.) This particular line began around 1899 and ended by 1909, unable to turn a profit, and suffering from low ridership and a very disgruntled man in Mansfield who did all he could to disrupt service. Although the line ended, it lives on at our Museum where a sign that was once mounted on the trolley hangs over the door. The church in the photo is The Evangelical Congregational Church of Easton.
Chapter three of the History of Easton, Volume II contains an excellent article on trolley transportation. Volume 2 of Reminiscences features a story on a trolley accident. I hope your summer travels go smoothly! And I hope they will bring you by for a visit. I still have some cold Moxie on hand!
Frank T. Meninno
Curator, Easton Historical Society and Museum