Greetings from a very cold and windy Easton! Yes, those were snowflakes in the air today, very unusual but not without precedent. In May 1977 I watched cars slide through the intersection of Central Street and Washington Street during a snowfall of several inches! I was at work that day, and from the second floor of the former Brockton Tool building on Central Street, watched as angry drivers were frustrated by the late spring snowstorm. In those days before all season treads were popular, people had already replaced their chains and snow tires for the usual good weather tires. The results were predictable.
Our story today began back in the late 1970's at the local Honey Dew Donut Shop at the Five Corners. Once open, it became a great place for the locals to meet up. It was there that I got to best know one of my neighbors, Clifford "Kippy" Grant. Some of you may remember Kippy, who loved on Foundry Street near the heart of Furnace Village. he was a long-time employee of the Town of Easton, but prior to that, he was a foundry worker, and a trapper. Kippy knew the land better than anyone I have known since, and had a broad understanding of natural history and the history of Easton. He was a descendant of the Keith family through his mother (surname White) and between the Keith and Grant names was a Scotsman through and through.
It was during one of our evening coffee sessions that Kippy shared a story with me, as he sometimes would, about history. He understood my interest was sincere, that I would listen, and that I wasn't afraid of getting my feet wet if necessary to find important sites. He appreciated that. And with that began the story of Mark Keith, Jr.
I mentioned the Keith family the last two weeks in my story of the old Keith mill site on South Street. I have since seen a few remarks from people looking for family information on him. According to Kippy, in the woods off Foundry Street, opposite where the road turned towards Norton, there was a single grave. It was the resting place of one of his ancestors, a Mark Keith, who may be the man who received damages from his meadow being flooded from the creation of Keith's Pond (probably so named for Mark, who had owned the now flooded meadow.) An old road once ran through there from Poquanticut Avenue across the High Plain, and towards the area once called Babbit-town near the Norton line. This would be the area now occupied by Old Foundry Street and Norton Avenue. If I were to walk the old road, I would find, on the south side, the solitary grave of Mark Keith. I would also find nearby charcoal pits, the remains of a once important charcoal industry necessary for the operation of the nearby foundry. So off I went one morning, found the old road which was easily discernible, and after a short walk I found the grave site. The mossy ground stood out from the surrounding terrain, and it was a peaceful place. Kippy was pretty happy that I took the time and effort to go there, and I learned a lot from that one visit to the woods.
More than twenty years later, and long after Kippy's passing, that large tract of land was sold for development. I passed by each day, watching the land being stripped of trees, and became concerned about the grave. I notified the Easton Cemetery Commission that there was a grave up there, and after being asked how I knew about it, several members and I, along with representatives of the developer, found the grave site. Fortunately, it was just off of the land under development, and would not be disturbed. The adjacent landowner was then made aware of the grave on their property. Worried that I would have to come up with some other proof, I called several people that Kippy might also have shared that information with. To my surprise, he never told anyone else about the grave. He trusted me to keep that information safe and secure in case it was one day needed.
Regarding the occupant of the grave, and to answer a few questions regarding Mark Keith, research this week provided some details about the family. Josiah Keith (1678-1754) had settled in Easton in 1717. His house still stands on Bay Road as the oldest house in Easton. He and his wife raised 9 children, the 4th of whom was Mark (1710-1782). Mark married twice, first to Mercy Parris, and they raised 9 children, the 2nd of whom was Mark Jr. (1738-1759). Mark Sr. remarried Elizabeth Dorr in 1761, and left Easton to settle in Milford, Connecticut, where he later died. He was a soldier in the first Easton Militia company, along with his son Mark, Jr. Mark Jr. saw action in the French and Indian War at the siege of Louisburg, Cape Breton Island, New Brunswick, in 1758. It was a hard fought campaign. He returned to Easton, and within a year, he was gone at just 21 years old. There is no record of him suffering from an injury or sickness from the war, but he died out there in the woods and was buried there. My thoughts are that he had become one of the area charcoal makers and either took sick or was badly hurt in an accident while cutting timber. Whatever the reason, he was buried where he was found and not in the Old Burying Ground where his mother Mercy already was buried. So ends the story of Mark Keith, Jr. And in that quiet place, under the whispering pines and tall oaks, he sleeps undisturbed.
Two photos are included for your viewing. The first is the approximate area of the grave to give you a sense of the stillness of the place. The second is a photo of the old road, which I walked many times through to Poquanticut Avenue, and a branch that went through to Chestnut Street. If you look carefully, you can see three paths - the two outside paths are where wagon wheels traversed the road many years ago. The third path in the center was where the horse would walk. The picture does not do justice to actually being there. Unfortunately, development of the land into the Big Y and Target stores, and the Avalon apartments behind that, destroyed much of the old road and the charcoal pits. There is hope that, should the neighboring property ever be further developed, an appropriate memorial be erected to mark the final resting place of Mark Keith, Jr. and note the charcoal making industry that was once an important part of Easton's history.
Hope you have a great week, and stay healthy!
Frank T. Meninno
Mark Keith Jr. Grave