There seems something prophetic in the naming of this town. It must always stand at the head of all alphabetical arrangements of the towns of Plymouth County, for none that might possibly be incorporated can so spell themselves as to take precedence. Yet those who gave it the name could hardly have anticipated that in one hundred and fifty years the almost wilderness they so designated would be the first town in the county in population, business and wealth.
Back from the shore and consequently having no harbors, having no considerable streams and no great water power because it is the almost level water shed between the bays on either side, it did not invite the early settlers of the county. There is nothing romantic or attractive in its scenery, and the soil though strong and productive is generally rough and hard. It is not strange therefore that at its incorporation in 1710, the town had probably less than 300 inhabitants, only three times the number Plymouth had, when, ninety years before, the Pilgrims had landed. At the first census in 1726, the number had increased only to 371.
At that period and long afterwards it was for the surrounding country a “lumbering region.” “Saw mills” and “ship timber” were the business terms. Saw mills were erected in 1698, and the settlers looked to Hingham, Scituate, Hanover, Duxbury, Plymouth, where ships were built and commerce and trade prospered, as the old and wealthy towns upon which they depended for a market and supplies. The quality and quantity of the timber produced is illustrated by the fact, remembered by the old people with grateful pride, that the renowned frigate Constitution, the “Old Ironsides” was built in great part of Abington white oak. But the time came when the soil that produced this giant growth of timber must offer in its culture the principal business, and so agriculture be the dependence of the town. Very naturally there was at that period much emigration to regions that seemed better adapted to that pursuit than this hard, rough soil that demanded so much labor.
For a long period there was consequently very little growth. There had been some little manufacturing quite early, some rude “earthen ware,”, “meeting house bells,” and “cannon and shot” for the war of the revolution. “Tacks,” still an important item in the business of the town, were early made by hand, and a citizen, Mr. Jesse Reed, invented the machine which has given the business such impulse.
There were other home manufactures on a small scale by the industrious inhabitants who seem purposed that the town shall always be worthy of its old Indian name “Manamooskeagin” said to signify, “many beavers.” But the introduction of the Boot and Shoe business after 1820 or 30, and the turning to that manufacture the enterprise and energy of the people, gave a marked impulse to the prosperity and growth of Abington. Rapidly passing town after town in the county it has now nearly reached the point where it could claim incorporation as a city.
Fortunately or unfortunately there are four distinct centers of its business and population, and Centre, North, South and East Abington have perhaps less business intercourse with each other than with Boston. These three other villages are each about two miles distant from the Centre, and the Old Colony Rail Road, the avenue of trade for the four, opened in 1845, treating them quite impartially; touches and so fully accommodates none. The Hanover Branch, to be opened in the Summer or Fall of ’67, will pass through the East village and perhaps give a new impulse to that already largest section of the town.
There are four Orthodox Congregationalist Societies, one in each village, a Baptist Society in the South and East, a New Jerusalem and Universalist at the Centre, all with good, and some with elegant houses of worship.
Perhaps no town in the State has so large a proportion of children to its valuation. With as many scholars as some towns that have many fold its wealth, and divided into so many different villages, it cannot foolishly attempt to vie with such towns in school buildings, and only by the most rigid and wise economy maintain good schools, which the people have always been most earnest to do. Such has always been the absorbing business activity and energy of the people that very few of its young men have ever found their way to College. Their chosen path to usefulness and eminence has been that of manufacture and trade rather than literature.
The citizens of Abington have however never fallen behind those of any other town in appreciating all the great issues of every period of our history. They were not Tories in the war of the revolution, they were ready to defend their country in that of 1812, they rushed to save it when lately traitors would destroy.
It is not to the fact that the Boot and Shoe business of the town is now probably about $4,000,000 annually, the Tack and other brandies most successfully prosecuted, to the general thrift and prosperity of the town, but to its record on the side of patriotism and right, that those who would know Abington are pointed. No town lost more by the breaking out of the rebellion. More than a million of dollars were at once sunk in debts at the South. The shock was fearful, but courage did not fail and money and men and goods were raised without stint for the country. A company from Abington was one of those that within twenty-four hours after the first call for 75,000 men were on their way to Fortress Monroe. More than a full regiment, 1138 from this town enlisted during the war. The town furnished more than its quota of officers. Two Lieutenant Colonels, Three Majors, Twelve Captains, Seven 1st Lieutenants, Twelve 2d Lieutenants.
The present condition, the business prospects of the town, will best be learned from the Directory. Those who desire to know the particulars of its history are referred to “the History of Abington,” .published in 1866, by Benjamin Hobart, Esq., one of its oldest and most honored citizens. We are indebted to Mr. Hobart’s work for valuable engravings as well as the following facts:
The records of the first Church, earlier than 1724, cannot be found. At that time there were 46 members. The first house of worship stood in front of the old burying ground. It had neither steeple, bell nor pews. The second edifice was erected in 1751; the third in 1819; and the present house in 1849. The Pastors were:
Samuel Brown, 1714-1749;
Ezekiel Dodge, 1750-1770;
Samuel Niles, 1771-1814;
Holland Weeks, 1815-1820;
Samuel Spring, jr., 1822-1826;
Wm. Shedd, 1829-1830;
Melancthon G. Wheeler, 1831-1833;
James W. Ward, 1834-1836;
F. E. Abbe, present pastor, ordained Sep. 3, 1857.
The second Parish was formed in 1807, of inhabitants of South Abington and East Bridgewater, after strenuous opposition. The house of worship was dedicated and Rev. Daniel Thomas was ordained in 1808, dismissed in 1842. There were 16 members. Dennis Powers was minister eight years; Selden Hayes, and Alfred Goldsmith, one year each. H. L. Edwards, present pastor, installed in 1855.
The Third Church was formed at the house of Samuel Reed, Aug. 27, 1818. Pastors, Samuel W. Colburn, 1813-1830; Lucius Alden.
The First Baptist Church was constituted Oct. 30, 1822, with 11 members. The settlements have been:
Willard Kimball, 1824-1825
David Curtis, 1826-1828
Silas Hall, 1830-1834
W. H Dalrymple, 1835-1837
E. C. Messenger, 1837-1845
W. F. Stubbert, 1846-1852
Nath’l. Colver, D. D., 1852-1853
Horace T. Love, 1853-1854
F. A. Willard, 1854-1856
J. C. Wightman, 1857-1858
N. Judson Clark, present pastor, entered upon his labors, Dec. 11, 1800.
The First Society of the New Jerusalem, was organized in 1880, though Rev. Holland Weeks, pastor of the First Cong’l. Church was the first receiver of the doctrines, and began to preach them in 1820. In 1838, Joseph Pettee, was ordained pastor.
The First Universalist Society dates its first meeting, April 6, 1836.
Thompson Barron, was the first pastor:
Mr. Hewitt, 1840-1845
Q. H. Howe, 1845-1846
Leander Hussey, 1846-1848
J. Whittier, 1848-1849
N. Gunnison, 1850-1853
E. g. Foster, 1855-1856
V. Lincoln, 1857-1860
J. Crehore was settled July, 1860.
The Congregational Church, North Abington, was organized Oct. 3, 1839, with 49 members. Pastors:
Willard Peirce, 1840-1850
Isaac C. White, 1850-1860
Wm. Leonard and Benj. Dodge.
The Baptist Church in East Abington, was organized in May, 1854, with 22 members. Pastors, Horace T. Love, Wm. P. Everett, Wm. S. McKensie, Jeremiah Chaplain, D. D., and Sereno Howe.
The Catholic Church was organized in 1854, by Rev. Mr. Roddan. In 1856, Rev. Mr. Roche, present incumbent was appointed. The church edifice, capable of seating more people than any similar building in the County, “was consecrated by the Right Rev. Bishop McFarland, of Hartford, under the invocation of St. Bridget, Patroness of Ireland.”
The Semi-Centennial Celebration of the town was held June 10th, 1862, at Island Grove, (one of the most popular resorts for open air meetings in the State.) The oration was delivered by Rev. E. Porter Dyer. Fifty soldiers of the war of 1812, appeared in procession, together with Bands, Military, Masonic, Sons of Temperance, and Public School organizations.
Some of the votes passed by the town years ago, sound very quaint now. In 1716, Voted, “That every man sixteen years old, and up wards, shall kill 12 blackbirds, or pay two shillings to the town charge, more than their part.” In 1737, any person killing a wildcat was entitled to 20s. In 1775, “That it was an indecent way, that the female sex do sit in their hats and bonnets, to worship God in his, house, and offensive to many of the good people of this town.” In 1793, all persons who allowed their dogs to go to meeting, were fined for breach of the Sabbath. In 1803, it was voted to divide the town, but this was soon after reconsidered.
Slavery formerly existed in Abington. Isaac Hobart held several previous to the Revolution. Rev. Mr. Brown had five. Some of these blacks lived to a great age.
No fire department or engine company has ever been organized in Abington, and there have been very few destructive fires, that of B. Hobart & Son’s Tack Factory, was the most serious. Loss, $60,000.
Destructive tornadoes prevailed in Oct. 1804, and Sept. 1815. Thousands of fruit and forest trees were blown down, scores of barns and houses were unroofed, and many lives were lost.
Five natives of Abington became lawyers.
17 Abington men were lost in the Old French war, and in the Revolution, almost every man capable of bearing arms was in service for a longer or shorter period.
32 natives of Abington have received a college education, 13 of them becoming ministers.
The manufacture of earthenware was introduced in 1765, by Henry Benner. Meeting-house bells were cast for a number of years, at Col. Aaron Hobart’s factory. During the Revolutionary war a large number of cannons were cast here.
The first tack factory was built by Benj. Hobart, in 1820, near the South Abington depot. The present factory, owned by Dunbar, Hobart & Whidden, is built of brick, 183 by 48 feet, with L., 334 by 67 feet, besides adjoining buildings.
The Tack Factory of Henry H. Brigham, located a little east, was erected in 1865. The front building is 58 by 39 feet, with shop 180 by 36 feet, engine house, &c.
The Tact Factory of David B. Gurney, located at the Centre, is 110 by 30 feet.
The Shoe manufactory of J. Lane & Sons, East Abington, is a model building of its kind, 40 by 80 feet, three stories and basement, heated by steam. $350,000 worth of shoos manufactured here annually.
Leonard Blanchard’s Shoe manufactory is located at the East. In 1865, $250,000 worth of goods were manufactured.
The Shoe Factory of Joshua L. Nash, at the Center, was formerly known as the “King House.” Over 1200 pairs of shoes can be turned out per day. $300,000 worth of goods were manufactured in 1865.
There are many other extensive boot and shoe establishments in Abington, among them those owned by Washington Reed and A. Chamberlain, for making fur-lined goods.
Died in Revolutionary Service From Abington
Henry W. Bebee, 7th, died of wounds received at battle of Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863.
Charles L. Baldwin, 0, 38th, at Berwick City, May 3, 1863.
George E. Beal, C, 38th, Feb. 16, 1863.
Alson Bicknell, C, 38th, Marine Hospital, Now Orleans, La., chronic diarrhea, April 14, 1863.
Solon Bates, E, 4th, May 29, 1863. Bradford W. Beal, 20th, May 28, 1864.
Sergt. Benj. F. Caswell, K, 18th, battle of Bull Run, Va., August 30, 1862.
Michael Coughlan, 18th, Aug. 12, 1864.
Frederick Cook, K, 7th, Oct. 12, 1862.
Timothy W. Crocker, 8. C, at Boston, Dec 18, 1864.
1st Lieut. Lysander F. Gushing, 12th, killed in action, September 17, 1862.
Benj. Curtis, G, 12th, killed in action, Sept. 17, 1862.
Wm. M. Campbell, 16th, killed at Fredericksburg, Dec. 1862.
Brine Downing, C, 38th, at Baton Rouge, of fever, June 21, 1863.
Daniel Dwyer, H, 18th, at Savannah, Ga., Sept. 18, 1864.
Edward L. Dyer, C, 38th, at Abington, Feb. 12th, 1864.
Daniel Daley, E, 4th, at Brashear City, Aug. 15, 1863.
Jason Duncan, E, 4th, May 25, 1863.
Walter R. Davis, G, 12th, at battle of Fredericksburg, December 25, 1862.
Calvin C. Ellis, C, 38th, at Baton Rouge, June 23, 1863.
James A. Fenno, A, 60th, at Indianapolis, Oct. 23, 1864.
S. Boardman Foster, G, 12th, Sept. 17, 1862.
Thomas Fuller, 18th. George W. Folsom, 14th.
John A. Foster, 1st H. A., May 19, 1864.
Benj. W. Fernald, 58th, July 8, 1864.
Cornelius Foley, G, 59th, in Danville’ Prison, Jan 21, 1865.
James L. Glasier, 12th, Culpepper, Va., Dee. 25, 1863 16
Winfield S. Gurney, Excelsior Brigade, 1862.
Henry S. Green, 4th Cavalry.
John B. Hutchinson, E, 4th May 16, 1863.
George W. Harding, 80th.
Stephen Hayes, 7th, 1862.
Benj. F. Hutchinson, 7th, at Croney Island Hospital, Oct. 30, 1862.
Wm. F. Howland, K, 7th, at Abington, 1862,
Wm. F. Jacobs, G, 12th, killed in action, Sept. 17, 1862.
Charles J. Keene, 32d, May 10th, 1864.
Kyler Kennedy, G. 12th, killed Aug. 30, 1862.
Lowell W. Orcutt, 1st H. A., at Abington, Oct. 14, 1864.
Walter S. Oldham, 16ih Bat., July 29, 1864.
Michael Luddy, E, 4th, Aug. 14, 1863.
Martin Loftus, 11th, June 29, 1864.
Emsley B. Means, 54th.
Henry O. Millett, C, 38th, at Baton Bouge, July 8, 1863.
Horace O. Matthews, E, 30th, on board Str. Iberville, Mississippi River, July 13, 1862.
James O’Connell, I, 2d H. A., at Newbern, N. C, May 6, 1865.
Henry Pratt, 23d, Aug. 14, 1864.
Richard Porter, G, 12th. Sept. 17, 1862.
Charles A. Parker, G, 12th, Sept. 17, 1862.
Elbridge G. Pool, G, 12th, Oct. 14, 1862.
John L. Quigley, E, 4th Cav., at Hilton Head, May 3, 1864.
Harvey A. Raymond, E, 23d, Dec. 16, 1862.
Capt. Ansel B. Randall, 56th, killed in action before Petersburg April 2, 1865.
Nath’l L. Reed, 5gth, June 18, 1864.
Wm. H. Bobbins, E, 4th, June 7, 1863v
Simeon Ryerson, 12th, March 8, 1863.
Martin Shehan, 9th, May 23, 1864.
John M. Sewell, E, 23d, April 9, 1862.
Lieut. James G. Smith, 12th, at Spottsylvania, Va., of wounds, June 17, 1864.
Edward Saunders, 11th, August 7, 1863.
Nathan M. Stewart, C, 38th.
John Sullivan, E, 4th, June 26, 1863.
Charles Shaw 2d, E, 4th.
Charles E. Stetson, 4th Cavalry, Oct. 18, 1864.
Dexter Smith, G, 12th, at Andersonville, 1864.
George Soule, K, 7th, Sept. 29, 1862.
James H. Tucker, I, 1st Cav., at Hilton Head, April 30, 1862.
John G. Taylor, G, 12th, Dec. 30, 1862.
Randall Ward, 5th Cav.
John Mead, 19th Regt., 1862.
Gadlin Jordan, 5th Cav., December 1864.
Oscar E. Gould, 23d Regt.
James Lawless, Co. D, 56th Regt.
Franklin Williamson, Go. G, 12th Regt., Sept. 17tli, 1862.
Hiram L. Whiting, 56th. Regt.
Robert N. Hanson, Co. G, 12th Regt., May 6th, 1864.
Albert B. Smith, 1st Cav., So. Carolina.
Marcus N. Leavitt, Co. K, 7th Regt., Mary’s Heights, May 3d, 1863.
John H. McNakin, K, 7th Regt., of wounds, May 3d, 1863.
Charles W. Reed, K, 7th Regt., Mary’s Heights, May 3d, 1863.
Joseph Ripley, Co. C, 38th Regt., Oct. 9, 1864.
William T. Ewell, Co. d, 38th Regt.
William W. Knowles, Co. C, 38th Regt.
Joseph Merrow, Co. C, 38th Regt.
Erastus O. Prior, Co. C, 38th Regt.
Ebenezer G. Tuttle, Co. C, 38th Regt., Stoughton, 1866.
Rufus Robbins, Jr., Co. K, 7th Regt, Jan. 7th, 1863.
Barney F. Phinney, 18th Regt.
Charles L. French, 28d Regt.
Charles E. Ford, 4th Cav.