Abington Historical Commission
Abington's Nationally Registered History
The following text was prepared by the Abington Historical Commission and presented to the Old Colony Planning Council in 1977. It is reproduced here for your reference.
Governor Joseph Dudley of Massachusetts Bay Colony named Abington in 1706, six years before the town was incorporated in 1712. Governor Dudley wished to honor Anne Venables Bertie, Countess of Abington (England) who helped him secure the governorship of the Colony from Queen Anne.
This geographical area was a small part of the 196 square-mile “Bridgewater Purchase” from the Native American inhabitants on March 23, 1650. Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag Federation, signed the deed as grantor, using his alias “Ousamequin”. Grantees were Myles Standish, Constant Southworth, and Samuel Nash, acting for the Duxbury proprietors to whom the Bridgewater Township had been granted by the Plymouth General Court. Much of present-day Abington continued under the jurisdiction of Old Bridgewater until the original Township of Abington was created on June 10, 1712. The northernmost line of Old Abington extended as far as today’s precinct line between North Abington and Centre Abington (about on a line with Lincoln Boulevard).
The majority of the first titles to land in Old Abington originated as grants by the Plymouth Colony Court to individuals to whom the colony owed a debt for public service. There were 16 or 18 of these grants, depending on how they are counted. None of the original grantees cleared their land or settled on it. They sold their parcels to pioneer settles, most of whom came across the boundary line from Weymouth, with some coming from Hingham, Old Scituate, and other nearby towns.
The lands grants, almost without exception, were attached to the major Indian trail known as the “Satucket Path”, which ran more or less north and south through the town. Adams and Washington Streets mostly approximate the route of that path today.
SA-TUCK-ET is a condensation of the Algonkian word for “great pouring forth river place.” Referring to the source of the Satucket River at Robbin’s Pond in East Bridgewater. The path led there from Wessagusset (or roughly northern Weymouth).
The Algonkian name for the Abington areas was MANA-MO-OSKE-AGIN, “great green place of shaking greens” describing the fresh meadows which attended the two main streams which ran southward through the town. The SCHMUA-CASTAC-UT, “beaver place always dependable”, is now known as Beaver Brook. It forms the part of the western boundary of Abington. The stream in the center of the town is the SCHUMA-TUSCAC-ANT, “beaver streams with stepping over place”.
The first Settler’s house built in the area was standing in 1672, when it was used as a landmark describing a nearby tract of land. The first was Andrew Ford, second of the name in America, who came from Weymouth. By 1712, when the town was incorporated, there were 17 dwelling houses in the area. The settlers were typical pioneers who farmed their own land, raiser their own food, and were self-sustaining.
Shoemaking was the first real industry other than lumbering, milling, and the cottage industries in Abington proper.
The first shoe factory here was established in the early 1820’s by Colonel David Gloyd, a tanner, together with Thomas Hunt, who had the manufacturing know-how. Thomas Hunt, often called the “father of shoemaking” in this area, moved to the center of Abington from East Abington (present day Rockland) in 1819 in order to team up with Gloyd.
For some four generations this was a one-industry town: shoemaking (together with the allies activities of making the wooden shipping cases, tacks and nails, and transporting the freight). In 1860, the federal census shows “Old Abington” (which then still comprised Abington, Rockland, and most of Whitman) to be the richest town in Plymouth County. Federal statistics show that half the union army marched in Abington shoes during the Civil War.
Abington was closely associated with the Abolition movement. Ministers began preaching against slavery in the early 1840s. On August 1, 1846, the first public open-air Abolition meeting was held in Island Grove Park. The Old Colony railroad which had just opened its single track through Abington from Boston to the Cape the preceding year, built a siding at the Centre station to accommodate the special trains which transported as many as 10,000 people from Boston for these famous “August First” meetings in the Grove. The owner of the Grove, Ezekial Reed, soon added an amusement area to the facilities there. Island Grove is now a town-owned park. Plans are underway to have the park with its Memorial Bridge and Arch placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge and arch were erected in 1912 at the time of Abington’s 2000 birthday and were dedicated to the men of the Union army and navy who served in the Civil war.
The old Township of Abington was divided in 1875 and 1875, Rockland (formerly East Abington) being cut off and incorporated as a new town on March 9, 1874, with South Abington, together with part of East Bridgewater (now Whitman) being created a year later on March 4, 1875. Whitman changed its name from South Abington by popular referendum in 1886.
The real reason for the division of the big township was that the several villages had very little in common other than geography and the East and South had outgrown the Centre. From an efficiency standpoint, the big township would have to divide or go onto a representative form of government. The outlying villages already had notion of division and needed only a cause to fire the populace.
That cause presented itself when the centre over-expanded its appropriation in erecting their new high school building in 1872, after the other sections had built theirs within budgets. The East and South both rose in wrath and requested to be cut off and incorporated as separate towns. This gave rise to the catch phrase, “The town a schoolhouse divided” or the “Mansard Abomination”.
A shameful confrontation between the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Rail Road Corporation (usually shortened to “the New Haven” and the Selectmen of Abington had come down in history as the “North Abington Riot” of August 16, 1893. The railroad refused to honor the permission issued by Selectmen to the newly organized Abington-Rockland Street Railway Company, allowing them to cross the railroad’s right-of-way on North Avenue with their tracks. Two hundred railroad workmen armed with picks and shovels challenged 15 local constables who called on the fire hoses for aid. Show workers from the local factories soon jumped up with town forces and paving stones were used as missiles. Blood was spilled and many injuries were sustained. The war raged until and injunction was received from a Superior Court Judge, brought down by special train.
The townspeople called a special meeting immediately in Standish Hall and voted to sue the Railroad Corporation. The final decision was in favor of the town and five officials of the New Haven railroad served time in the Plymouth County House of Correction for provoking and directing a riot. The decision proved that no corporation-no matter how big how rich – is greater than the laws of the land. One decision, which has gone into the law books (161 Mass 416) as part of the legalities attendant to this incident is still quoted in similar cases.
The final result was that the streetcar tracks did cross the railroad’s right-of-way, and the New Haven (formerly the Old Colony Line) erected the fine little Richardsonian-style granite-and-redstone North Abington Depot the following year. That depot is often called a “peace offering” and stands today as a symbol of the riot. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shoemaking continued as an important industry in Abington until well into the 20th Century. After the Klondike gold strike of 1896-1897m the C.H. Alden show factory, the on Lake Street, dramatically paid its employees in gold coins. Local people referred affectionately to the big building as “The Klondike”
The last shoe factories to continue production in Abington were the L.A. Crosseet Co. on Railroad Street and the M.N. Arnold Co. on Wales Street. Crossett moved to Maine at the time of the Great Depression of 1929-1930, and Arnold sold out to the Stetson Company, which is now a part of the Kayser-Roth conglomerate. Both big former shoe factory buildings still stand. The Crossett building is of wooden construction and is now the home of the New England Art Factory. The Arnold Building is brick.