Abington Historical Commission
North Abington Riot

On and otherwise quiet day in Abington, August 16, 1893 has the dishonorable distinction of the most violent day in our town’s history.  This day marks the confrontation of the powerful "New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad Corporation" (or “the New Haven”) and the citizens of Abington, the “North Abington Riot”.  The basic issue was that of who had the right of way across the tracks, the electric trolleys of the Abington-Rockland Railway Company or the locomotives of the New Haven.

Railroad travel was the dominant land based mode of transportation and travel in the late 1800's.  Trains provided long distance fast transportation of goods and people; however, it lacked the more controlled destination abilities of the electric trolley systems permeating the south shore.  One could travel by trolley from Whitman into multiple stops in Abington, into Rockland, Hanover, and as far away as Nantasket.  The problem is where the trolley line crosses the railroad in North Abington.  Passengers of the trolley system would have to debark from one streetcar, cross over the railroad tracks, and then board a new streetcar that would take them east.  To assist the public transportation, Abington granted the streetcar company permission to cross the railroad track.

Shortly preceding the eventful day in Abington a disastrous event occurred in Brockton where a train had collided with a streetcar.  Under the orders of the Superintendent of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad Corporation, John Sanborn, 300 laborers descended upon Abington to remove the new twenty-foot section of trolley track that the railroad deemed was on its property.

Fifteen local constables were on hand to disperse the railroad laborers.  The situation worsened and employees of the local shoe factories joined in to assist the local constables.  An hour and a half melee of fists and rocks shovels and picks erupted.   The result was a lawsuit filed by the town of Abington against the New Haven that led to five railroad employees serving time in the Plymouth County House of Correction and punitive damages of $15,000 to be paid to the town.


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Abington Historical Commission

Abington, Massachusetts 02351



Copyright 2007 Abington Historical Commission, Abington Massachusetts