Kingston Business History

Early Kingston Businesses – February, 2019

The mills were the backbone of the business in Kingston as shipbuilding had been previously but there were many craftsmen who worked their craft about town, some which can still be seen today.  Carpenters were building lovely homes of all sizes along Main Street, warehouses, (3 Maple Street and  Elm Street), schools ( Faunce School on Green Street, Henry Govoni Post and the Cobb School on Main Street), and even fine furniture. The handiwork of stone cutters, Bilbad Washburn and Harold Tripple, can be seen in the Old Burying Ground. Josiah Willis and his son Edward had the only soap “factory” in town near 214 Main Street.  George Clark, apprentice of William Myrick, opened his own tinsmith business at 19 Green Street (followed at the same address, in the 1920’s by the Dyer Candy Shop and in the 1930’s by Sampson Plumbing).   Across the street at # 12 was Bailey’s Blacksmith shop and Eldridge’s Carriage shop.   Very early in our town’s history at the Point (intersection of Main and Summer Street) Joseph Stetson had a harness and saddle shop, right next door to Wrestling Brewster Jr.’s bakery. Later Timothy French opened his bakery near the Great Bridge at 175 Main Street. Shop keeping was not a popular occupation in Kingston.  Every farmer was a trader; his surplus was traded for other goods or services he needed.  When it came to luxuries one had to go out of town.

One of the earliest shopkeepers in the North Precinct was Benjamin Samson who built the house and ran a shop at 198 Main Street and was joined by Thomas Croade in owning a warehouse at Rocky Nook Wharf. There were probably many others who were not remembered.  One of those who did business on a larger scale was David Beal. He built the house at 196 Main Street and ran a flourishing general store there selling everything imaginable. There was an addition on the north side but he also used rooms in the house (the living room was the shoe parlor at one time).  It became the Hunt & Sampson and then the George E. Cushman Country store. So there was a general store operating here from 1794 to 1902.   Mr. Cushman then moved the store across the street to 193 Main Street on the corner of Linden Street. When he finally retired, the building housed Kyngs Town Sweets until Charles Cushman, George’s son, converted the building into apartments.  On the southern side of Kingston, P. Cobb’s store at 83 Main Street (now a residence) and Mrs. Charles Robbins store in her home at 89 Main Street sold hardware to thread as well as groceries to that neighborhood.

For 27 years the  Joseph Holmes store, at the corner of Elm and Main Street, sold the finer imported goods brought from all over the world to Kingston by the Captains of his ships.  There remain pictures of imported china, pottery and fabrics he sold.   There were many small shops housed in the shopkeeper’s home: yarn at Martha Bradford’s and medicine and “strong water” at Sylvia Drew’s .  There was a “cooperative store” near the Plympton Railroad crossing, maintained by the Sovereigns of Industry.

Many of these business’ existed at the same time but most succeeded each other from our beginning to the early 1900’s.  They served the community and were located either along Main Street or Summer Street.

Kingston as a Mill  Town – Part 2 (January, 2019)

There were also fabric mills in Kingston.  At Triphammer* (where the Jones River goes under Wapping Road (Route 106)), they built a dam and with capital of $20,000 ran eight looms, employing thirty men.  At the Pumping Station the Kingston Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Co.  ran 12 looms and also employed thirty men.  They functioned for a few years but both factories were consumed by fire eventually due to the lint and dust accumulated.   Newcomb & Morse of Easton purchased the property at the Pumping Station and built another thread factory.  What a valuable water privilege this was: an early grist mill was built there in the 1700’s  followed by a fulling mill and later a carding mill, and then the thread mills and finally United Shoe Machinery.  Today part of the mill still is in use as a function hall.  That equals some 200 years of use.

There were sawmills, using water power, on the Jones River and its tributaries.  In winter, with the ground frozen, ox-sleds brought out logs to be made into building lumber.  Often this was done where a stream was dammed, a meadow was flooded to make a pond. By spring the dam was removed, the pond disappeared and the meadow used for gardens and hay. Two crops of hay could be harvested before the stream was again dammed and the sawmill again worked all winter.  Brackets Sawmill on Brookdale Street was an example of this rotating use of water power.  Soon other power ran the machines and lumber could be manufactured all year long.

There were brick yards about town, one on Wapping Road maintained by Stephen Bradford. His home is now gone but it had brick ends and a brick ell. Tradition tells the story that a wealthy man wanted to build a house on Main Street (at 253  Main Street) and Stephen sold him the brick he had made for his own house, but did not have enough to make the whole house of brick. He also manufactured the brick for the Tom Johnson house at 61 West Street.   Another brick yard was on property to the east of Summer Street near the old Railroad tracks road to Duxbury. I remember as a Girl Scout finding clay there to earn a pottery badge. An early owner was Samuel Loring of Duxbury.

Although not a mill per se, wheelwrights ran shops to manufacture and repair wheels. At a time when the only means of travel was by “foot or horseback,” wheels and wagons were in constant demand.  This continued until the 1920’s for many farmers in town.  There was a shop on the second floor of the building housing today the pizza shop, nailery, hairdresser etc. at  65 Summer Street.  There was a ramp at the rear of the building to move the wagons and chaises up to the shop. The second floor was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt.  (The second floor housed a men’s social club, the GAR meeting hall and other businesses over the years.)

*“Triphammer” is where Wapping Road crosses Jones River (Route 106) and where was located the forge that contained the equipment that gave the area its name. A triphammer is machinery consisting of a large hammer activated by a cam or lever, powered at this location by the water of the river ( which  was far greater when there was a dam at the site). There were once many iron forges in Kingston.

Kingston as a Mill town  (December, 2018 Addition)

The importance of our waterways has been mentioned as a source of water power and, until the advent of steam power, it met the needs of our growing community and its grist, saw and fulling mills.  Then came the forges and the use of another of our natural resources, bog iron.  It was found in swamps and streams, some found while fishing in Jones River Pond (now Silver Lake) in 1751.  It was harvested with tongs or rakes, and it provided, because it was renewable, an inexhaustible supply.  A century later high-grade ore was found in Lake Superior and bog iron was forgotten.  But not before it made history in Kingston.

The steam engine was perfected in England in 1775 and used in the iron mills eliminating the seasonal shutdowns caused by changes in water power. Larger operations were also made possible. Then it was applied to the railroads.  Two years before the British peak in railroad construction, the Old Colony Railroad Company was organized by Kingston and Plymouth men.  In 1844 (until 1845) James Sever of Kingston (his home on Linden Street still exists) was elected the first Chairman of the Board of Directors, followed  a few years later by Alexander Holmes (1854-1866). Construction of 37 miles of track from Boston to Plymouth took a year and today we ride the commuter train along the same railroad bed.  In diaries, in the Local History Room at the Kingston Public Library, we can read of the celebrations held on opening day, November 10, 1845. Two daily trips between Boston and Plymouth opened the opportunity to commute to Boston (It continued to do so for 114 years when it disappeared under the ownership of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Under the ownership of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, commuter service resumed in 1997).  Freight service was included during the growth of the line until it merged with the New York, New Haven and Hartford. Following the bankruptcy of this line, freight service was continued under other owners but soon faded away.  However, the fact that it came through our town meant a change in the business center of Kingston.  The commercial center gradually moved from the Main Street area to the Stony Brook area near the railroad.

The Railroad also became the mortal enemy of the shipping industry where facilities could not construct larger vessels to compete with the shipping potential of the railroad.  The steam engine and then electricity, made possible for the mills to be  independent of water power and to combine with larger mills and in many cases move away from the small rural town to cities where there was also a larger work force.   Kingston shared in the national prosperity until the Civil War and during that event had a more stable economy than some surrounding towns that were dependent on only one industry.  The largest industry during this time was the “tack” factories which made tacks, nails and rivets.  Emily Drew wrote: “It is a fact that at one time there were more tack factories in Kingston than in any other place in our country; they were not large factories but they were more numerous.”  The train took many kegs of tacks to the shoe factories in Whitman and Weymouth.  The country had been dependent upon England for most of its cut nails but during 1790-1830 some 88 patents were  processed.  Kingston’s Jesse Reed, son of nail maker Ezekial Reed of Abington, invented  a machine that enabled one man to produce from 1000 to 8000 nails a day, and also a machine that produced thousands of tenpenny nails plus a half  million tacks a day.  The same machines are used today.  Reed’s Tack factory was located on Pembroke Street near the corner of Reed Street. He also had factories on Wapping Road. The  Maglauthlin brothers had a tack factory on Evergreen Street. The tack factories and nail shops are gone but some are still produced in Wareham. The Cobb and Drew Company at Main and Prospect Streets, made rivets for many years.

The Reed family was one of the many families who moved to Worcester but they remembered the town in 1926, when Edgar Reed donated money for the Reed Community Building.  Another famous tack maker was Thomas Russell, who with his half-brother George (the town’s representative to the General Court) left Russell’s Pond on Indian Pond Road for posterity. It was an artificial body of water. Earlier others had erected a dam across Trout Brook for manufacturing anchors and another on Winter Meadow Brook.  There were iron works in the area owned by Daniel Bisbee and his son Daniel Jr.  Russell bought out Bisbees’s business and erected a new dam resulting in the 4 acre pond we know today.  Some records indicate that there was a freshet (i.e. flood of a river from heavy rain or melted snow) which washed out the first dam, so the new dam was made of concrete plus a canal or flume still there today.  There were no conservation restraints in those days. The textile mills at today’s Pumping Station and those on Wapping Road at Triphammer are now gone but the buildings are there used for other industries.

On Maple Street the old C. Drew factory made tools of all kinds and the Local History Room at the Kingston Public Library has many examples. I encourage anyone interested to Google this business as it traces generations of Kingston families and businesses.  It goes back to the early shipbuilding days when the Drew family built wooden ships on the Jones River. To fasten the large oak timbers of the ships hull together with a wooden  “ Treenail”  an auger was needed to bore the holes.  The same auger was used in building houses, and it was originally forged in the “shop” of the shipbuilders.  Also they needed caulking irons to press the oakum, a preparation of hemp and tar, into all the joints and seams of the boat/ship to prevent leaking.   These, to, were fashioned in the shop., and there were many styles and shapes as each craftsman had his favorite.   In 1837 young Christopher Drew and Thomas Bailey partnered to form a business to produce these tools on the Stony Brook Water Privilege on Maple Street (then called Mill Lane). The brook was dammed to form a Mill Pond for power.  Over time methods and materials changed  so two brothers Robert and Clarence inherited the business  The business prospered until 1980 when the factory burned, to be replaced by a modern building housing another business.


Fall 2018 – A History About Public Education in Kingston

With the coming of fall means returning to school for our children. Although “school” or “education” is not a business as such, it does use the largest amount of our real estate tax dollar. Education is invaluable in all aspects of business, using all three “R”s daily.

The history of education in Kingston goes back to before the original petitioners organized to appeal to break away from the Plymouth Colony. Children were transported to the colony for school necessitating our farmers and craftsmen taking time away.  With religious services nearby, they also wanted the schools to be nearby. The Colony promoted forming public schools in 1611 but was slow to develop them which encouraged the North Precinct to  seek independence and they set aside money to pay a teacher. “School” was a term meaning children and/or place versus a building. Giles Rickard was the first schoolmaster, teaching 52 weeks a year for  13 years before he was allowed a week “to improve himself’. He moved from one neighborhood or area, sometime boarding with a family, to another, teaching all that would come to his “school.”. John Bradford our benefactor gave to the precinct property at the intersection of Main, Summer and Linden Streets for a schoolhouse.  It existed in the community for some 200 years owned by others at various times and finally used as a store.

By 1800 there were four old schoolhouses in town, operated as one school, scholars going where they pleased. The school master made all the pen and ruled all the paper used. The ages ranged sometimes from 20 years down to 4 years; the older students assisted the schoolmaster when there was crowding. It was a grammar school; the high school came in 1867, well after the Civil War. There were however some private academies maintained and taught by the clergy who were the only college educated men at the time. The primary schools were usually taught by women.

In 1830 the town was redistricted for schools by population areas: the northwest (Pembroke St. and Wapping Rd areas) district had 45 families; the west had 39 families; the south district had 20 families; the middle district had 107 families; the southeast district had 50 families  making a total of 261 families. They added the Stoney Brook district in 1841. In 1844 a new schoolhouse was built in each of the six districts made possible by Kingston’s portion ($3485.40) of surplus revenue of the Federal Government following the War of 1812, to be used for only this purpose. They were uniform and some buildings exist today (Stoney Brook at 114 Street Sumer Street (a residence); Rocky Nook District at 90 Main Street (Gavoni Post; Faunce School at 16 Green Street, all used for other purposes, and the building at 119 Wapping Rd. which is unusable. Over the years some were occasionally moved as population of school children changed. The community wanted and needed a school for higher grades and after years of trying, in 1867 a High School was funded and built at 244 Main Street (today’s Police Station) for $10.000.  Quickly additions were made for the growing school population.

By our 150th  anniversary  in 1876, from these humble schoolhouses, came some students with remarkable accomplishments:

The Washburn twins, lcabod and Charles, lost their father early in their lives. Charles had only one arm graduated from  Brown University  and went 10 study law in Norway, Maine. lcabod was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Worcester and went on to invent a loom to manufacture cotton goods.

John Washburn was an inventor of cut nails and tacks, taking out patents in 1809, 1810 and 1811, and later the screw auger and machines to makes all these necessary tools.

Caleb Bates and or Thomas Newcomb improved the stump puller, necessary to every farmer, and it was forged by Christopher Drew with the water power of Stony Brook, in his mill on Maple Street.

Dr. Fredric Bartlett practicing medicine in New York made ozone better (oxygen) and it became an inexpensive gas used in hospitals and now in homes.

Railroad cars glide along rails on wheels improved and patented by George Lobell of Kingston, who manufactured them in Delaware.

In the American Revolution, two noted commanders, General John Thomas and Capt. Peleg Wadsworth came from Kingston. Two brigs, “lndependerce” and “Mars” were built in Kingston and commanded by Simeon Sampson, the first Naval Captain.

Jedediah Holmes forged the first anchors for our new Navy at Triphammer on Wapping Road. And the list could go on.

Our school discussion will be continued.

KBA History: Sept, 2018 update

The shore area, site of the Kingston Waterfront Festival (Gray’s Beach), was a busy place in the early years of Kingston. Prior to the arrival of the colonists it may have been the summer encampment for the Wampanoags based on layers of soil and shells found when excavating nearby. Early maps show a swampy area, a brook running from Main Street area to the Bay and a very rocky muddy shoreline.

However, it bordered the Bay and was important in our shipbuilding history. The Rocky Nook Wharf and the area around it was owned by Joshua Dela (born 1809) and later his son, Benjamin (born 1831), in the early 1800’s; they were ship owners and outfitters.  The building there today was a warehouse and chandlery. The finished ship hull was towed down river by oxen on the shore, always at high tide; the masts were stepped in the cove around Loring Rocks and the ship moved to the wharf to be outfitted.

The warehouse held all that was needed to prepare the ship for sea. In the neighborhood, craftsmen had homes and shops, where as an example, coopers built barrels, tubs and buckets for the storage of goods or perhaps fish caught off shore, or keg:; of nails and tacks for sale, or foodstuffs for the crew.  Just to the north at today’s Rocky Nook Park salt was evaporated from sea water and fish were dried on “fish flakes” (large racks open to the sun). The salt was used to preserve the fish. Small sloops and schooners carried passengers as well as good to and from Boston year round.  The brig “Lucy” took the first cargo of ice to the West Indies in 1805 in a ship double sheathed, insulated with pine sawdust. In 1850, the name of Jones River Pond was changed to Silver Lake to promote an ice company.

Joshua Delano’s home was at Main Street near Smelt Brook (near Charlie Horse Restaurant) and he would walk to work where the railroad tracks are today.  His granddaughter, Marcia Demon, owned the Grays Beach property in 1936 when the town wanted access to the Bay for a beach. The only other property available for the town to purchase at that time was a small area near the wharf at Ahdenah.  The purchase was put off a year as due to Mr. Demmon’s serious illness. She died during this year but her relative Paul Delano sold the 6.5 acre site to the town and construction began. The WPA project was managed by G. Palmer Holmes and they reclaimed the swamp, removed the marsh grass and rocks and added a lot of fill and even some trees.  However over the years it was necessary to add sand each spring as the storm tides carried it away.

In 1950, a bath house was added and it became a very popular  recreation spot.  In 1952, non-residents were charged a fee to park and use the beach The highway department built the first raft, followed by the purchase of two Navy rafts; one for beginner swimmers and another for more experienced swimmers. By 1956, Red Cross was giving swimming lessons and a Concession Stand was added. In 2002, improvements were the responsibility of the Recreation Commission and a playground was added by the Friends of Grays Beach. Improvements included wheelchair access walkways, a boat ramp for the Fire Department’s rescue boat and erosion co1trol. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts added projects (covered picnic areas, benches, and a gate) over the years.  Movie night was added in 2014. And it is being renovated again today.

KBA History: July,  2018 update

By it’s 100th birthday in 1826, Kingston had grown in residents and in industry. The millers, carpenters, tailors, weavers, sawyers and cordwainers (shoe makers) had out grown their shops, often attached to their homes on the Boston and Bridgewater Roads near the meeting house.

Ship building was active along the Jones River (at today’s  Landing Road) and on Rocky Nook. Vessels carried goods world-wide, to and from Kingston.  The “Independence” built for the Massachusetts Navy in April 1776 and with a Kingston Maste and crew helped in the Revolution and ended as a Privateer. Schooners, about 20, were used  for fishing. Between the Revolutionary and War of 1812, about 250 tons of shipping was built annually employing 60 men in seafaring and 30 in ship building. 200 tons of salt was produced at Rocky Nook and an abundance of fish was caught in season.
The War of 1812 was a blessing to the economic development of the state and our town.  The embargo and then cessation of trade with England stimulated local manufacturing.  In 1813 the Kingston Cotton and Woolen Manufactory at Triphammer (Wapping Road, later  the Barnes Worsted Mill) and The Jones River Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Company near the Pumping Station on Elm Street were built, employing many residents. Foundries existed in this period at Forge Pond (The Northwest Forge), Stony Brook, Triphammer, Trout Brook and Smelt Brook. Carding mills were built on Causton’s Pond Brook and Second Brook. The first anchor works was located on Trout  Brook in 1794, and at one time Kingston was known to have the largest number of tack factories in the country. Where there was a waterway, it was used in industry.  The community now served the state and the country versus just our own community needs.

(to be continued)

 

First Installment:  

Long before Kingston was incorporated as a town in 1726, business and industry flourished in wha twas then know as the North Precinct of Plymouth Colony. Abundant forests and waterways were tapped as early as 1644 to meet the needs of the colonists. The Jones River was a source of water power for an early grist mill near today’s Pumping Station on Elm Street and by 1726 there were three or four sawmills, grist mills and a fulling mill. Triphammer Water Priviledge on Wapping Road continues today as a site for these mills as well as many other businesses.

When in 1717, the 19 petitioners from the North Precinct asked the General Court to establish a town, the Plymouth Colony fought against it as the¡ would be loosing 19 square miles of acreage as well as the fresh water source and water power of the Jones River, totally within the bounds of the new town. In addition to the meadows and forests of hardwoods, especially elm, the soil while not highly fertile was more tillable than the sandy soil of Plymouth proper. Vessels were already being built in shipyards along the banks of the river.

The petitioners also wanted to establish their own church and school system; families then had to travel to Plymouth for these services.

In 1720 Major John Bradford, the Benefactor of the North Precinct was 68 years old. In 1714 he had provided a lot of land on the corner of Linden and Summer Streets today, for a schoolhouse and two acres of land for a meeting house and town green on today’s Main street. In 1720, he gave a lot at the intersection of Main and Summer Street. The “Point”, for a house for Rev. Joseph Stacy and more acreage for his gardens. The new town was ready to move on.