The purple trains that stop in Kingston along the Old Colony line to connect commuters to the larger regional rail system have a long and interesting history.
The Massachusetts Legislature chartered the Old Colony Railroad on March 16, 1844. John Sever of Kingston was elected the new company’s first President. Just a year and a half later, on November 8, 1845, the first ceremonial train loaded with company officials and invited dignitaries traveled the 37 miles from South Boston to Plymouth. And over the next 50 years, the Old Colony line expanded to cover much of eastern Massachusetts by building branch lines, leasing existing routes and merging with other railroads.
For example, in 1854, the Old Colony consolidated with the Fall River Railroad.
In 1855, the President of the Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Company, Kingstonian Alexander Holmes, issued this pass to his “Wood Agent” and fellow Kingstonian George Adams. Mr. Holmes had secured the services of Mr. Adams in May of 1850, and charged the company $20 for doing so as his debit account shows.
The Old Colony & Fall River had become the Old Colony & Newport in 1866 (the full accounting extends to that year, the last of Mr. Holmes presidency). The company reverted to its original corporate name in 1872 after absorbing the Cape Cod Railroad. By 1892, the Old Colony Railroad stretched from Provincetown to Providence, west to Worcester, north to Fitchburg, over to Lowell and back down to Boston.
Kingston’s “local” line exemplifies the growth and consolidation of the railroad industry through the 19th century. Small lines incorporated, then grew and combined into ever-larger conglomerates. In 1893, the Old Colony’s Providence Division caught the eye of the mighty New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad — known as the New Haven — as a direct connection to Boston. Rather than lease this important component to its larger neighbor, the Old Colony leased itself as a whole and was subsumed. The New Haven continued to expand, eventually taking over not only most of the railroads in the northeast, but trolley lines and steamships as well
In 1935, decades of aggressive purchases and accumulated debt lead the New Haven to bankruptcy (for the first time).
The Old Colony line still carried passengers, as shown by Kingstonian Helen Foster’s ticket book. The commercial artist commuted to her studio on Park Street in Boston by train until 1946, when she shifted her workplace back to Kingston. In 1947, the New Haven emerged from receivership. Despite some success in the early 1950s, overwhelming debt combined with the growing interstate system led the New Haven to discontinue service on the Old Colony line in 1959. The New Haven limped on to 1961, when it declared bankruptcy again; in 1969 it became part of the gargantuan Penn Central, which itself failed three years later, marking the final collapse of the railroad behemoths that had dominated the country for a century.
In Massachusetts, regionalism saved the rails. In 1964 the MBTA was formed and the next year, it laid claim to the New Haven’s tracks in and around Boston. Over the next four decades, purple trains began to appear along the commuter rail system. In 1997, the Old Colony line once again ran through Kingston.
Kingston, Mass. Oct. 29th, 1896.
To the Selectmen –
Is it not about time that some attention was given to the operation of the Plymouth & Kingston Street Railway and better accomodations demanded for the use of more than half the main highway in the town? The cars do not connect with the trains either one way or another and on the so-called local cars running between Cobb’s Store and Jabez Corner they demand two fares (ten cents) to ride the whole distance, about four miles, and give a check allowing you the privilege of waiting three quarters of an hour to take the next car for Kingston, which of course no one wants to do. If it does not pay to operate this end of the line let us have the rails removed and the street free for driving. It seems to me if a little severity is shown at first that the company will be more considerate in the future. I think their mottoes for our town are “Bleed the People” and “The Public Bedammed”.
[signed] Fred B. Cole
Source: Kingston Highway Department Papers, JRVHS Lantern Slides.
Here’s a quick look at one of the first negatives I’ve scanned in the Local History Room. This is Emily Drew’s photograph of Elm Street at the Jones River. The Pumping Station is just out of the frame to the right side.
Meanwhile, somebody’s best friend is nosing around for a treat.
The Pumping Station
Kingston’s municipal water system was proposed at Town Meeting in 1884, legislated in 1885 under “An Act to Supply the Town of Kingston with Water,” and implemented in 1886. The system officially began operations on August 10 that year. While the actual water supply came from wells, Jones River water power supplied the mains and the reservoir (see this earlier post) via “a Blake duplex power pump…capable of…228 gallons per minute…driven by a 30-inch Burnham turbine water-wheel of 17 horse power,” according to the Water Commissioners’ Report, March 1, 1887. Though the station was electrified around 1905, the system relied primarily on inexpensive and traditional water power through the 1930’s, except in times of low water or during repairs to the dam and equipment.
As early as 1704, the water privilege on the north bank of the Jones River at Elm Street powered industry: a grist mill was replaced by a fulling mill, which preceded a shingle mill. Finally, the Town bought the rights to the water power and built the pumping station. Here are two views from the south side of the Jones River. In the 1920’s a new concrete dam replaced the old wooden version, shown in the earlier photo.
Sources: PC-14 Kingston Water Department; Vertical File: Water Department; Life on the River: The Flow of Kingston’s Industries (Elliott, 2005)
On April 12, 1886, workers broke ground for the construction of a reservoir as part of Kingston’s new municipal water system. Located just south of Russell Pond off Round Hill Road, the reservoir was used by the Water Department until 1996.
In his paper “Problems of the Water Department” read before the Jones River Village Historical Society on February 8, 1930, C.B. Hudson reported that
the reservoir is about 47 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep and was originally built of brick but, after several years of service, serious leaks developed in the bottom and a new cement bottom was laid over the original brick, and in 1923 when it was desired to increase the capacity of the reservoir it was completely relined, sides an bottom with 12” of concrete reinforced with steel bars and the new wall was carried to a height of 12 feet above the ground level which increased its capacity to about 400,000 gallons.
Sometime before the 1923 renovation, Emily Drew photographed members of her family — her brother Clarence, his wife Charity and their children Norma and Bud — at the reservoir.
Sources: Vertical File: Water Department; PC14 Kingston Water Department Papers; Through Emily’s Eyes.
Here are two views of a trolley accident in Kingston from sometime in 1910.
The cars shown here belonged to the Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company, which was originally called the Plymouth & Kingston Street Railway. For more information on the company, which still runs buses in the region, visit the history page of their website.
Lying at the foot of River Street, the Town Landing provides access for boaters to the Jones River, as well as a lovely place to sit and watch the water flow into Kingston Bay. These two photos were taken by Ted Avery in April 1975.
Forty years earlier, this was the site of one of Kingston’s Emergency Relief Administration (E.R.A.) projects. Between April and August 1935,
The old wharf was raised 18″ and extended 25′ out into the Jones River, 90 cu. yds. of stone was laid and pointed, 28 piles were set and held in place with iron straps, a cement cap 18″ wide 1′ thick reinforced with iron rails using 40 bags of cement was put on top of the extention [sic], 105 cu. yds. of stone was used, 300 cu. yds. of gravel for filling, also 100 cu. yds. of mud was excavated from river and used for filling.
Edgar W. Loring donated the stone, while Dr. Arthur B. Holmes contributed the pilings. When complete, the entire project cost $3191.04. Asked in the final engineering report how the public benefited from the project, George P. Holmes, the Town’s E.R.A. Administrator, replied “This wharf at present is the only public landing place for fishermen and yachtsmen in Kingston and the extension to low water mark is greatly appreciated by same.”
More recently, in 1997 the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management gave $32,000 in Seaport Bond funds to the town, allowing the Waterfront Committee to replace older wooden floating docks (visible in both photos) with 20 modular aluminum versions. In 1999, Chris Tura completed his Eagle Scout project by dedicating the “Independence Memorial Park” at the Town Landing, complete with a historical marker, granite curbing and refinished picnic tables and benches.
Sources: Town House Attic II papers; Town Annual Reports; Vertical File: Independence Park.
Treasure in a Shoe Box
Among the treasures describing the history of Kingston that Emily Fuller Drew bequeathed to the community is a common ladies shoe box. The box itself probably qualifies as an antique on Ebay, but the real value lies in the contents: hundreds of 3″ X 5″ cards. On each is handwritten information describing the many lantern slides of the JRVHS, as well as the duplicate images in other Local History Room collections.
Here’s why it’s so wonderfully important.
First, take a look at lantern slide #30.
The actual slide itself has no information (the caption is added to the scan), but we have a small notebook called “A Library of Lantern Slides” that provides something more.
Informative, but very, very basic.
Now, the treasure:
And to bring this treasure to light, to make it relevant and useful, here’s a transcription, not only because reading Emily’s handwriting can be a challenge but also because the electronic text is searchable.
30. “Great Bridge” over Jones River, 1890. Shows bridge “in transition.” Original bridge had 2 square arches, made of huge stones chinked with smaller stones and cobble. A square arch (shown) farther to the north took care of extra flow water in time of flood or freshet. Later the double arch was rebuilt and gave way to a single round arch shown . See # for the way it looks now.
At the extreme left is the house built by Theophilus Stetson, now owned by Charles McManus.
The picture was taken either in 1866 when they were laying our water mains or in 1890 when the street car system (trolley electric) was being installed. As you see, they are either raising a pole (a trolley pole) or lowering a length of pipe into the trench. It looks like one pole in front of the McManus house.
Now, despite the new questions that spring to mind (what # does she mean? when is “now” given that the cards aren’t dated? 1866 or 1890?), we know a lot more than we did before, not just about this picture but about the bridge itself, and the house, and the projects Emily mentions.
The second major phase of our ongoing project to digitize our local history materials and put them online for everyone to explore is to find as many descriptive sources as possible, like the shoe box, and connect them electronically to scans of the photographs. In the first phase, every one of the more that 7,000 photographs, lantern slides and other pictorial materials was appropriately housed, individually numbered and basically described. Now, however, we need to draw electronic connections among the collections and show this wonderful tangled web of Kingston history online.
One great example is the database of buildings we are creating from the 1998 Kingston Historical Commission House Survey. The information sheets for each house fill nine big notebooks; each record has been annotated and connected to photographs and other collections and resources over the last decade. To this “modern” information, the Local History Room volunteers are transcribing Emily’s notes from the shoe box, along with other historic data, so that for many houses and places and people and events we will have comprehensive, centralized, searchable information to linked to pictures — the whole story of a bridge, a house, a place illustrated. This will be a long journey, but please come along for the ride!
Over the centuries, Kingston residents have served in the armed forces when necessary, and throughout that time, the town as a whole has honored that service and sacrifice. Here is a brief look at a few of the monuments around town that set in stone the town’s gratitude to its citizen soldiers.
The same spirit that led Kingston to gain independence from Plymouth in 1726 made the town ready to support opposition to British rule fifty years later. In the winter of 1775, Kingston selectmen joined other towns of Plymouth County in signing a remonstrance against the crown, and began to prepare for the crisis soon to come. Men were recruited for a company of “minute men” and when Lexington called, shipbuilders and farmers dropped their tools and marched first to Marshfield, then on to Concord. Kingston sent her full quota to the Continental Army — 61 men, half of the adult male population from a town whose residents numbered just over 900. The town also provided coats for these troops, and sent others to man the fort built in 1777 at the Gurnet alongside men from Duxbury and Plymouth.
Subsequent wars brought equal responses from the town’s citizens. In the War of 1812, 30 Kingston men enlisted, most serving coast guard duty at the Gurnet. With an economy heavily dependent on shipping and ship-building, Kingston’s prosperity was certainly threatened by this war with Britain, and citizen responded once more. In the War of the Rebellion, now more commonly called the Civil War, Kingston sent 189 soldiers to fight, 19 more than the required quota. Of a population of 1626, one in nine served; a total of 14 were casualties of the hostilities. The town treasury paid out more than $11,000 ($5,574 from private donations) in soldier’s relief.
In 1883, a monument was raised on the Town Green, also known as the Training Ground, to honor those Kingstonians who fought for national unity. Mrs. Abigail Adams personally funded the monument, while the Martha Sever Post No. 154 of the Grand Army of the Republic paid for the dedication ceremonies, pictured below.
In 1926, the town honored the 132 doughboys and nurses who fought in World War I with a monument on Patuxet Hill, at the intersection of Green and Summer Streets; the formal dedication took place on Memorial Day, May 30, the following year. The machine guns were donated by the Kingston American Legion.
The monument to those who served in the Second World War was erected in 1953 on Main Street near the bypass over Route 3. Another memorial to veterans of foreign wars, specifically Korea and Vietnam, stands in front of the Faunce School on Green Street, while the newest Kingston monument, this one honoring soldiers missing in action, was dedicated at Gray’s Beach on Patriot’s Day, 2005. Life Scout Joe Gibbons spent a year on the project.
The Railroad Bridge over Howland’s Lane
Mr. Isaac Hedges, shown in this snapshot and identified on the back by Emily Drew, was one of the incorporators and later one of the directors of the Old Colony Railroad, as reported in the Nov. 7, 1919 issue of the Old Colony Memorial. This particular photograph is undated, but it was likely taken in the 1870’s, or perhaps even earlier.
The first run on the Boston-Plymouth line was Nov. 10, 1845; there would be two runs that day. By 1849, there were 15 locomotives, 4 baggage cars, 158 freight cars and 4 snowplows busy along the South Shore. The line has been running since, with only a few years of disuse.
We don’t know when the Howland’s Lane bridge over the tracks was built, but in 1998, the Patriot-Ledger reported it standing for at least 60 years. In 1999, it was to be rebuilt — made higher to accomodate the double-decker passenger cars on the current commuter service — but area residents thought this would make the neighborhood unmanageable and the project was not done. In 2008, however, the wooden planks that will be repaired.
Here’s another early but still undated view of an unpaved Howland’s Lane, looking towards Main Street. The buildings at right are no longer standing; the house at left is 59 Main Street.