This presentation was given at the Easthampton Congregational Church on October 11, 2014, part of the Easthampton CityArts+ monthly Art Walk. The text and graphics have been slightly modified for this blog.
At the time of New England’s Great Awakening, when Jonathan Edwards was pastor in Northampton, Easthampton did not exist. There were a few landholders in the village of Pascommuck, out on what is now East Street. Late in life Edwards would recall that around 1730 “there began to appear a remarkable religious concern at a little village belonging to the congregation, called Pascommuck . . . at this place a number of persons seemed to be savingly wrought upon.”
Note Edwards’ phrase, “little village belonging to the congregation.” In colonial Massachusetts, church and town were interdependent. One could not exist without the other. In 1781 Easthampton residents, citing the growing size of their village, petitioned for severance from Northampton. Attending services in Northampton cannot have been convenient – it was a ride or walk of five or more miles, over roads that barely deserved the name.
Anticipating the success of their request, they began construction of a meeting house on the town common, now the rotary. However, Southampton, only recently independent and perhaps fearing the dilution of their own small congregation, blocked the petition. It was not until June of 1785 that the Northampton church agreed to the formation of an Easthampton parish, thus allowing the town of Easthampton to be incorporated. The following November, 46 adults were dismissed from the Northampton church to form the first congregation in Easthampton. 15 Southampton families followed, and the congregation was formally organized on November 17. Continue reading →
Each fall Archivist Rick Teller ’70 speaks to the assembled School on some aspect of Williston Northampton history. The event, popularly known as “the button speech,” only occasionally concerns buttons at all. But this year it did. These remarks were delivered on Friday, September 20, 2013.
Good morning. At solemn occasions … like hockey games … we sing about someone named “Sammy.” Our hearts yearn for him … for his campus and geriatric elm. But, you might well ask, about whom do we sing? Just who was “Sammy?”
Samuel Williston was born across the street, in a house located where the Homestead now stands. The house, where Mr. Swanson lives and which we now call “The Birthplace,” was moved across Park Street in 1843. It is much grander now than it was when Sam arrived.
That was in 1795. George Washington was President. Easthampton was a small farm village. Samuel’s father, Payson Williston, was the minister in Easthampton’s only church. Payson was a stern, old-fashioned New England preacher, with strong Calvinist leanings. We will get to Calvinism in a minute. The Reverend Mr. Williston’s salary was tiny, and he had a house full of children. He added to his income by planting a few acres of mediocre farmland. That farm is now the heart of our magnificent campus.
Long after she’d stopped sewing buttons herself, Emily Graves Williston remained responsible for instructing other employees of the S. Williston Button Co. (See the earlier post, The Button Mill.) According to Baron of Buttons, a highly entertaining, if occasionally spurious unpublished biography of Samuel Williston by Guy Richard Carpenter, class of 1905, Emily told her charges that
“Buttons on a girl’s dress are just as noticeable as her nose. Buttons should be trim and neat and they should set so well that they give a burnish to her whole turnout. One fraying button or one loose button, to my eye, is like a sunburned, peeling nose — I just can’t bring myself to see anything else. Buttons of choice silk and true color make the whole dress seem richer. I like to think all our buttons make folk look and feel richer. Father Payson says that on a girl a pretty button, like a pretty nose, is not to be sneezed at.” (G. R. Carpenter, Baron of Buttons, undated typescript, The Williston Northampton Archives)
One of the things we at Williston Northampton try to instill in our history students is a critical facility concerning information sources: perhaps a healthy dose of skepticism when data or quotes of questionable provenance seem just too good to be true. This would appear to be one of those instances. But it’s still a good quote!
Your comments and questions are encouraged! Please use the space below.