Appreciative Of Easton History ...
,,, And The People Who Tell It, Record It, Inventory It, And Share It
Kids who have attended Oliver Ames High School through the years have been able to take a wholly educational, fun, and enriching course on local history. In this space, I have touted and shown my appreciation for this part of the OA curriculum.
When I took the class, Hazel Varella, esteemed local historian, taught it. Years later, Mrs. Varella handed off the baton of teaching the class to Ed Hands, himself an accomplished and respected historian.
Both Mrs. Varella and Ed know their subject, are passionate about it, and can teach. Students in any of their classes were enriched.
Actually it was when I was in 5th grade attending Easton Middle School that I had my first formal tutoring in local history. Back then, Easton Middle School, located in the building next to the Rockery where is now the Schoolhouse Apartments, consisted only of two grades: 5th and 6th.
I had Ms. Heath as a homeroom teacher. She also taught us history and English. Ms. Heath taught a section on local history — and I found the course thoroughly engaging.
I guess I got, early on, the Easton and local history bug, and it has remained with me — an affliction that is delightful and ever renewing.
I enthusiastically recommend that Easton people get involved in Easton history. Then again, a warning, it is easy to get hooked.
In this pursuit, and if you haven’t already, you need to familiarize yourself with, and avail yourself to, the resources of the Easton Historical Society . It is a treasure of an organization and people.
Writing this column has provided me a wonderful and fun platform on which to discuss Easton history. And, of course, in writing about this history, I need to do my research — so this improves me.
I like when one of my columns posts and someone will add, in the comments section, some information and history of which I was unaware.
And through my normal meanderings, whether here in Easton or other areas, I am inclined to tell stories of my hometown and bits of pieces of our history tied to national and even international events.
When the Iowa State Cyclones are playing on TV, and I am in company, I will of course let people know that Iowa State is located in Ames, IA, a community named for an Easton guy: Oakes Ames.
When discussion and debate turn to the greatest moments in U.S. sports history, the solid case can be made that the greatest moment was when the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union at Lake Placid. Central and indispensable to that accomplishment was the play of an Easton kid — Jimmy Craig from North Main Street.
I cite, whether in this space, or in public speaking, or conversation, how the the first regiment from the Union — the 4th Massachusetts — to step on to Confederate soil during the Civil War had Easton men in it. When I mention this fact, I propose for consideration the possibility that the first man to literally take the battle to the Confederacy was an Easton guy.
And I am always learning bit of history. Staying on Easton and the Civil War theme — this past Memorial Day ceremonies at the Easton Civil War monument at the nexus of Center St. and Depot St., Ed Hands delivered an interesting speech, which included info new to me.
As Ed presented, Easton men were in the Union regiment — the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Massachusetts militia; it was known at the “Tiger Battalion” — that got together lyrics which it paired with a popular tune created in the American campground spiritual meetings of the early 1800s. The resulting song would become John Brown’s Body, perhaps the most famous U.S. soldier marching ballad ever.
I could go on and on about Oakes and Oliver Ames, brothers, who — with the urging of Pres. Abraham Lincoln — took a leadership role in completing an epic civic works project that was fundamental to making America the greatest nation on the planet: the Transcontinental Railroad.
H. H. Richardson. Frederick Law Olmsted. Stanford White. Augustus Saint- Gaudens. John LaFarge.
An all-star list of American designers, artists, architects.
Yes, you can find the physical manifestations of all their genius here.
I could write a book about the significant role Easton has played in the annals of our republic. Hmmm. There's an idea.
Avail yourself, in whatever way, to learning about and immersing yourself in, and becoming more familiar with, the heritage and history of Easton.
You will happy for it — and, I dare say, better for it as well.