Man About Canton: Welcome to Canton

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Did you know …

MAC is out of town in Florida, so this week’s column will consist of facts and information contained in Canton’s History and Demographic Report, which is full of basic town information that you may or may not know but should.

Welcome to Canton sign in front of the Canton Viaduct (Canton Garden Club photo)

Welcome to Canton sign in front of the Canton Viaduct (Canton Garden Club photo)

For instance, today’s Canton was originally part of the large colonial grant of Dorchester, settled in 1630 and set off as Ponkapoag in 1650. It was separated from Dorchester as the town of Stoughton in 1727, and in 1797, when Samuel Adams was governor of Massachusetts, Precinct 1 of Stoughton separated to become the town of Canton.

The total area of Canton is 19.6 square miles, which includes 18.9 square miles of land and 0.6 square miles of water, and our elevation above sea level has been measured at 100 feet at the Town Hall.

According to the town clerk’s office, our population as of February 1, 2015, was 20,735, a number that has not fluctuated too much over the last 10 years, but is down slightly from last year. This results in a density of 1,050 persons per square mile. There are 8,274 households, 5,356 single families, 1,358 condos, and 34 apartment complexes in Canton. There are also 247 two-family and three-family households. Presently, there are about 14,738 registered voters.

Canton is bound by the towns and cities of Milton, Randolph, Stoughton, Sharon, Norwood, Westwood, Dedham, and Boston. Our town lies at the foot of the Great Blue Hill. The Canton River flows through the center of town, linking a chain of small ponds and lakes, including Bolivar and Forge Ponds, and flows into the Neponset River.

Ponkapoag Pond is a hidden jewel in Canton. It is the largest pond in Canton and is situated in the northeastern part of the town. The dividing line between Canton and Randolph passes through it. The pond is more than a mile long and nearly a mile wide, and it contains 217 acres, most of them in Canton. Its altitude is 148 feet above sea level.

Canton has the open town meeting form of government, and each spring all registered voters of the town may attend the town meeting to discuss such matters as construction, schools, public works, recreational facilities, the budget, taxes and bond issues.

The five elected members of the Board of Selectmen serve as the chief executive officers of the town to oversee the day-to-day operations. They are assisted by a town administrator, a title formerly known as executive secretary.

The first elected selectmen in the town of Canton were Deacon Benjamin Tucker, Nathan Crane and Elijah Crane. They were elected on March 6, 1797.

Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere (1735-1818) lived in Canton from 1801 until his death in 1818 on what today is Revere Street. He started his rolled copper and bell foundry business here at what today is the former Plymouth Rubber Company industrial plant on Revere Street. The company, which is now known as the Revere Copper and Brass Company, moved from Canton many years ago. Revere affectionately called his home “Canton Dale” and composed a poem about his love for the town.

Revolutionary War hero Roger Sherman (1721-1793) grew up in Canton before moving to Connecticut as a young man. As a member of the Second Continental Congress, he was part of the elite five-member committee, along with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Robert Livingston, to draw up the Declaration of Independence. Sherman has the distinction of being the only person to sign all four of the most important documents in early American history: The Articles of the Continental Association (1774), Declaration of Independence (1776), Articles of Confederation (1777), and the United States Constitution (1787).

Canton was also the birthplace of Commodore John Downes (1784-1854), who sailed on the first cruise of “Old Ironsides” as a 14-year-old waiter and made the Navy a career. He was a hero of the war with the Barbary pirates at Tripoli and also the War of 1812. As commander of the USS Wasp, he captured two English military frigates for which he received a presidential citation.

For years, the Gridley School has stood in Canton as a monument to General Richard Gridley of the Continental Army. A close associate of George Washington, Gridley was appointed by him as the first General of American Artillery and also chief of the Corps of Engineers. He was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill while supervising the fortification he had engineered.

The naming of the town of Canton was the whim of one individual, the town’s first moderator and part-time surveyor, the Honorable Elijah Dunbar, who said that Canton was directly antipodal to Canton, China, “and for that reason should be so called.” On February 23, 1797, Canton was made a separate town from Stoughton, and it was approved by then governor of Massachusetts Samuel Adams.

Today, there are 23 Cantons in the United States. Canton, Massachusetts shares its name with the Cantons in Arkansas, Connecticut, North Dakota, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Canton, Massachusetts was the first named Canton in the United States.

In the early 1830s, Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, and leading transcendentalist, lived on Pleasant Street and taught in the Canton Public Schools. The Transcendentalist Movement, which in these years had begun to achieve international interest, probably had much of its start in Canton.

Canton has many acres of open space and recreational facilities, which play a key role in the quality of life and economic vitality in the town. When you combine the parks, playgrounds, golf courses, and protected state-owned land, open space accounts for more than 25 percent of the town land area. Canton is a prime location, 16 miles south of Boston, 35 minutes to downtown Providence, and only 18 miles to Logan Airport. It also has commuter rail service (Canton Junction and Route 128) and access to routes 24 and 138 and interstates 93 and 95. All of this makes the town of Canton an attractive place to call home. When you include the highly rated public schools, fire and police departments, and its recreation, arts, and cultural programs, it all adds up to why Canton is a great place to work and live. MAC, a lifelong resident, is proud to call Canton his hometown.

That is all for now folks. See you next week.

Joe DeFelice can be reached at manaboutcanton@aol.com.

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