Ezra Beaman was one of West Boylston’s town founders. A veteran of the Revolutionary War and a fierce advocate for West Boylston’s independence, Ezra Beaman became a local hero. Below are photographs of Ezra Beaman’s grandson and his wife.
Jabez Rice (1793-1867) was Ezra’s grandson through his daughter Betsey Beaman and her husband, Luther Rice. Jabez's wife was Mary (Pierce) Rice who lived 1794-1882. They lived in the West Boylston area until their deaths. Jabez and Mary’s son, George Calvin Rice, donated a sum of money and a patch of land to the town in 1911. The town used this money to build the Beaman Memorial Public Library, so named to honor George Calvin Rice’s great-grandfather. His parents’ photographs are a reminder of the family that gave this town its beloved library.
The story of West Boylston’s incorporation is one of shifting town boundaries, independence movements, and long treks to attend church. At one time, West Boylston was part of the town of Lancaster, as were most of the other towns in the surrounding area.
More and more Europeans immigrated to Massachusetts in the 17th and 18th centuries. Fledgling communities grew in different parts of Lancaster, and many people desired their own own town meetinghouse and local parish. In 1727, the town of Shrewsbury split off from Lancaster. The territory that would one day become West Boylston was now a part of Shrewsbury.
Later, the towns of Sterling and Holden incorporated, and they took parts of Shrewsbury and Lancaster. After the American Revolution, the people of what is now Boylston were tired of traveling all the way to Shrewsbury to attend church. So, they broke away from Shrewsbury in 1786.
Ezra Beaman, our charismatic "Town Father," spearheaded a campaign to break off from Boylston and form a distinct town with our own local parish--cutting down travel times to church in Boylston. After decades of petitions and meetings with the State General Court, West Boylston was finally incorporated in 1808. Parts of Sterling, Holden, and Boylston--all once part of Lancaster and Shrewsbury--broke away and came together to create the town of West Boylston. It is no exaggeration to say that every part of West Boylston has been part of at least three different towns.
You can see a map below detailing which parts of town came from neighboring towns. If you would like to learn more about our town's history, take a look at Helen Maxwell Hamilton's History of West Boylston. Hamilton wrote the book as her Clark University Master's thesis in 1954. The book was updated and printed again in 2000, and several copies can be found at our library
On the small triangle of grass in front of the library sits the Beaman Watering Trough. We’ve mentioned the trough in past posts. Maj. Ezra Beaman, Esq., our Town Founder, placed it in 1808 outside Beaman Tavern in the shade of a buttonwood tree. According to local legend, Ezra filled the trough with rum punch and threw a big bash at his tavern when West Boylston officially became a town.
The photo below shows the watering trough as it looks today. At the top is a carving of the Beaman Oak. The writing reads: “E. B. Esq., Sept. 10 A.D. 1808.” Also visible on the left is the spigot protruding from the stone.
Thanks to Rob Smith, local historian and photographer, for this great photograph.
The Beaman Watering Trough originally stood outside Beaman Tavern, the historic home constructed in the mid-1700s by town founder Ezra Beaman. It stood beside a large buttonwood tree at the edge of the property which Ezra himself planted. Horses could stop to drink from the trough when their owners visited the Tavern. The picture below depicts a horse sating its thirst beside the buttonwood tree.
According to local legend, Ezra filled the trough with rum punch on the day of the town’s incorporation and invited the townspeople to partake in the drink and celebrate with him. Ezra inscribed: "E.B. Sept. 10, A.D. 1808" on the trough's water pump to commemorate the official foundation of the town.
The trough moved to several different private residences after Beaman Tavern was sold in 1863. The Tavern became a mill workers’ tenement and was eventually destroyed with the arrival of the reservoir, but the trough survived. In 1930, the watering trough came to its current location: outside of the Beaman Memorial Library. Today the trough stands at the intersection of Newton and Central Street as a reminder of the town’s enthusiastic founder.
Fun fact: embedded in the ground before the watering trough is the actual front step from the original Beaman Tavern.