Skip to main content
Cohasset Central Cemetery banner - Articles

Ira Stoughton's Memories of Early Cohasset

South Shore News

From an article in the South Shore News, November 2, 1961, courtesy of Margaret and Ira Stoughton, Jr.

No one has more pride in his hometown than Ira B P Stoughton, a lifelong resident of Cohasset and a town selectman [from 1946 to his death on January 4, 1962]. Actually Stoughton has been mixed up in town affairs for forty years. A former call fireman and special police officer (serving without pay), a member of the Rationing Board during World War II, and a member of numerous town committees, he has seen Cohasset grow tremendously and has seen many changes in town government.

Although he has many memories of his early youth, Stoughton prefers to talk of the new Cohasset [1961] rather than the old. "I am happy about the mingling of the young with the old in town politics and other town affairs," he said. "Years ago newcomers to the town thought they weren't welcome and stayed pretty much to themselves. Now there is much less factionalism and sectionalism and the newcomers join with the old?timers. I am pleased that many younger men have joined town committees and been elected to town office. I feel Cohasset is the finest town in the country and always will be. We have grown tremendously and will keep on growing, but we always will have the best town there is."

In reminiscing, the genial selectman, who was born and raised in the family homestead built in 1722 [and] formerly located on Beechwood Street, remembers when he went to the old Osgood School located across the street from the present Water Department office on Elm Street. "We were transported to school from all over town in horse-drawn, glassed?in barges, pretty Similar to present day buses but drawn by horses, he pointed out. "In the winter we were taken in horse?drawn pungs" . . .

Ira remembers when they wet the [dirt] roads down with horse-drawn tanks with sprayers, which were filled at the hydrants? Streets were cleared of snow by horse-drawn sleds with large logs across [the runners].

"One of my most vivid recollections is that of the late Thomas Lawson, largely responsible for the development of Scituate, or some of his friends riding through town in a 'tally-ho,' a glorified version of the old western stage coach, drawn by six horses," he went on. They would throw candy or sometimes rolls of pennies to the children along the streets."

He remembers clearly the exciting sight of horse-drawn fire trucks racing to a blaze. He also remembers the old Tower [Brothers] coal and grain store, complete with the old black stove around which the men used to gather, located where Hugo's Restaurant [Atlantica] now stands. Tower was town treasurer at the time [1905-1919]. Another fond memory is the small shoe repair shop operated by Philander Bates, situated next to the present Water Department office.

Stoughton picks out three men whom he credits mainly for the development of Cohasset. They were Dr. Oliver Howe, Charles Gammons, and [Edwin L. Furber]. "Cohasset has always been a wealthy town, he said. "But these three men were in the middle-income bracket who [helped form] the old Cohasset Improvement Association in the early 1900s. Dedicated to the town's progress, they [led the campaign to buy] out the old St. John's store located on the site of the present honor roll on the Common; [through their efforts the citizens' group] also bought Tilden's stable, gave the Community Center to the town, and made Sandy Beach accessible to the townspeople, and in general did more to develop the town than anyone else I know."

He explained that the center of the town has not changed as much as many places through the years. The Common was always there and several of the buildings have been there for years. He pointed to the construction of Route 3A in the [thirties], brought about through the efforts of the late William O. Souther, former selectman and representative, as a major step in Cohasset's progress.

"Many people think all this worry of rising taxes is something new, but there has always been concern over tax rates," he continued. "I can remember many years ago, when it cost only about $15,000 to run the town, Abraham Antoine, Sr., reported that his committee, named to discuss the building of a new fire station in North Cohasset, recommended after much study that the action be deferred because of the increasing tax rate."

Ira had a part in the remodeling of Town Hall in the late twenties, when the town offices were [moved from the first to the second] floor. "My father was the mason contractor on that job, and I used to help him by carrying pails of water up the stairs for him," he stated. "And I remember it was a pretty tough job."

He added that the town really began to grow in 1946, and it was about this time that the newcomers to town began to mix in with the older residents. "This meshing of the old and new is a healthy situation," he said.

"I have received many honors, including a personal invitation to President Eisenhower's inauguration," he stated. "But the greatest honor of my life came when I was first elected to the Board of Selectmen. 1 have nothing but pleasant recollections of our town. . ." Stoughton points to the Cohasset Historical Society, Yacht Club, Golf Club, Dramatic Club, the Music Circus and its predecessor, the South Shore Players, as valuable assets to the town. Greatly interested in the youth of the town, he also hailed the Girl Scouts and their summer day camp, Boy Scouts, Red Cross swimming lessons at Sandy Beach, the new . . . Sailing Club, Community Center, Recreation Committee, and Little League for their work with youngsters . . .

Ira Stoughton certainly is a logical choice for "Mr. Cohasset," and the town is just as proud of him as he is of the town.