Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Knight of Columbus Burned Out of Town 1899-1904

The first Knights of Columbus charter was incorporated under the laws of Connecticut on March 29, 1882. The organization is named in honor of Christopher Columbus and is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. The first council in Massachusetts was established in Boston on April 10, 1892 and one of the first councils established in southeastern Massachusetts was the Foxboro Council 409.

In the Autumn of 1898 work was begun simultaneously in Foxboro and Mansfield to organize councils of Knights of Columbus. When interest in the undertakings had been thoroughly aroused, it was evident to those at the head of the movement that due the number of Catholic men in the area one council for both towns was the best strategy. Throughout the following spring negotiations between the aspirants of the two towns and representatives of the State Council met concerning organizing a council.

On March 7, 1899 at the National Convention of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut it was announced that the Knights of Columbus will soon come into existence in Foxboro. The Foxboro Reporter described the June 7, 1899 ceremony establishing the council. It newspaper reported, "Early Saturday morning a delegation from Quincy arrived on a special train and was quartered in the Cocasset House. Another delegation arrived from Norwood on two special electric cars. Delegations also arrived from Hyde Park, South Boston, and Attleboro. The ceremonies lasted until 9:30 PM that evening. There were thirty-four charter members including: James W. Brennan as Grand Knight; George C. Shields as Deputy Grand Knight; and Fr. Broderick as Chaplain. The council was organized under the name "Foxboro Council #420." The thirty-four charter members were almost evenly divided between Foxboro and Mansfield. Transportation between the two towns was easily facilitated by the electric trolley line. The quarters for the Knights of Columbus is located on the second floor of William's and Appleby's Hall on Cocasset Street."

During the next three years the organization was known for holding dances for entertainment and raising funds. A typical dance was attended by about fifty to seventy-five couples. There would be a musical concert, dancing, a grand march, and dinner would be served at midnight. A special evening was the annual "Ladies Night." Typically, the hall was decorated throughout with banners, flags, and the organizations motto, "Equity; Unity; Charity; and Hail, Columbus."
In early 1902 the Foxboro Reporter described the attempted and later successful arson of the Knights of Columbus meeting hall, "The building had two weeks earlier been the scene of an attempted arson, a lighted candle being placed in a box of excelsior in the rear, the latter being soaked in oil. Fortunately the candle extinguished... Two days later the meeting hall was destroyed when the William's and Appleby's Block was torched. When the firemen arrived, the door at the main entrance to the stairway was found unlocked and the flames were making good headway at the right and the back of the above door where there is every indication that the incendiary commenced and completed his preparations."

The article bespoken the formerly unmentionable asking, "Is it not time that something was done to stay the destruction of property in Foxboro through evident incendiarism? There is no doubt in anyone's mind but this is the cause of these recent fires as well as several of the previous ones within the past two years...efforts to solve the mystery of incendiary fires in Foxboro during the past two or three years, has been in vain thus far." In1900 between the first week of March and the end of June there were eighteen suspicious fires in Foxboro which destroyed not only barns, shops in the center of town, large tracts of forest but also the Union Straw Works and the Town Hall.

Undeterred, two weeks after the fire the Knights of Columbus held their third annual "Ladies Night" in the Odd Fellows Hall. Over a hundred and twenty-five couples attended the affair. As if in defiance of their situation the Foxboro Reporter stated, "The Charter if the K of C that passed through the recent fire occupied a prominent place in front of the principal platform. This Charter with its frame was considerably scorched; in fact the whole Charter showed the ravages of the fire, but nearly the entire work is still legible, and is a valuable souvenir of that memorable fire."

During March 1904, in response to the stress and fear of safety for themselves and their families, the membership of the Knights of Columbus voted unanimously, "to hereafter hold the meetings of the Council in Gifford's Hall in Mansfield." Two years later on June 4, 1906 the Foxboro Council was changed to the Mansfield Council 420. Sixty-four years later during the latter part of February 1968 organizational meetings were held concerning forming a new Foxboro Council, Knights of Columbus. On May 7, 1968 the Foxboro Council, Knights of Columbus 6063 was chartered.


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