Easton, Known as "Shovel Town"

November 20, 2015


The town of Easton in Bristol County, Massachusetts, with a population close to 25,000, is known as "Shovel Town." That's because back in 1803 the "Ames" shovel company was established there.

Most shovels you see now in places like Home Depot were most likely created by this local family. The town is also home to the nation's only shovel museum.

Inside a back room of the old library in Stonehill College is the home to about 800 shovels.

"Our oldest one is from 1774, and our oldest we bought at Home Depot is from 2000," says Nicole Casper, Director of Archives at Stonehill.

It's the work of the Ames family. John Ames and his son Oliver started manufacturing shovels in Easton instead of getting them imported from England. By 1840, the company employed 70 workers and made more than 200,000 shovels.

"Ames shovels were used in the California rush in 1849. They were used in building railroads. They were used in building the eerie canal," said Casper.

Casper says not one shovel in the museum is the same. Some are square, some are deep, some are light, and some are heavy as barbells. Some playing a role in our nation's history.

Probably the most popular and most used shovel to date… is the snow shovel.

"We are getting ready for that time of the year in New England. This is a typical snow shovel from the early 1900's," explains Casper.

The Ames family sold the business in the 1950's to a company in Pennsylvania and what was left was donated to Stonehill College. The Ames Shovel Company where everything was made is located less than two miles from Stonehill College.

The 19 Century industrial complex is now the home to luxury apartments.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next stop in December for Your Town Your Life.