In the 1910s, the Rabideau family moved to
Easthampton, Massachusetts from Clinton County, New York. They came in search of work and a future. As lumberjacks and forest workers, their future and earnings were becoming increasingly limited in upper New York and the promise of work in the mills of Massachusetts was alluring. Neither Frederick Louis Rabideau nor his brothers had an education. By 1920 the boys Alexander (18), Frederick (15) and Victor (16) were working in a plastic mill as laborers supporting the family. Alexander Rabideau (the boy’s father) and Florinda nee Simard were unemployed.
The following history was written in the 1890s and may be found on the internet at the Historic Easthampton site.
Easthampton is a delightful and prosperous manufacturing, educational and farming town in the southern part of Hampshire County, on the New Haven and Northampton Railroad, about 90 miles west from Boston, five miles from Northampton. It has Northampton on the north, a dissevered section of the same town (including Mount Tom) on the east, Holyoke and Southampton on the south, and the latter and Westhampton on the west. The territory is triangular in general form, with its base to the north. It has an assessed area of 7,325 acres, of which 1,304 acres are forest, principally of pine and chestnut. Along the well kept streets of the older villages, also, are great numbers of maple and elm, many having a growth of 75 years, and few less than 20 years. The Manhan River flows northeasterly through the middle of the town, emptying into the Connecticut at a westward curve called “The Oxbow.” Broad Branch, coming into the town from the south, and North Branch at the northwest angle, are tributaries of the Manhan River, and, with it, furnishing valuable motive-power. The formative rock is lower sandstone. The face of the town is undulating, with mountains rising about on almost every side. The most prominent of these is Mount Tom, at the southeastern border, which attains the altitude of 1,214 feet, forming a magnificent sky outline to the landscape on that side. The railway, which follows the valley of the Manhan River, affords excellent points of view for this mountain ridge. The soil in this town is sandy loam, with much clay subsoil, and generally fertile; uniformly yielding good crops of hay, rye, oats, potatoes and tobacco. The greenhouse product in 1885 had a value of upwards of $3,000. The aggregate farm product was $154,038. The manufactures are numerous. The leading establishments are the “Williston Mills” (having two mills), the Nashawannick Manufacturing Company (three mills), the Glendale Company (three mills), the Easthampton Rubber Thread Company, Williston and Knight Company, George S. Colton, and the Valley Machine Company. The principal products are cotton prints, suspenders, buttons, elastic webs, rubber and silk goods, machinery, castings, whips, bricks, and food preparations. The value of the aggregate product of these and other manufactures in the census year of 1885 was $1,945,488. There is one national and one savings bank. The valuation of the town in 1888 was $2,397,279, with a tax-rate of $14 on $1,000. The population was 4,291; of whom 785 were voters. The dwelling-houses numbered 815. The postal villages are Easthampton and Mount Tom; and others are Factory Village and New City. Easthampton has an excellent town-hall, which cost originally $65,000; also an elegant public library building, containing about 10,000 volumes. The grading of the public schools is complete; and fifteen buildings, valued at upwards of $25,000, are devoted to their use. The Williston Seminary has a library of about 2,000 volumes. This institution was founded by the Hen. Samuel Williston, and has cost upwards of $250,000. I t was opened for students December 2, 1841, and has commodious buildings and a complete outfit for a school of its kind.
Professional Basketball in 1920s Easthampton, Massachusetts. I found this interesting tidbit of Easthampton history on the web. These events occurred about the time of my father’s birth and seemed informative of the the time and place that was Easthampton, Massachusetts.
During the 1920s, pro basketball players played for semi-pro teams. Such a team was located in Easthampton and used the present upper Town Hall as their home. The NBA and the current popularity of basketball did not yet exist. The most talented teams were barnstorming squads that used New York for their base of operations such as the New York Celtics, the Original Celtics, and the New York Whirlwinds. Players moved rather freely between teams. An opponent one night could be a teammate the next. No arenas existed in those days, so large areas, such as a town hall floor, would be partitioned off with chicken wire, (the source of the name ‘cagers’ for players), and a game would be played. A band and dancing would usually follow the game. The Easthampton team was an offshoot of the Turn [Verein] (a local athletic club), basketball team. According to the 1935 Anniversary Book, the team started with local players, but gradually recruited outside talent. The first mention of the professional team in the Daily Hampshire Gazette was in 1920.
The Easthampton Team played in the Interstate League. Also in this circuit, were teams from Holyoke, Springfield, Adams, Turner’s Falls, Westfield, Albany, NY and Thompsonville, CT. The 1921 and 1922 teams had some good players. The stars of the team were Barney Sedran, the self described ‘midget guard’, and forward Marty Friedman.
Together, they played as a combo for many teams. Nat Holman, long time coach for the City College of New York, regarded both as super-stars of the era and Sedran as one of the greatest guards ever. Both had injuries that curtailed their playing time in Easthampton.
The third star was Honey Russell, a guard. Although only 18 when he came to Easthampton, he had been a pro since his midteens. He was a defensive specialist. Russell played for many years and later coached Seton Hall in the 1940s and 50s. He was also the first coach of the Boston Celtics.
Freedman, Sedran and Russell have been inducted in the Hall of Fame in Springfield. Sedran’s plaque has him in his Easthampton uniform. Freedman’s biography at the Hall mentions playing here. All three began playing in town in 1921.
Another player was Em Grayson, a forward. He was captain at Mass Aggie (now University of Massachusetts, Amherst) in 1916-17 and 1919-20, he later coached there and at Amherst College.
Harry ‘Man-o-War’ Riconda was a forward in 1921 and 22. Once with the Original Celtics, he had the reputation as a tough player. ‘Hot’ Haggerty of Springfield had several stays in Easthampton. In 1922, he left Springfield’s team to play for Easthampton then quit to play for the Original Celtics. He again played for Easthampton in 1923. From newspaper accounts, he was a very popular player.
Others came and went. A player named Bernot was at center for a few games in 1922, left and came back in 1923. Billy Sullivan played in 1921 and moved to the Adams team. ‘Stretch’ Meehan, a 6’9″ center was used as a drawing card in 1921. Bob Jackson, a center also played in 1921.
The league suffered financial difficulties. To recoup some losses, the Original Celtics came in 1922 to play each team in the circuit. An ad billed them as the World Champs of the previous year. Easthampton emerged victorious by the score of 18 to 12. Sedran led all players with 7 points and held Celtic star Nat Holman to gust one point.
After the season, Sedran, Friedman, Russell and Riconda all left to play other circuits. On February 5, 1923 the team moved to Northampton. The season and the entire league ended the next month.