"Without the dedication and interest of members of the Eaton family, Wakefield would not be in possession of such detailed accounts of her history. Several members of the family have recorded important data, chronicled the information and presented it to the town during an anniversary or dedication ceremony throughout the years. Much of the interest in the town's history was stirred by Lilley Eaton, a descendant of Jonas Eaton, one of the early settlers. Lilley once said he found delight in his quest 'to inquire after the old paths and to walk therein.' Lilley Eaton was born on January 13, 1802 and was brought up in his father's store at the corner of Main and Salem Streets. His father, himself active in municipal affairs, would welcome transient clergymen in the home which soon became known as 'the Pilgrim's Hotel.' On the upper floors of this dwelling, his father held religious and social meetings attended by members of the Young Baptist Society. It was in this environment that Lilley Eaton grew, both in mind and body. He attended Bradford Academy, but his education was cut short by the sudden death of his father in 1822. He returned home and being the eldest son, assumed the responsibilities of the family business. His knowledge of town affairs and his business sense soon elevated him to a position of respect within his hometown. He was involved in all aspects of town government, serving as a Selectman for 25 years, Representative to the General Court for seven years, Senator for two years, a member of the School Board for 25 years, Town Clerk for 20 years, a Trustee of the Public Library from its inception, a Justice of the Peace for 28 years, and served as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1853. He was the principal writer of deeds and wills in the town, transacted considerable probate business and served as administrator, executor and guardian for the settlement of several estates. Mr. Eaton was active not only in town office, but in other endeavors of the town. He served on several committees, including the South Reading Academy, the Town House of 1834, the South Reading Stage Company, the High School, the South Reading Mechanical and Agricultural Institution, the South Reading Lyceum, the South Reading Bank, the Citizens' Gas Light Company, the Public Library and Reading Room, the Lakeside Cemetery and the change of the town's name to Wakefield. It was also Lilley Eaton's influence which brought about the system of common schools in Wakefield. He was instrumental, too, in shaping municipal government in South Reading. His talent shone the brightest in his 'History of Reading.' a complete, detailed history of the current towns of Wakefield, Reading, and North Reading. The last years of his life were spent laboring over the book. Lilley Eaton died on January 16, 1872 before the finishing touches were completed. The task of completing the chronicles was performed by his brother John Sullivan Eaton and the work was printed in 1874. Younger by several years, John Eaton was a civil engineer by education and trade, but was in possession of a rare literary talent and was a genuine poet. He wrote and recited poems for several celebrations held in the town during his lifetime. He, too, served as a Selectman for 13 years, an Assessor for 5 years and was the Overseer of the Poor for 6 years. In 1858 he was a Representative to the General Court." -- Text from calendar by Jayne M. D'Onofrio.
Image from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department annual calendar, 1989
Photos courtesy of the Wakefield Historical Society.