Easton is a pretty, pleasant suburban community now, but the town began its history as the rough frontier of the Taunton North Purchase and acted as the hunting, fishing and lumbering preserve of early Taunton settlers. Permanent settlement by colonists about 1695 and formal establishment of the town in 1725 led to an impassioned controversy over the location of the town meeting house, which split the early community. The town's industrial history essentially begins with the discovery of bog iron which made Easton part of an important late 17th and 18th century iron producing region in southwestern Massachusetts. The first commercial steel made in the colonies was said to have been made in Easton and was evidently used for muskets. In 1803 the Ames Shovel Company was established, and became nationally known as having provided the shovels which laid the Union Pacific Railroad and opened the west. In 1875 the shovel production of the Ames plant was worth $1.5 million. The Ames family not only shaped the town's economy but also its geography and architecture. In the late 19th century, the family created a remarkable legacy by donating several landmark buildings to the town. This was remarkable not only for its benevolence, but for its architectural significance, since the nationally known architect H.H. Richardson designed Oakes Ames Memorial Hall, the library and the Old Colony Railroad building which now houses the Easton Historical Society, in the impressive Romanesque style. The community has carefully preserved these buildings, as part of the proud heritage of the town. The Ames family also built shops and company housing. In addition, Ames family estates effectively maintained large tracts of open space in the community. Through most of its history the town has retained a small but healthy industrial base that featured the production of the Morse automobile between 1902 and 1914, cotton and thread mills, machine shops making piano casings and piano machinery, and the location of the spring supplying the oldest carbonated beverage company in the country. Despite this industrial activity, the town remained largely rural in feeling. Suburban development since World War II has brought in a significant number of new residents.