LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
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)ORCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Old Blake House
AND A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE
DORCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
JAMES H. STARK
VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE DORCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
OLD BLAKE HOUSE
Open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 2 >,to 5 P.M.
JANUARY 1, 1907
DORCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
President, RICHARD C. HUMPHREYS
Vict-Prtiidtnt, JAMES H. STARK
Secretary and Treasurer, JOHN A. FOWLE
EDW'D A. HUEBNER JAMES H. STARK
EUGENE R. SHIPPEN EDWD W. McGLENNAN
JOHN A. FOWLE
HISTORY OF THE OLD BLAKE HOUSE
By James H. Stark,
vice-president of the dorchester historical society,
On April 6, 1891, William H. Whitmore, City Registrar, and
iVlr. James H. Stark obtained a special act of the legislature
incorporating the Dorchester Historical Society. This society
succeeded the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society,
which was organized on Jan. 27, 1843; but at the organizing:
of the new society its membership had been reduced to but
three members, namely: Edmund J. Baker, President; Henry
G. Denny, Secretary; and WiUiam B. Trask, Curator.
The new society started with a membership of twenty-fiv€.
Since then many of the most well-known and influential men
of the old town have become members.
Among the results of the society's work may be mentioned
the observance of the 274th anniversary of the settle-
ment of Dorchester and the inauguration of Dorchester Day,
which is now a fixture, and under the auspices of the society
the anniversary is observed yearly, and is practically a "Home
Coming" for the residents of old Dorchester that are scattered
throughout the land. Business houses and private residences
are elaborately decorated. There are parades, addresses, re-
gattas, ringing of bells, fireworks, etc.
The principal purpose of the society is to collect, preserve,
and publish information concerning the ancient town of Dor-
The activity and industry of its members since its incorpora-
tion have contributed much to the general interest in Colonial
and Revolutionary annals, and many scenes of national his-
toric importance before unheeded and ahnost unknown have
become through research and publication famihar.
Among the results of the society's work may be mentioned
the location from ancient records of the site on which stood the
first town meeting-house and the first pubhc school.
April II, 1894, the society celebrated the looth anni-
versary of the birth of Edward Everett, who was born in the
old mansion on the corner of Boston and Pond Streets, at the
^'Five Corners." A public meeting was held in Winthrop
Hall, at which delegations from the Board of Aldermen and
Common Council took part in the services. An eloquent ora-
tion was delivered by Rev. James De Normandie, and addresses
were made by Alderman Boardman Hall, Dr. Elbridge Smith,
and others. Mr. James H. Stark gave a history of the Edward
Everett mansion, which prior to the Revolution was occupied
by Thomas Oliver, the last royal lieutenant-governor of Massa-
^chusetts. A finely illustrated volume was afterward published
under the direction of Mr. WiUiam H. Whitmore, the Presi-
dent of the society, giving a full account of the proceedings.
The one thing that the society stood in most need of since its
existence was a building in which it could hold its meetings and
store its archives and historic treasures. The meetings in the
past had been held at the residence of its members; but it has
now a headquarters which it can call its own, and that, too, in
-a historic location and building.
Valuable House Secured.
The city purchased a lot of land to be used for greenhouse
purposes on Massachusetts Avenue, near Five Corners, Dor-
chester. On this lot was situated one of the oldest Colonial
bouses in Dorchester, which was offered to the Historical So-
ciety, if they would remove the same. Mr. John H. Blake,
Dr. Clarence J. Blake, descendants of the settler who built
the house, and other members of the family, very generously
offered $1,000 towards the expense of moving and restoring it.
Another $1,000 was subscribed by members and others. The
city allowed the building to be moved upon the triangular piece
of land at the junction of Pond Street and the Parkway, at the
Five Corners, opposite the Edward Everett mansion. This
land was given to the city a few years ago by the late Mr.
Richardson, the owner of the Edward Everett house, and was
the site of the first town -meeting house and first free school.
The city also contributed another $i,ooo for grading and laying
out the grounds surrounding the building.
The society intend to furnish and fit up the house in Colonial
style. The furniture will be given by the descendants of the
early Dorchester settlers, many of whom still reside in Dor-
chester, and who will avail themselves of this opportunity of
preserving and handing down to future generations their family
heirlooms. A portion of the building will be set off for a mu-
seum and library, which will contain relics of the Indians and
early settlers of Dorchester and every work obtainable relating
to the early history of the town.
The following history of the old Blake house was prepared
and read by Mr. James H. Stark at a recent meeting of the
society, and was greatly appreciated by the members: —
History of the Blake House and Family.
The ancient and respectable family of Blake is of British
extraction, and traditionally descended from Aplake, whose
name appears as one of the Knights of King Arthur's Table.
Succeeding generations, however, seem to have paid little at-
tention to the orthography of the name, so variously do we find
In the first instance, by dropping the initial letter it was
rendered P-Blake, and then, by compression, Plake, one en-
tire word, both of which alike produce a sound and utterance
uncouth and unharmonious. It was corrupted into Blague,
to the confusion of all etymological explanation, had it so con-
tinued, but chance or design applied a remedy by substituting
Blaake, and ultimately Blake, which latter reading took place
many centuries back, and has continued invariably the same
from that period.
In a " Genealogical History of William Blake of Dorchester,"
published in 1857, appears the statement that the emigrant to
New England was the son of Giles Blake, of Little Baddow,
Essex, and the record of several generations of the family is
given. The substance of this record is trustworthy as being
a copy from "Morant's History of Essex," but the statement
that the Dorchester settler was of this family was unwarranted
by any evidence. Subsequently the late H. G. Somerby, Esq.,
by request of Stanton Blake, Esq., made extended researches
in England to determine the origin of the American family. He
finally located it at Over Stowey, Somerset, and the results of
his investigations were pubHshed in 1881 by W. H. Whitmore,
Esq., in "A Record of the Blakes of Somersetshire."
A Blake in 1594.
The evidences upon which Mr. Somerby based his conclu-
sions were: first, the record of a baptism in 1594, at Over
Stowey, of a William Blake (son of Robert and grandson of
John), the date corresponding to the age of the emigrant at
death; and, second, the fact that a sister of this William, in
her will of date 1647, mentioned a "brother in New England,"
no name, however, being given. While this evidence was not
all that could be desired, it was generally accepted as correct,
and the pedigree has been copied in several other genealogical
In 1881 Rev. Charles M. Blake, U.S.A., while visiting in
England, was shown by William Blake, Esq., of South Pether-
ton, a genealogical chart of the "Blakes of Somersetshire,"
prepared by William Arthur Jones, Esq., A.M.
An examination of this chart led Mr. Blake to visit Pitminster,
four miles from Taunton, where he found upon the parish
registers sufficient evidence to convince him that this was the
early home of his ancestor, William Blake, but he was unable
at that time to give the matter further attention.
Recently investigations have been made by Francis E. Blake,
through correspondence with the vicar of the parish and with
Edward J. Blake, Esq., of Crewkerne. The latter himself ex-
amined the registers of Pitminster and Over Stowey, and he
has had a careful examination made of wills and other original
sources of information for the purpose of determining his own
line of descent and verifying the chart referred to. The result
of these researches, so far as relates to the American family,
were very courteously copied for Francis E. Blake, and forms
the basis of Blake genealogy.
The following records relating to this branch of the family
appear upon the parish register at Pitminster: —
1588. Grace Blake, daughter of Willm Blake, was baptized the 9th day
1592. Erne Blake, daughter of William Blake, was baptized the third
day of December.
1594. William Blake, son of William Blake, was baptized the loth day
1597- John Blake, son of William Blake, was baptized the fifteenth day
1600. Ane Blaak, daughter of William Blaak, was baptized the sixteenth
day of October.
1603. Richard Blaak, son of William Blaak, was baptized the seven-
teenth day of April.
161 7. William Blake was married to Agnis Bond, widow, the 27th day
1 618. John Blake, sonne of William Blake, and Ann Blake, daughter
of William Blake, were baptised the day of August.
1620. William Blake, sonne of William Blake, was baptised the 6th of
1624. James Blake, sonne of William Blake, was baptised 27th April.
With this record from Pitminster before us, there cannot be
a shadow of doubt that we have here the family of William of
Dorchester. We know that he had a wife Agnes and children
John, Ann, William, and James, and, to make the case still
stronger, the age of the father at death, and also of three of
the children, Ann, William, and James, corresponds with the
date of the baptism at Pitminster.
No record has been found of the baptism of Edward, another
son of William and Agnes, but it is supposed that he was born
in England, as there is no evidence of the father being in this
country previous to the year 1636, the statement that he came
in the "Mary and John" in 1630 being without foundation.
Very Blue Blood.
Following the notes of Mr. Somerby, with the substitution
of William^° for Robert^°, the line of descent will stand as fol-
lows: Roberts Henry^ Williams, Henry^, Roberts, William^,
William', Humphrey^ (great-grandfather of the admiral), John^,
William^°, William", of Dorchester.
Or, to state the matter more simply, the emigrant is now
traced as being the grandson of John Blake of Over Stowey,
through his son William, instead of being so deduced through
his son Robert. But all the pedigree anterior to the grand-
father John is not affected by this correction.
James Blake married Elizabeth Clap. She was the daughter
of Deacon Edward Clap of Dorchester, born about 1634, and
died Jan. 16, 1693-94, in the sixty-first year of her age. He
was the second son of William Agnes Blake, born 1624 in
England, and died in Dorchester Jan. 28, 1700, aged seventy-
seven years. He was much in public business, as the records
of Dorchester prove. From 1658 to 1685 we find him in
some office almost every year; was a selectman thirteen years,
rater, constable, deputy to General Court, clerk of the writs,
recorder, sergeant in the military company, which was then an
office of honor, and was chosen deacon of the church, and or-
dained to that office Jan. 30, 1672. He served as deacon about
fourteen years, and was then chosen ruHng elder, and served
about the same length of time, until his death, both making
twenty-eight years wanting two days. Tradition says, and
after the most careful examination of old documents I think
there is no doubt of it, that he built the house (lately owned and
occupied by Mrs. Jane Williams, in the north part of Dorches-
ter, west from Captain William Clap's tanyard, and north of
Mr. Pettee's house, back from the street), and owned a farm
adjoining. The house was doubtless built previous to 1650.
A photograph of it has been taken as it now appears, and is
here presented. I have no doubt that this is the property de-
scribed in his will, where he says, "I give and bequeath to my
son, John Blake, and his heirs, my dwelling house, barns, or-
chard, yard, garden and ten acres of land adjoining, more or
less, it being partly upland and partly meadow," valued at
£400. The house is referred to in the Dorchester town records,
page 209. When " at a general meeting of the town the 6 (10)
1669, it was put to the vote" to build a house for the ministry.
" To be such a house as James Blak's house is, namly 38 foote
in lenth and 20 footewid and 14 foote betweene Joynts gert
worke. The Vote was in the Affirmative." It is evident that
this is the same house, as it corresponds to the above measure-
Farmer, but a Penman.
This estate was retained in the Blake family till the year
1825. The bequest to his son Joseph of one 20-acre lot (more
or less), " bounded on the one side with the land late of Samuel
and Increase Sumner, and on the other side with the land of
Captain Clap," must have been in this locality. He was prob-
ably a farmer, but his time must have been taken up with other
objects. In addition to the time spent in municipal and church
affairs, he was frequently engaged in settling estates, as over-
seer of the will of some friend or neighbor, or guardian of orphan
children, in writing deeds and other instruments, etc. I will
mention here, by the way, that he was a most beautiful pen-
man. But few of the present day can exhibit chirography that
will compare favorably with his which is now extant.
It appears that he had a peculiar character, such as sound
judgment and discretion, a faculty for leading others in im-
portant undertakings, and especially strong faith in his "glori-
ous God & Redeemer," as he expressed it in his last will and
John Blake, 1657.
John Blake, who thus became the second owner of the prop-
erty, was born March 16, 1657. We know but very little of
his life, except that he was a deacon of the church, as his father
had been before him. In our search through the last wills
and testaments of the forefathers of the State we are apt to
learn more about their deaths than their lives. The will is the
final summing up of life's work. It is a record of the children
then living; for in nearly all cases the children are all men-
tioned. It tells the story of a man's prosperity. It records
the increase of the ten talents or the single one. Taken all
together, wills are, perhaps, the most valuable adjuncts to
family history that can be obtained.
John Blake, however, left no will; and, as he was but sixty
years of age when he died, March 2, 17 18, it may have been that
death overtook him suddenly. His widow, Hannah, was ap-
pointed to administer the estate. The dwelKng-house was
valued at £50, and two barns at £20. We found an agree-
ment on the Suffolk probate records concerning the settling of
the estate, in which it states that, whereas the said Deacon
John Blake died intestate, yet not without declaring what his
will and pleasure was as to the settling of his estate after his
decease, which was as follows: —
"His mind was that his two daughters, Hannah and Eliza-
beth, should have a convenient Room in the House so long as
they or either of them should Remaine unmarried and no
longer, and that they should not have the liberty of letting or
in any manner to convey their Rights therein to any other
This agreement was dated Nov. 29, 17 19.
His two sons, John and Josiah, inherited the estate jointly.
Josiah, who was a weaver, died first in 1748. The inventory
of his estate contains "his part of a Dwelling House and the
Shop adjoining thereto, and one-half of Barn and ye one half
of about 15 acres of land and Meadow adjoining thereto in Old
Town, Bils of credit ye sum of £700." Among the funeral
charges was cash paid to James Foster for gravestones, ;^7.
(These stones were obtained from the old State quarry on the
Foster estate in South Boston.) The real estate passed to his
brother John. Josiah Blake probably died childless.
A " CORDWAINER."
John Blake was a cordwainer, or shoemaker, as we should
say now. He died about the first of the year 1773, leaving no
will. The inventory, filed Jan. 15, 1773, included one-half of
a barn and the hay, half a dwelling-house and 13^ acres up-
land and meadow, all valued at £156 gs. 4J. We are unable to
tell who owned the other half of the house, or, if, as seemed
probable, John Blake owned it all, why it was not included in
the list of his possessions. When the estate was divided, his
son Samuel received the " westerly part of the dwelling house,
called the kitchen end, and also one-third part of the cellar."
The three daughters, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Rachel, who
seem to have been all unmarried at the time, were given the
remainder of the house and cellar and half of the barn.
The eldest son John reserved the customary double portion
of the estate, but no part of the house.
In this Century.
Samuel died in 1781, and the inventory of his property does
not mention the house, from which we judge that he made over
his share to his sisters. At all events, when the house was sold
in 1825 to Caleb Williams, it was occupied by Miss Rachel
Blake, the youngest daughter of John.
Caleb Williams died in 1842, and left the house and land to
his widow Jane and two minor children. The interest of the
minors was bought by their guardian, Jane, through a third
party, in 1847.
Jane Williams left the property to her son, Josiah F. Williams,
in 1 891. He sold same to Antonia Quinser in 1892. Quinser
sold the estate to the city of Boston.
The old house stood on historic ground, and in the midst of
several other landmarks and memorials of old Dorchester.
Old Dorchester burying-ground, where so many noted persons
lie, is almost in sight. The home of Lieutenant-Governor
Oliver, the birthplace of Edward Everett, was close by, and in
front of it on Richardson Park, near the site where the first
town-meeting was held in the United States, and where the
first free public school was established, is the spot on which
the old Blake house is now placed, and where we hope it will
remain for centuries to come.
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