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Full text of "History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts"

Class __ 
Book__ 



COPYRIGHT DEPOSIl 



^% 



HISTORY 



OF THE 



Town of Easton 



j|laj30ac]^u0ett0. 



By WILLIAM L. CHAFFIN. 




CAMBRIDGE : 

JOHN WILSON AND SON. 

ZSnibersitj ^tess. 

1886. 



v^^ 



■<i G ^ 



'f:j 



Copyright, 1886, 
By William L. Chaffin. 



I 



TO HIS WIFE, 

WHOSE DELIGHT IT HAS BEEN 

O SHARE THE TOIL AND THE JOY OF THIS AS OF EVERY 
WORK OF HIS LIFE, 

2CI)ts l^tstorg is Slffccttonatclg EnscribeU 

BY HER HUSBAND, 

THE WRITER. 



PREFACE, 



A BOUT thirteen years ago the writer of this History- 
prepared two series of historical sketches of Eas- 
ton, which were pubHshed in the " Easton Journal." It 
was probably because of this fact that he was asked, 
nearly five years ago, to write a sketch of Easton for a 
proposed History of Bristol County. In the endeavor 
to do that work thoroughly he collected a large amount 
of historical material of exceptional interest, and it 
seemed desirable that this material should not be lost, 
but should be embodied in a carefully written town his- 
tory. To the task of writing such a history he accord- 
ingly addressed himself at once ; and since that time, 
with the exception of a six months' rest in 1885, neces- 
sitated by overwork, he has devoted to it nearly every 
day and hour that he could command. The religious 
society of which the writer is pastor, themselves inter- 
ested in the completion of this work, kindly permitted 
him to take considerable time that was rightfully theirs ; 
and for this he is heartily grateful. He would certainly 
not have allowed himself to use this time if the work 

were one merely of personal interest and profit to him- 

b 



VI 



PREFACE. 



self; but he considered the enterprise one of public im- 
portance, and has been constantly assured that his towns- 
men were interested in seeing it accomplished. It was 
undertaken entirely at the writer's own risk, and with- 
out expectation of pecuniary recompense : he has his 
reward in the work itself, and in the satisfaction he 
hopes others may derive from it. 

With what success it has been accomplished others 
must judge. But the writer believes himself entitled to 
claim that he has spared himself no effort, toil, or ex- 
pense to make this History as accurate, thorough, and 
complete as the nature of the case admitted. Every 
available source of information on the subjects treated 
has been carefully examined, — days and weeks having 
sometimes been spent in settling even those small details 
which seemed, to the writer at least, indispensable to com- 
plete the finished mosaic of a good town history. 

It was the writer's purpose to add to this History the 
genealogical tables of Easton families ; but that purpose 
was abandoned, both because it would too much increase 
the size of this book, and because accuracy and complete- 
ness in such tables require more time than it has yet been 
possible to give them, though two persons besides himself 
have devoted about a year to this labor alone. The ma- 
terial for this important work is however all in hand, and 
the writer hopes at no very distant day to publish a care- 
fully prepared Genealogical History of Easton. 

He desires to express his gratitude to the many per- 
sons to whom he has applied for information, by all of 
whom he is happy to say he has been treated with a real 



PREFACE. vii 

kindness that was something more than courtesy. To 
no one, however, is he so much indebted as to his friend 
A. W. Stevens, who has done all that the cultivated taste 
of an accomplished and critical proof-reader could do to 
prune away the imperfections of the writer's narrative, 
and to add to it accuracy, force, and finish. Especially 
also is he under obligation to Edward D. Williams and 
Samuel D. Simpson of Easton, and to Macey Randall 
of Sharon, for valuable documents and for the aid ren- 
dered by their exceptionally good memories. He is also 
indebted to the Rev. G. G. Withington, Joseph Bar- 
rows, Hiram Williams, D. C. Lillie, Guilford White, 
A. A. Gilmore, L. S. Drake, George C. Belcher, the Rev. 
L. H. Sheldon, the Rev. John W. McCarthy (now of 
Providence, R.I.), Mrs. F. E. Gilmore, to Comrade David 
Howard, and to many other Easton persons whom 
he would be glad to name did space permit. He 
would mention Gilbert Nash, of Weymouth, with par- 
ticular gratitude ; and he has been kindly assisted by 
S. A. Bates of South Braintree, H. C. Kimball of 
Stoughton, and E. A. Hewitt of Bridgewater. He is 
also indebted to Dr. Samuel A. Green, Librarian of 
the Massachusetts Historical Society, for valuable sug- 
gestions and for the privilege of using that Society's 
library, and to John Ward Dean of the New England 
Historic Genealogical Society for various favors. He 
cannot be too grateful to Newton Talbot of Boston ; 
also to Solomon Talbot of Sharon, Joshua E. Crane 
of Bridgewater, J. W. D. Hall of Taunton, Dr. Wil- 
liam B. Lapham of Augusta, Me., Mrs. Mary C. DeWitt 



viil PREFACE. 

Freeland of Sutton, Mass., Dr. Edward Strong of the 
State Secretary's office, the Hon. John D. Long, Col. 
Carroll D. Wright, Commodore W. S. Schley of the 
U. S. Navy Department, the Adjutant-Generals of Mass- 
achusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Illinois, and 
to many others, who though not here mentioned are 
gratefully remembered by the writer. 

The pictures which embellish this book are mainly 
the work of the Heliotype Printing Company, of Boston ; 
and for them the reader and the writer are indebted to 
the following individuals: To Frederick L. Ames for six 
of them ; to Oakes A. Ames and Governor Oliver Ames, 
acting together, for five; and to Mrs. Oliver Ames, Sr., 
E. W. Gilmore, Edward N. Morse, George V. N. Lothrop, 
the Rev. L. H. Sheldon, the late Jason G. Howard, for 
one each. The Reed families furnished the picture of 
Mrs. Olive Reed, and the members of the Evangelical 
Society paid the expense of the picture of their church. 
The three remaining illustrations were supplied by the 
writer. 



WILLIAM L. CHAFFIN. 



North Easton, 

December i, 188Q. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGE 

Topography i 

Geology of Easton. — Glacial Action. — Bog-Iron Ore. — Swamps. — 
Brooks and Streams. — Ponds. — Meadows and Plains. — Animals. 



CHAPTER II. 
The Taunton North-Purchase 19 

The Original Purchase. — The Boundary Line Controversy. — Indian 
Ownership of these Lands. — The Preservation of Timber. — The 
Division of Lands. — The Books of the Company. 



CHAPTER III. 

Early Settlers 39 

The Seven Families of Squatters. — Subsequent Settlers. — Their Pre- 
vious Places of Abode. — The Time of their Settlement in Taunton 
North-Purchase. — Location of their Homesteads. — The Oldest 
House in Town. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Elder William Pratt 58 

Origin of the Easton Church. — Its First Minister. — His Call, and the 
Gift of Land to Him. — His Previous Life. — Missionary Journey to 
South Carolina. — Second Journey. — Final Return to New England. 
— Settles in Easton. — His Remarkable Piety. — His Short Ministry 
and Death. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER V. 

PAGE 

Precinct and Town 7^ 

A Church Needed in the North Purchase. — Contention as to its Loca- 
tion. — Compromises. — Incorporation of Norton.— The Norton 
Parish extends temporarily Eastward to the Bay Road. — Formation 
of the East Precinct of Norton. — Incorporation of the Town of 
Easton. 

CHAPTER VI. 

The Ministry of the Rev. Matthew Short 85 

Birth and Parentage. — Settlement in Attleborough. — Settlement at the 
East Precinct of Taunton North-Purchase. — Sickness and Recovery. 
— His two published Sermons. — Tlie first Meeting-House. —Early 
Dissatisfaction with its Location- — Death of Mr. Short. 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Ministry of the Rev. Joseph Belcher 94 

Distinction between Church and Parish. — Call and Settlement of Mr. 
Belcher. — His Antecedents. — The Ordination. — Dissatisfied with 
his Salary. — Partial Insanity. — Involved in Lawsuits. — Disappear- 
ance. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

The Rev. Solomon Prentice and a Memorable Church 

Controversy , 102 

Rev. Mr. Prentice accepts a Call to Easton. — His Exciting Ministerial 
Experience at Grafton. — He is a " New Light." — Where shall the 
Easton New Meeting-House stand ? — Stormy Times. — The General 
Court invoked to interfere. — They order it built at the Centre. — It 
is done, but Disaffection increases. — Mr. Prentice Threatens to 
"break the heads" of the General Court's Committee. — The Church 
and Parish divided. — Mr. Prentice's Friends begin to build a Meet- 
ing-House. — Church Councils. — Personalities. 



CHAPTER IX. 
The Presbyterian Society 128 

Mr. Prentice's Church adopt Presbyterianism. — Their Statement of 
Reasons for doing so. — His Wife becomes heretical, and joins the 
Baptists. — He allows the Baptists to have a Prayer Meeting at his 
House. —Alarm of his Church at such Latitudinarianism. — The 
Presbytery summoned to Easton, and Mr. Prentice Suspended. — 
His subsequent E.xperience. — His Children. 



CONTENTS. XI 



CHAPTER X. 



PAGE 



The Rev. George Farrar, and the Conclusion of the 

Church Controversy ^4^ 

Attempts of the Town to get Preaching " without Money and without 
Price." — The New Candidate.— Birth and Ancestry. — His Court- 
ing. —The Church Conflict deepens. — Presbyterians and Baptists 
protest against the Ordination. — Tliey Appeal to the General Court, 
but without Avail. — They must pay to support a Church and Minis- 
ter they do not believe in. — Death of Mr. Farrar. —The Presby- 
terians give up the Contest.— Religion at a Discount in Easton. 



CHAPTER XL 

Easton in the French and Indian War 15^ 

Massachusetts Military Archives. — Hostility of the French and English 
Colonists. — Captain Nathaniel Perry's Company. — Sketch of Cap- 
tain Perry. — Easton Men in Captain Ebenezer Dean's Company. — 
In Captain James Andrew's Company. — Miscellaneous Enlistments. 
— Trying Experiences of Easton Volunteers. — The Acadians. 



CHAPTER XII. 
The Baptist Society i73 

Opposition to the Ministerial Tax. — Growing Dissent from the Estab- 
lished Congregationalism. — Liberty and License. — Fanaticism 
thrives, and Immorality puts on the Livery of Heaven. — The Bap- 
tist Society organized. —The Rev. Ebenezer Stearns. —The Baptists 
dispute the Town's Right to collect the Ministerial tax from them, 
and win their case. — The Rev. Eseck Carr, Minister and Cooper. — 
The Baptist Meeting-House. — Decline and Death of the Society. 



CHAPTER Xni. 

The Rev. Archibald Campbell 19° 

The Church of Christ in Easton calls Archibald Campbell. — His Par- 
entage, Birth, and Education. — Fair Prospect of a Peaceful Ministry. 

— Gathering Clouds. — Mr. Campbell's Wife a Stumbling Block.— 
The Minister Slandered. — He is Dismissed with a Recommendation. 

— Ministry in Charlton.— Domestic Trouble and Disgrace. — Dis- 
missal and Sad Subsequent Experiences. — Extract from one of his 
Sermons. — His Children. — " The Vale of Tears." 



xii CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

PAGE 

Easton in the Revolutionary War 206 

Difficulties with the Mother Country. — Easton Discourages the use of 
" Forrin Superfluities." — Easton " Daughters of Liberty." — The 
"Lexington Alarm." — Enlistments in 1775. — Enlistments in 1776. 
— Rhode Island " Alarms." — Enlistments in 1777 and 1778. — Eas- 
ton Men at Valley Forge. — Later Enlistments. — Continental Cur- 
rency and its Depreciation. — Tories. — Biographies of Easton 
Military Officers : Captains Elisha Harvey and James Keith ; Colonel 
Abiel Mitchell ; Captains James Perry, Matthew Randall, Josiah 
Keith, Macey Williams, Seth Pratt, and Ephraim Burr. — Brigadier- 
General Benjamin Tupper and Major Anselm Tupper. 



CHAPTER XV. 

The Rev. William Reed 258 

The Dawn of Peaceful Times for the Easton Church. — The Call of 
William Reed. — His Birth and Ancestry. — " Relation " of his Reli- 
gious Experience. — How he obtained his Wife. — The Ordination 
Services. — Home Life. — Church Discipline. — The Ministerial 
Land. — Incorporation of the Parish. — The Church Bell. — Pecu- 
niary Struggles. — Mr. Reed as a Preacher. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Industries Prior to 1800 275 

The Randalls build the first Saw-Mill. — Clement Briggs starts the first 
Grist-Mill. — Eliphalet Leonard erects Brummagem Forge. — Other 
Iron Industries. — Firearms Manufactured at the " Quaker Leonard 
Place." — Easton said to Manufacture the first Steel made in this 
Country. — Miscellaneous Industries. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Old Abandoned Homesteads 290 

Struggles of Early Settlers. — A Trip through the Northeast Corner of 
the Town. — Old Places in and about North Easton. — Down the old 
Meeting-House Road.— About Easton Centre. — In South Easton. 
— On and near the Bay Road. — In the Southwest Part of the Town. 



^ 



CONTENTS. Xlll 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

PAGE 

The War of 1812 306 

New England not actively interested. — The Military Companies of 
Easton. — Enlistments in the United States Service. — Capt. Noah 
Reed's Company at New Bedford. — A practical Joke carried too far. 
— Nathan Buck shoots Charles Gilbert. — Trial and Conviction. — 
Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Company at Boston. — Capt. Samuel Cush- 
man's Company at Plymouth. — Lieut. Elijah Smith and his Records, 

CHAPTER XIX. 
The First Methodist Society 314 

Beginning of Methodism in Easton. — Jesse Lee, the Pioneer. — Isaac 
Stokes. — The Eccentric Lorenzo Dow. — The First Methodist 
Meeting-House. — The Rev. John Tinkham. — Customs and In- 
novations. — Successive Preachers. — Father Bates. — The New 
Meeting-House. — Universalist Preaching makes Trouble. — Great 
Revivals. — Later Preachers. 

CHAPTER XX. 

The Rev. Luther Sheldon, D.D., and the Division of 

the Parish 334 

Mr. Luther Sheldon receives a Call. — His Youth and Education. — 
Kindness of the Parish to their Minister. — Divergence of Theologi- 
cal Opinions among the Parishioners. — Mr. Sheldon ceases to 
exchange with Neighboring " Liberal " Ministers. — The Parish re- 
quests him to continue Fraternal Relations with Them. — He fails to 
respond to the Request. — An Ex-parte Council summoned by the 
Parish. — The Parish excludes Him from His Pulpit. — Mr. Sheldon's 
Friends organize and begin to build a Meeting-House. — An Exciting 
Controversy. — Lawsuits. — Mr. Sheldon re-enters his Pulpit. — Vari- 
ous attempts at Agreement. — A Settlement finally effected. 

CHAPTER XXI. 

Easton Centre Churches. — Spiritualism 360 

The First Congregational Parish after the Division : Successive Pastors, 

— William H. Taylor, Paul Dean, William Whitwell, George G. 
Withington ; Services Discontinued ; The Meeting-House Burned. 

— The Evangelical Society: Rev. Dr. Sheldon's Resignation; his 
Character ; The Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of his Settle- 
ment in Easton ; Successive Pastors of the Evangelical Society ; The 
New Meeting-House ; Sunday Schools. — Spiritualism in Easton : 
its Origin ; its Patrons ; The " First Spiritual Society of Easton ; " 
The " Easton Society of Progressive Spiritualists." 



xiv CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

PAGE 

Libraries 373 

The First Social Library.— The Washington Benevolent Society and 
Library.— The Second Social Library. —The Methodist Social 
Library. —The No. 2 District Library. —The Agricultural Library. 
— The North Easton Library Association. — The Ames Free 
Library. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 
Public Schools 3^° 

School Management of the last Century. — The School-Committee Sys- 
tem.— Superintending Committee since 1826. — Men and Women 
Teachers. — Teachers' Wages. —The High School. — The Perkins 
Academy. — The History of the Schoolhouses of all the Districts. 
— The Oliver Ames Fund for Support of Schools. — The Oakes 
Ames Fund for North Easton Village. — Late Statistics. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

North Easton Village Churches 403 

Methodist Protestant Society. — Methodist Episcopal Movement ; Its 
Failure. — Division of the Washington Street Methodist Society. — 
Formation of the Main Street Methodist Episcopal Society ; Reuben 
Meader and others build a Meeting-House for it. — Lewis B. Bates 
and Successors. — Origin of Unity Church ; C. C. Hussey, its first 
settled Minister; He is succeeded by William L. Chaffin ; Hon. 
Oliver Ames builds a new Church and presents it to the Society. — 
The Church of the Immaculate Conception. — The Swedish Church. 
— The Adventists. — Denominational Statistics of Easton. — Statis- 
tics of Church-going. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

Shadows 41Q 

Rough Life in the early Pioneer Days. — A notorious Gang of Thieves ; 
George White the Leader. — The Bank Robber. — Slavery. — Intem- 
perance. — Pauperism. 



CONTENTS. XV 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

PAGE 

Highways 45° 

Introductory Remarks. — Abandoned Roads. — The Bay Road, Prospect 
Street, and Purchase Street laid out before the Incorporation of the 
Town. — Other old Roads. —The Taunton and South Boston Turn- 
pike Controversy. — Washington Street. — Other Easton Highways. — 
The Oliver Ames Bequest for Public Highways. —Governor Ames's 
Gift for the Planting of Trees along the Streets and Highways. 



CHAPTER XXVn. 

Burial-Places 47° 

Burials in Private Grounds in Early Times. — The Old Burying-Ground. 
— Other Graveyards in the Order of their Laying-out.— Abandoned 
Graveyards. — Inscriptions and Epitaphs. — Unmarked and Neg- 
lected Graves. — Proposed Remedy for them. 



CHAPTER XXVHI. 

Militia and Military History 506 

Old Military Days. — First Militia Company of Easton. — The West 
Company. — The East Company. — The Easton Light Infantry. — 
The Cavalry Company. —Company B, Easton Light Infantry. — 
Captains and Higher Military Officers of Easton, with the Dates of 
their Commissions. — Major-General Sheperd Leach. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 
The Civil War 520 

Opening of the War. — Departure of Company B, Fourth Regiment, for 
Fortress Monroe ; its Return. — Enlistments in the Second Regi- 
ment. — Company G, Seventh Regiment. — Other Enlistments from 
Easton in 1861. — Town Action in 1861. — Easton Volunteers in 
1862. — Artillery Service. — Town Action in 1862. — Enlistments 
and Service of Soldiers in 1863. — The Drafts. —District Subscrip- 
tion Papers. — Town Action in 1863. — Volunteers in 1864. — Town 
Action in 1864. —The Soldiers Return in 1865. — Easton Soldiers in 
the Navy. — Town Action in 1S65. — Deserters and Shirkers. — 
Woman's Service and Trials. — Summary of Enlistments. — Major 
Robert Dollard. — Major John Fitzpatrick. — Complete Record of 
Easton Soldiers in Alphabetical Order, 



^y[ CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

PAGE 

Industries after 1800 5^4 

Furnaces and Foundries at the Furnace Village : Sheperd Leach, the 
Drakes and the Belchers. — Other Industries in that Vicinity. — Suc- 
cessive Enterprises at the Morse Privilege. — Morse's Thread Fac- 
tory.— Industries at the Green ; On the Turnpike. — North Easton 
Village Industries : Ames Shovel Works ; Gilmore's Hinge Factory, 
etc. — Various other Enterprises. — Latest Industries. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

Banks and Organized Societies 606 

The First National Bank. — The North Easton Savings Bank. — Mili- 
tary Bands of Easton. — Paul Dean Lodge of Freemasons. — Miz- 
pah Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. — A. B. Randall Post, 
G A. R., No. 52. — The Good Templars. — Sons of Temperance. — 
The Roman Catholic Lyceum. — The Knights of Honor. — The 
Royal Arcanum. —The Queset Club. — The North Easton Athletic 
Club. — The Knights of Labor. 



CHAPTER XXXn. 

Political and Official 624 

Early Politics. — Federalists and Republicans. — Easton, once anti- Fed- 
eral, becomes a Whig Town. — The Harrison Campaign. — The 
Know-Nothing Party. — Easton becomes Republican. — Town Mod- 
erators : Elijah Howard, A. A. Gilmore. — Town Clerks. — Town 
Treasurers. — Selectmen. — Representatives to the General Court. — 
State Senators, and other higher Officers, — Biographical Sketches : 
Howard Lothrop, Oliver Ames, Sr., Oakes Ames, Oliver Ames, Jr., 
Governor Oliver Ames, Lincoln S. Drake, Frank M. Ames. — Post- 
offices and Postmasters. 



CHAPTER XXXni. 
Statistics of Population and Industry 664 

Population : Comparative Ages of Boys and Girls ; Conjugal Condition ; 
Nationality ; Parentage ; Longevity. — Statistical Table of Polls, 
Houses and Barns, and Domestic Animals. — Voters of Easton in 
I749- — Town Valuations. — Statistics of Industry in 1S37. — Sta- 
tistics in 1845 ^^^ in succeeding Decades. 



CONTENTS. XVII 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

PAGB 

Easton in 1 886 684 

The Old Times and the New. — North Easton village as it is To-day. — 
The Ames Memorial Hall. — South Easton village and the Green. — 
A Trip through Easton Centre, and a Glance at Furnace Village. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

Ministers 692 

Israel Alger. — Jarvis A. Ames. — Matthew Bolles. — Silas Brett. — 
Nelson W. Britton. — Charles H. Buck. — Daniel EeBaron Goodwin. 

— Francis Homes. — William Keith. — Jason Lothrop. — Ruel Lo- 
throp. — Ephraim Randall. — Joshua Randall. — David Reed, — 
William Reed. — Nathan P. Selee. — Luther H. Sheldon. — Simeon 
Williams. — Bradford Willis. — Martin W. Willis. — Henry Wood. 

— Roman Catholic Clergymen: James W. Conlin. — William T. 
Doherty. — Edward Farrell. — Michael J. Long. — John W. Mc- 
Carthy. — Dennis J. Menton. — John D. O'Keefe. 

CHAPTER XXXVI. 

Physicians and Dentists 719 

Seth Babbitt. — Charles H. Cogswell. — George B Cogswell. — Horatio 
F. Copeland. — Edgar E. Dean. — Edward Dean. — James B. Dean. 

— Samuel Deans. — Henry L. Dickerman. — Jason W. Drake. — 
Daniel Goodwin. — Samuel Guild. — Samuel Guild, Jr. — Elisha 
Hayward. — Joseph W. Hayward. — James Howard. — Ernest W. 
Keith. — Edwin Manley. — John M. Mills. — James Perry. — William 
F. Perry. — Seth Pratt. — Seth Pratt, Jr. — Daniel L. Randall. — 
Menzies R. Randall. — Zephaniah Randall. — Frederic J. Ripley. — 
W. P. Savary. — Caleb Swan. — George W. J. Swan. — James C. 
Swan. — Jesse J. Swan. — W. E. Channing Swan. — Byron H. Strout. 

— F.Elmer Tilden. — George Brett.— Asahel Smith.— William B. 
Webster. — John P.Wilson. 



CHAPTER XXXVn. 
Lawyers 74° 

Edmund Andrews. — James P. Barlow. — John Augustus Bolles. — Daniel 
F. Buckley. — Charles H. Deans. — George W. Deans. — Frederic V. 
Fuller. — Henry J. Fuller. — Cyrus Lothrop. — George V. N. Lo- 
throp. — John J. O'Connell. — Jason Reed. — Edward Selee. — Lewis 
C. Southard. — Charles L. Swan. — Daniel Wheaton. — George 
Wheaton. — Henry G. Wheaton. —Guilford White. 



xviii CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

PAGE 

College Graduates 752 

Frederick L. Ames. — Oliver Ames, 2d. —Charles R. Ballard. — Mait- 
laiid C. Lamprey. — Edwin Howard Lothrop.— Commander George 
F. F. Wilde. 

CHAPTER XXXIX. 
Miscellaneous 759 

Railroads. — Newspapers. — The Great Flood of 1SS6. — David Thomp- 
son, Jr., the one-armed Soldier. — James Adams, the Poet. — Jonathan 
Lawrence and his great Expectations. — Has Easton an Enoch Ar- 
den Case ? — A search for a Slave-trader's Fortune. — "Old Bunn." 
— The Devil's Visit to Easton. — Witches and Witchcraft. — Bird- 
hunting. — Earmarks. — Singular Death-records. — Conclusion. 



APPENDIX. 

I. A Sermon of the Rev. Matthew Short, preached in Easton 

IN September, 1728 783 

II. The Easton Church Covenant's of 1747 and 1764 . . • . 793 



INDEX 803 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



PAGE 

Gate-Lodge of Frederick L. Ames Frontispiece. 

The Oldest House in Easton 50 

Major Anselm Tupper 256 

Mrs. Olive Reed 266 

Rev. Luther Sheldon, D.D 366 

The Evangelical Congregational Church, Easton Centre . 368 

The Ames Free Library, North Easton 379 

Unity Church and Parsonage, North Easton 411 

Thread Mills of E. J. W. Morse & Co., South Easton . . . 588 

Ames Shovel Works, North Easton 596 

E. W. Gilmore's Hinge Factory and House, North Easton . 598 

The Soldiers' Monument 617 

Elijah Howard 638 

Oliver Ames, Sr 648 

Oakes Ames 650 

Oliver Ames, Jr 655 

Union Pacific Monument 657 

Governor Oliver Ames 658 

Old Colony Railroad Station, North Easton 685 

Ames Memorial Hall, North Easton 687 

North Easton Village 689 

George Van Ness Lothrop 744 

The Map of Easton i 

The Map of the Taunton North Purchase 21 

The Town Survey of about 1750 451 

The Map of North Easton Village . . . . ' 464 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER I. 

TOPOGRAPHY. 

Geology of Easton. — Glacial Action. — Bog-Iron Ore. — Swamps. 
^ — Brooks and Streams. — Ponds. — Meadows and Plains. — 
Animals. 

THE town of Easton is situated in the northeast corner of 
Bristol County, Massachusetts. It is bounded on the north 
by Stoughton and Sharon ; on the east by Brockton and West 
Bridgewater; on the south by Raynham, Taunton, and Norton; 
and on the west by Norton and Mansfield. It is on the Old 
Colony Railroad, on the main line from Boston to Fall River 
and Newport, and has two railroad stations, — one at North-Easton 
village, and one at Easton Centre. Easton Centre is twenty- 
four and a half miles from Boston, twelve from Taunton, twenty- 
six from Fall River, and about twenty from the nearest seashore. 
Easton has three post-offices. One is located at North-Easton 
village, one at South Easton, and one at the Furnace village, so- 
called.^ The principal industry of the town is the great shovel- 
making business carried on by the Messrs. Ames. There are 
also a large hinge factory, a cotton-thread factory, foundries, and 
other industries that will be particularly described further on. 
There are six churches, — one Orthodox Congregational, two 
Methodist, one Unitarian, one Catholic, and one Swedish. 

The surface of Easton is on the whole quite level, though in 
the northeastern part there is a pleasant variety of elevation. 
The area is twenty-nine square miles, or, more precisely, eighteen 

1 The post-office address of the latter is Easton. 
I 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



thousand five hundred and eighty-four square acres, of which 
three hundred and seventy are water, — the water being that of 
artificial ponds made for business purposes. 

GEOLOGY OF EASTON. 

The underlying rock formation of the town is mainly sienite, 
which differs from granite in having for one of its three princi- 
pal ingredients hornblende instead of mica. Very definite classi- 
fications of rock are, however, impossible, as the varieties often 
shade into each other. Most of our sienite has a pinkish color 
which makes it a beautiful building-stone. In the northeast 
parts of the town sienite predominates, but in North-Easton 
village and south of this, it alternates and in some cases mingles 
with a hard, dark, traplike rock that is sometimes called diorite. 
The North-Easton schoolhouse stands on a foundation of sienite, 
but Memorial Hall is supported by a basis of both sienite and 
diorite. The rock at the northeast corner of that hall will repay 
careful study. In the diorite there may be seen veins or small 
dikes of sienite, which must have been forced into the parted 
seams in a fluid condition, — the sienite, if once a conglomerate 
rock, having been remelted here. The two formations have been 
curiously welded together. Under the tower is an example of 
igneous inclusion, where the semi-fluid diorite lifted a block of 
sienite, and was able to hold it in its fiery embrace until all was 
solidified. Close to it is a narrow inclosed strip of a stratified 
soft shale, wholly different from the igneous rocks that imprison 
it. The shale is found in small quantities in other parts of the 
town. Easton is in fact on the dividing line, where the sienite 
is more or less succeeded by the shale and carboniferous sand- 
stone. There are a few indications of coal, which increase as 
we go southward. On the railroad just below the town is a 
cutting where an inferior coal, or coal-like stone, may be seen. 
At the Centre, and in the west and southwest sections of the 
town, there is considerable very coarse, inferior sandstone. An 
outcropping of it is in the southeast corner of the second field 
next south of Daniel M. Dailey's house, on which the powder- 
house once stood. In swampy places in the west of the town 
this sandstone has cleaved very curiously into large flagstones. 
In a swamp west of Charles E. Keith's house these stones are 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



crowded together, easily separating into large slabs of various 
sizes and thicknesses. 

One of the most interesting rocks in town is the immense 
outcropping west of Stone's Pond, in North Easton village. In 
this rock sienite and diorite are mingled and welded together 
in a curious fashion. Apparently the two kinds of rock were 
partially melted, and while in this semi-fluid condition formed 
an imperfect union. 

GLACIAL ACTION. 

Among the most interesting things about the topography of 
Easton are the plain indications and results of the glacial action 
during the ice period. It is an established fact that the north- 
ern half of North America was once covered with a vast sheet 
of ice several thousand feet in thickness. Its southern limit 
was south of New York City, and hence the territory of this 
section was covered with it. Moving slowly southward as its 
lower edge melted away, its immense weight bearing with incon- 
ceivable power upon the rock and soil below, it greatly modified 
the surface, and has left many witnesses in town of its action, 

1. It requires only a glance at the shape of the rocky summits 
of our hills to see that they as a rule slope gently towards the 
north, while On their south side they are more or less abrupt and 
steep. The reason is obvious. The advancing ice ground over 
the northern sides of these summits, gradually planing them off 
and wearing them down, the stones and gravel frozen into the bot- 
tom of the ice acting as graving tools to cut and wear away the 
rock. The technical name for this appearance of these summit 
rocks is " crag and tail." It may be plainly seen on Mt. Misery, 
on the highest outcropping rock of Unity-Church Cemetery, and 
on the hill south of F. L. Ames's lawn, and indeed in nearly all 
the outcroppings of the underlying rocks. Two excellent speci- 
mens are just west of Washington Street south of Main Street, 
where a clearing was lately made. So marked and general is 
this appearance, that any one lost in the woods may, by noticing 
it, easily learn the points of compass thereby. 

2. The second evidence of this powerful glacial action is in 
the glacial scratches, or grooves, that are manifest in various 
places in town. These do not of course appear upon those rock- 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



surfaces that have for ages been exposed to the action of the 
elements, for there they have been obliterated. But they may 
easily be found by uncovering the tops of stationary rock which 
have been protected by the deposits of gravel left upon them by 
the ice. Thus when Unity-Church Cemetery was made, the 
soil was dug away from the summit rock there, on its western 
slope, and many square feet of its surface, for the first time since 
the ice period, were laid bare. The writer discovered upon this 
surface many of these grooves parallel with each other and with a 
direction nearly south, but slightly east of a direct southerly line. 
These glacial scratches may be seen in other parts of the town. 

3. The same thing may be observed in the stones of almost 
any gravel-bank in town. The writer has found them in the 
banks made by the cuttings of the railroad between North 
Easton village and the Centre. Not all the stones are so 
marked, because not all of them were so placed as to have 
their surfaces grazed. But many of them may be seen that 
have two or more sets of grooves, indicating a shifting of their 
position while thus under pressure. 

4. Another indication of this glacial action is the presence of 
bowlders that could have been brought here by no other means 
than the mighty force of advancing ice. They have been torn 
from the hills north of us and strewn over the land. Some of 
them show by their smooth and rounded form that they have 
been subjected to a great deal of wear in the friction caused by 
their being forced forward, and by the action of water loaded 
with sand and pebbles. But many of them prove by their angu- 
lar shape that they have come from short distances above us. 
In the north part of the town, especially, the prevalence of these 
bowlders of large size makes a striking appearance, the largest 
of them being almost invariably sienite. Let any one go to the 
vicinity of Story's Swamp west of Long Pond, and he will find 
a wild and rugged scene. Huge bowlders are scattered about 
everywhere, as though hurled by giants in some deadly conflict. 
One of them is about thirty feet long, twenty feet high, and 
twelve in thickness, its top beautifully tufted with Polypodium 

Vulgaris, or Rock Polypod fern. 

All these indications of glacial action may be seen together at 
the rock and gravel-bank on the hill southeast of F. L. Ames's 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



farm-house on Main Street. The three summits of rock are 
seen to slope toward the north, showing the wearing action of 
the ice in its southward movement. In the autumn of 1884 a 
section of the rock on the northwest face was laid bare by the 
gravel being removed, and there is nowhere a more striking illus- 
tration of the glacial scratches than there. Hundreds of small 
parallel grooves have been cut into the sloping surface of the 
rock, and are still plainly visible : they are more noticeable, how- 
ever, when the rays of the sun are horizontal. The third indica- 
tion alluded to is the bowlder upon the top. If this bowlder were 
rock of the same kind as that upon which it rests, we might sup- 
pose that it had once formed a part of the underlying formation. 
But it is not. The rock below is a sort of trap-rock, mainly com- 
posed of hornblende, before spoken of as diorite. The bowlder 
is sienite, and it must have been left there by the melting glacier 
when the ice-king gave the signal for its last retreat. 

5. The moraine deposits within the limits of Easton form a 
very interesting study. Nearly every one knows that a moraine 
is an accumulation of sand and gravel caused by the movement 
of glaciers. The frontal moraines are piles of such gravel, which 
were pushed along in front of the slowly moving ice in its suc- 
cessive advances, and left in their present positions as the ice 
melted away and retreated northward. They were generally 
longest east and west, though their present form has been 
largely modified by the action of the great streams of water 
formed by the melting ice, and also by the action of the sea 
when they were under the sea-level. Very interesting illustra- 
tions of the frontal moraines may be seen along the railroad 
between North Easton and the Centre, which cuts through a 
succession of them. As one walks down the track and looks 
ahead, he will see that these moraine deposits rise at intervals 
like successive waves of the sea. They present, when looked at 
in the light of their origin, a very striking appearance. One of 
the larger ones , which is below the DeWitt farm, is composed of 
two distinct accumulations, the upper one being that left by the 
last advance of the ice. 

6. Another very interesting effect of this glacial action in the 
ice epoch is the formation known as " ridge-hills," or Karnes. 
These decidedly differ from the ordinary moraine deposits in 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



their shape and in their line of direction. They are narrow 
and long, bearing quite a resemblance to artificial embankments 
and lines of earth-works, and their line of direction is in general 
nearly north and south, though there are for short distances 
occasional variations from this line. Specimens of these ridge- 
hills maybe seen in the valley east of the railroad between North 
Easton village and the Centre. One that lies just southeast of 
the DeWitt farm is quite remarkable, and Professor Shaler told 
the writer, while examining it, that he had never seen so sharp a 
curve in one before. In the southwest part of the town may 
be seen good examples of the same formation, one particularly 
noticeable being behind Edward D. Williams's house, near the 
stream. The most striking one in town is, however, the one 
near Simpson's Spring, beginning north of it and extending 
about a mile south, and looking decidedly like an artificial work. 
In fact this formation is more or less continuous through the 
town, and is repeated in Raynham and probably farther south. 
These ridge-hills are not lateral moraines, which are formed only 
in mountainous districts ; they were probably caused by the 
large and powerful streams that flowed from the ice when it 
melted, but the precise manner of their formation is not yet clear. 
No doubt our valley here was the bed of a sub-glacial river. 
The surface contour was much changed by the drift deposits, 
and the shape of these deposits was more or less modified by 
the streams that flowed from the melting ice, and by the action 
of the ocean currents and waves when this section was under 
wati r,'as eiiiinent geologists declare it was during the latter part 
of the ice age, the absence of sea-fossils here being explained by 
Professor Shaler as owing to the fact that it was a "barren sea," 
like the Polar Sea now. The effect of this action of the sea is 
plainly noticeable on some hills where the stones of all sizes 
stand out from the hillsides, the soil and lighter gravel having 
been washed out from between them by the force of the sea- 
currents and the wash of the waves. 

All these indications of glacial action in the town of Easton 
open a field of delightful and interesting study, which may be 
pursued in detail with profit and pleasure. It presents a scene 
of wildness and desolation, to think of the vast mantle of ice 
thousands of feet thick that forced its way southward, grinding 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



the rocks to powder, planing off the stony ridges, piHng up the 
hills of gravel, tearing away from their beds the mighty bowl- 
ders and strewing them in such wild confusion over the land. 
Attractive as the subject is, however, the limits of this history 
make its further treatment here out of place. 

BOG-IRON ORE. 

Before the incorporation of the town, bog-iron ore was discov- 
ered here in considerable quantities. This discovery excited great 
interest, because it promised to supply the raw material for the 
manufacture of iron implements, tools, etc. The deposits of 
this ore were in low boggy places, or places that had once been 
such. These bog-ore deposits may be caused by springs, by de- 
composition of iron pyrites, and also by the fossil shields of ani- 
malculae or by certain diatomaceous plants. The peroxide of 
iron held in solution by water is precipitated, unites with earthy 
matters and produces the ore. When smelted it makes an iron 
especially good for fine castings, the large amount of phosphorus 
it contains causing an excellent surface with clean lines and 
edges. This ore was found in quantities near Lincoln Spring, 
on Lathrop's plain, in the low lands in the extreme northeast 
corner of the town, in many places in Poquanticut, and in other 
sections of Easton. Early in this century Gen. Sheperd Leach 
caused not far from two hundred acres to be dug over to furnish 
ore for his iron works. In time these deposits are renewed, the 
same causes that originally produced them being still in opera- 
tion. Any one may see the precipitation going on in diffe-fent 
parts of the town, the most marked instance known to the writer 
being in the brook that flows through the field west of Picker 
Lane in North Easton village. At the foot of this lane and just 
at the site of the old Ferguson mill the water is colored with this 
solution, and the stones are covered with yellow incrustation. 

In the account now to be given of the swamps, brooks, ponds, 
plains, and other special features of the topography of the town, 
care has been taken to preserve the old names by which they 
were once known. These old names sometimes present a curi- 
ous study. Some one once said that he could understand how 
astronomers could calculate the distances, determine the orbits, 



8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



and learn other wonderful facts about the planets and stars, but 
he could not understand how they found out their names. The 
writer of this history is in a similar predicament as to the locali- 
ties referred to ; it is easier for him to describe them than to 
tell how our original settlers "found out their names." 

SWAMPS. 

The land in Easton slopes toward the south, the water-shed 
for this region being a northeast line from the upper end of 
Long Pond, in Stoughton, to Randolph. There is not much 
fall, however ; and this fact, together with the numerous springs 
that abound, makes a good deal of swampy land in almost every 
part of the town. Of these swamps, the most notable is the 
Great Cedar-Swamp so prized for its timber in the early days of 
our history. There were two swamps called Rocky Swamp, one 
in Poquanticut, and one around and east of the present site of 
the Easton Railroad station, a part of it being called Pine-Bridge 
Swamp. Grassy Sivavip is often referred to, and is about an 
eighth of a mile south of the street leading from Daniel W. 
Heath's to Daniel Wheaton's ; it was once covered with tall 
rank grass, whence its name, but is now nearly filled with 
high laurel. The swamp west and southwest of the No. 2 
schoolhouse was first called Cooper's Swamp, being named for 
Timothy Cooper, but it came later to be known as the Little 
Cedar-Swamp. These swampy lands have very little value now ; 
but they contain abundant promise of making the best farming 
portions of the section. They only need thorough draining in 
order to utilize their deep, rich, vegetable deposits, and turn them 
into fertile fields. The day is coming when this will be done. 
The lands of Easton are not such as to make it a farmer's para- 
dise, especially in the northern part of the town, where a gravelly 
soil disputes possession with innumerable overlying bowlders. 
Only by hard labor are these lands made fruitful. Constant 
cultivation will steadily improve them ; and any man who clears 
away the stones and changes a barren waste to a fruitful field, 
may perhaps console himself for present loss by anticipating the 
thanks of posterity ; for every such man increases the actual 
wealth of mankind. There are a few beds of clay in town, of 
small extent, from which brick were once made. 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



BROOKS AND STREAMS. 

There are numerous references to DorcJiester-Meadow River 
in the North Purchase records. This is the stream in the ex- 
treme northeast part of the town. It rises in the swamp, north 
of the Old Colony Railroad station, in Stoughton, passes several 
times under the track on its way southward, receives a tributary 
from Dorchester Swamp, and flows down by French's mill, 
through the Marshall place and the Captain Drew place, on the 
road to Brockton, then through Tilden's Corner, and finally joins 
the Oueset, below the Easton Shoddy-Mill. The name Dor- 
chester was given to it because that town once included all the 
territory of Stoughton where this stream rises. Why shall not 
this stream, in memory of the olden time, be called Dorchester 
Brook } 

The region south of the now Calvin Marshall place went for a 
long time under the name of Cornipsiis. It got the name before 
1744, because at that date Eliphalet Leonard pitched for land 
there, and this word is used in his " pitch." The hill east of the 
Captain Drew saw-mill got the name of Cornipsus Hill. The 
word has been abbreviated into " K'nipt," which is the term the 
boys used to apply to the swimming hole near the mill. Martin 
Wild informed the writer that Jonathan Leonard said the name 
originated in an exclamation made by some Indians, as they 
stood amazed, watching the saw in the mill, as it noisily cut its 
way through the logs. They were heard several times to utter 
a word in deep and forcible gutturals, — a word that sounded some- 
thing like " K'nipsus." 

South of Cornipsus, and west of Stone-House Hill, are a 
swamp and meadow which were called before 1709 Tusseky 
Swamp, and Tusseky Meadow. It derived its name, of course, 
from the tussocks, or tufts of grass, abounding there. The brook 
that runs out of it in a southerly course was known as Stojte- 
House Brook. 

Long-Szvamp Brook, so named in town records as early as 
1757, rises in the swampy land east of the Nathan Willis place, 
and flows nearly due south through the swamp that gives this 
brook its name, and empties into the pond or stream a few rods 
east of the Dean privilege. 



lO HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Rocky-Meadoiu Brook was the name by which, about the time 
of the incorporation of the town and later, the little brook was 
known which flows easterly through the hollow a few rods north 
of Daniel Clark's house. 

Queset River is the pleasant-sounding name that is now given 
to the stream which runs through the villages of North and South 
Easton. The earliest time this name is recorded, so far as the 
writer has discovered, is in the agreement made in 1825, by own- 
ers of water privileges upon it, to enlarge the dam at the lower 
end of Long Pond. The application of the name to this stream 
occurred by a lucky accident or mistake, which is too curious to 
pass unnoticed. The earliest name given to it was Mill River, 
if we except the name Trout-Hole Brook, which, however, was 
only applied to that portion of it which runs through the east part 
of North-Easton village. It was also called Saw-mill River. 
After Eliphalet Leonard had built a forge at the so-called Red 
Factory location, and had christened it Brummagem Forge, this 
stream was sometimes called Brummagem River. But the ac- 
cepted name during the last century was Mill River. The 
probable explanation of the change of name from Mill River to 
Queset River is as follows : Bridgewater people, imperfectly 
acquainted with the North Purchase, had often heard " Coweset 
River " spoken of as in that Purchase. Coweset River was in 
the westerly part, in Norton. But they sometimes mistakenly 
applied the name to the stream which flowed out of the North 
Purchase, or Easton, into their town. Thus, in the State Ar- 
chives, vol. cxiv. p. 211, may be seen a survey of the " West pre- 
cinct of Bridgewater." On that map our stream, known only in 
Easton as Mill River, was erroneously called " Cowisset River." 
This was in 1736. The writer has seen the same name on a 
deed dated 1733, made in Bridgewater. Bridgewater people 
came to know it by this name. One hundred years later 
Mitchell, in his " History of Bridgewater," gives it that name. 
Originally applied, by mistake, it came, at the beginning of this 
century, to be occasionally used by Easton people, being some- 
times called " Cowsett." It is noticeable that some of the par- 
ties forming the agreement in which this name seems first to 
be recorded were Bridgewater men, and the name was given to 
it with which they were most familiar. It was corrupted, or 



TOPOGRAPHY. i i 



rather refined, into the name of Oueset. There is much in a 
name, and Easton may well be grateful for that mistake of 
Bridgewater people which changed the commonplace name 
of Saw-mill River into the agreeable one of Queset. The 
original name " Coweset " was applied to a tribe of Indians. On 
Comstock and Kline's Norfolk County map this stream is, for 
no good reason, called Cohasset. 

The main sources of this stream are in the west of Stoughton 
and the east of Sharon. It has two principal tributaries, next 
to be spoken of In 1825 it had eight water privileges upon it 
in Easton, all doing business. But before the Long Pond and 
the Flyaway Pond dams collected the water, the stream was 
sometimes very small in summer. 

The first tributary is that which comes from Flyaway Pond 
which is fed by several small streams. The name Plyaway 
Swamp is quite old, appearing on the North Purchase records 
as early as 1766, and must therefore have been in use earlier. 
The swamp was mainly where the pond now is, and northwest 
of it. The dam which makes the pond was built in 1846. The 
stream running from it forms its junction with the Queset at the 
Picker field. 

The second tributary is Whitman s Brook, sometimes called 
Mauley s Brook. The former name is the one originally given, 
and ought to be retained. John Whitman, an early settler, 
about 1 71 2 built his house near the stream west of Avery 
Stone's cranberry meadow, and held land in the name of 
Abiah Whitman his father, for nearly a mile up and down 
the brook. It rises in the lower end of Dorchester Swamp, on 
its way down the valley is fed by several springs and small 
brooks, and empties into Stone's Pond. 

In the southwest part of the town is the stream once called 
Mulberry-Meadow Brook, sometimes now called Leacli s Stream. 
It takes its name from the mulberry trees that once grew in its 
meadows. The name Mulberry Brook was given to that portion 
of it only which is south of the junction of the two streams, 
which junction is formed just below Belcher's works. It empties 
into Winneconnet Pond. 

The larger of the two branches that unite to form it is Poqiian- 
ticut Brook, or River, the branch at the west. This stream rises 



12 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

in Sharon, about two miles north of Abijah Tisdale's, flows 
through Wilbur's Pond, crosses Rockland Street at the Archip- 
pus Buck place, receives a tributary where it crosses Massapoag 
Avenue, flows southeasterly and supplies the reservoir built by 
General Sheperd Leach west of the Easton furnace. 

Wilbur's Pond is, however, only partly made by the water from 
this stream. Another brook of about the same dimensions flows 
into this pond on the east. This brook rises in Sharon and 
Stoughton, in swampy, springy land near the Bay road about a 
mile above Easton. It had a sufflcient water-supply once to 
have several mills upon it. Briggs's cotton-twine factory was 
one, and there was a cotton-batting factory lower down, near 
the road by the Tisdale cemetery ; and still lower down, where it 
enters Easton, was a saw-mill, probably owned one hundred and 
forty years ago by Jedediah Willis, who lived five or six rods 
from it, — his house being within the Easton line, and the mill in 
Sharon. These two streams both flowed into the Poquanticut 
Cedar-Swamp, where Wilbur's Pond now is. They united in the 
swamp, the main outlet for the swamp being the same as the 
outlet for the pond, — namely, Poquanticut Brook. 

Reference was made above to a tributary of the last-named 
brook which united with it near Massapoag Avenue. This small 
stream had its source in the swamp spoken of, before Wilbur's 
Pond was made. It was considerably larger once than now, be- 
cause it helped drain the swamp ; but the dam checked the flow 
of vi^ater into it, and cut off its main supply. It still contrives 
to live, however, drawing from the swampy land through which 
it wends its sluggish way enough water to make a stream. It 
flows southerly, crossing Rockland Street between the Tarteus 
Buck and the Mrs. Horace Buck places. 

The other stream which unites with Poquanticut Brook below 
Belcher's works to form Mulberry Brook was known one hundred 
and fifty years ago as Little Brook, and is now called Beaver 
Brook. Higher up, near Rockland Street, it was early known as 
Cooper s Brook, so named from Timothy Cooper, who owned land 
near it there. It has its source in a pond-hole near the old Gil- 
bert and afterward Ansel Alger place, not far from the Bay road, 
and not very far from the Sharon line. It crosses Britton Street, 
and also Rockland Street near the Stimpson Williams place. 



TOPOGRAPHY. 13 



At the latter spot, about 1770, Lieut. Samuel Coney built a saw- 
mill, which was owned about fifteen years later by Capt. James 
Perry. The stream from thence flows southerly, and near Beaver 
Street, which it crosses, it receives a small tributary which rises 
east of the Bay road above Ebenezer Randall's. It used to 
furnish water-power for the Hayward carriage factory, which is 
now removed, and it makes the pond just below for the Drake 
foundry, the dam for this pond having been constructed in 1751, 
as will be elsewhere narrated. 

Spring Brook is a small tributary of Mulberry Brook, flow- 
ing into it near Walter Henshaw's, and comes down from some 
distance northwest of this place. 

Black Brook rises in the swampy lands south c^ Lincoln Street 
and considerably east of the Bay road, flows southerly until it 
crosses the road just west of Edmund Lothrop's, thence goes 
southeast and runs through Cranberry Meadow, crossing the 
road near the old Dean saw-mill, and so on in a southeasterly 
direction into West Bridgewater, where it flows into the Town 
River. The name Black Brook was in use before 1763, and is 
now applied to the whole stream ; but for a long time the name 
of Cranberry-Meadoiv Brook was given to that portion of it 
below its entrance into Cranberry Meadow. 

Cranberry-Meadow Neck is a ridge of land about one hundred 
rods west of the mill-site, running north and south and nearly 
cutting the meadows into two parts. A small brook flowed past 
the northerly end of this neck and ran, or rather sluggishly 
crept, downward through the meadow, emptying into the larger 
stream. 

Gallozvs Brook is a little brook just west of the Finley place. 
It rises, not in Cranberry Meadow, but in a small swamp about 
west of the Finley place, flows northerly, and then curves and 
flows east by south into Cranberry-Meadow Brook. It was so 
small that in 1750 it had no bridge over it, and one could step 
across it. But on this little stream Joshua Howard once built a 
dam, meaning to get a supply of water by cutting a ditch to 
Black Brook in Cranberry Meadow. This he actually did ; and 
it led to trouble with James Dean, whose saw-mill privilege was 
threatened with serious loss by this diversion of water from its 
water-supply. After these parties had successively opened and 



14 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

closed the ditch several times, Mr. Howard gave up the contest 
and abandoned his project of building an oil mill. We shall, 
however, see that the contest was renewed. The traditionary 
origin of the name Gallows Brook is this : An unfortunate ox 
was once browsing by the roadside near the brook, at a place 
where there was a tangle of stout grapevines. He either slipped 
or sank into the mire, getting his neck fastened among the vines 
in such a way as to be strangled. If the tradition is true, we 
may conclude that either the ox was very weak, or the grapevine 
very strong. 

PONDS. 

Although there is much swampy land in Easton, there were 
very few natural ponds, and these were very small. At some 
time there was a pond at Cranberry Meadow, but it was one 
made by the beavers. There were several small beaver ponds 
at various times. Wilbur s Pond m. the northwest part of the 
town was made by General Sheperd Leach about the year 1825. 
It is the site of what was once known as Poquanticut Cedar- 
Swamp. The origin of the other artificial ponds in Easton will 
be spoken of in connection with the history of industrial enter- 
prises here, they having been made by dams to furnish water- 
power. There was a natural pond of small extent, in a basin 
and without an outlet, in North Easton, which was known as 
early as the incorporation of the town as Horse-Grass Pond. It 
is so called in the North Purchase records, and was situated just 
east of the railroad track, some rods south of the bridge over 
Main Street. It has now almost disappeared. Another very 
small pond of the same character, but which must once have 
been quite deep judging by the accumulation of peat or muck 
in it, was in the hollow about a mile south of the North Easton 
Railroad station. It was called Lily Pond prior to 1750. The 
depth of the peat accumulation has not yet been sounded. The 
railroad track passes over it, and has often settled so that many 
times the road-bed has had to be raised at this point. The peat 
deposit was formed from the vegetation that grew in it, and from 
the leaves and branches that fell into it from the overhanging 
and neighboring trees. Lily Pond is referred to under that 
name in 1759. While the farm on which this muck deposit is 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



15 



located was the property of the Messrs. DeWitt, a large quantity 
of the deposit was dug up and carted away for sale. The supply 
is one that will last for many years. There is also a small pond 
west of Edward D. Williams's and on the west side of Mulberry 
Brook, known as Round Pond. In very dry seasons it is nearly 
or quite empty. There was another, once called Ragged-Plain 
Pond, west of the four corners beyond Mr. Selee's and north of 
the road. 

There were several places known in early descriptions as 
Beaver Dam. One was just west of Stone-House Hill ; another 
was in the extreme northwest part of the town. Numerous small 
streams and swampy places made the town a congenial home for 
the beaver. Remains of a beaver dam were seen by Alonzo 
Marshall near the stream northeast of his former home, and 
beavers were known to have made their dams at Cranberry 
Meadow, and west of the old Nathaniel Perry place near the 
Mansfield line. The dam the remains of which were found 
by Mr. Marshall is referred to in the North Purchase records 
as early as 1709. There was also a Beaver Pond, so-called, 
as late as 1752, on Whitman's Brook, near the old Joseph 
Drake place. 

MEADOWS AND PLAINS. 

No locality, with the single exception of Great Cedar-Swamp, 
is oftener referred to in the old records than Cranberry Meadoiv. 
All the meadows were valuable in the early time because there 
were few clearings, and the grass, though inferior to what is now 
raised upon grass lands, was much needed. Cranberry Meadow 
extends quite a distance westward from the railroad crossing at 
the old Dean saw-mill on Prospect Street. Lots from it were in 
great demand when the land was first divided. Much of it was 
overflowed in the winter. It was originally a beaver pond. In 
the action of Dean vs. Brett, elsewhere noticed, the following 
statements were offered in the evidence : " It appears that said 
Meadow was formerly flowed by the beavers, or natives, or ante- 
diluvians, and in that condition was found by [Timothy] Cooper." 
Reference is made to " the time the natives had it for a fishing 
pond, after they had destroyed the beavers which made the dams 
below. ... It was a natural pond or bog when Cooper found it 



l6 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

in 1706." In fact, however, it was known and valued over ten 
years before this date, and before Cooper settled here. But he 
was the first to see its value for business purposes ; and in 1706 
he was shrewd enough to have twenty-six acres of land laid out 
at the east end of it, crossing the present mill-site. 

Hockomock Meadow is in the southeast quarter of the town. 
It does not appear under this name in the Taunton North- 
Purchase records. It was in earlier times a swamp, and was 
called the Great Swamp. 

Evin's Meadow is frequently named in the early records. It 
is the low land west of the old Nathaniel Perry place, near 
the Mansfield line. It became the property of Lieut. James 
Leonard, then of his daughter Mehitable, who married John 
Willis, and on his death married Captain Nathaniel Perry. 
Cold-Spring Meadoiv is next below ; and still below this, and 
west of the D welly Coward place, is Granny Meadow. Nicholas 
or Nicies Meadoiv was the name given to the meadow west and 
southwest of Edmund Lothrop's. Little-Ci'anberry Meadoiv was 
north of Stone's Pond, perhaps including the upper part of what 
is now the pond. There were several little cranberry meadows 
in town. LatJirofs Plaiti was the large plain south of Lincoln 
Street, about half a mile from the North Easton Post-office, 
where a notable muster was held some years ago. Rocky Plain 
was the level land through which Centre Street now runs, the 
plain being mainly on the west of it. CrookJiorn Plain was a 
name in common use as early as 1700, and may have been given 
to it from the real or supposed shape of the plain. It is the 
level land through which the Bay road runs, between Furnace 
village and the Sheperd place, though it was most of it upon the 
west side of the road. High Plain is in the southwest corner 
of the town, and the plain in the extreme southwest and close 
to Norton line was, in 1730 and earlier, known as Meeting 
Plain. Ragged Plain is west of the Selee place, near Mans- 
field. Badcock's Plain, is at the extreme eastern border of 
Easton, east of South-Easton village. It was known later as 
Stone House Plain. Chestnut Orchard needs no special de- 
scription, as it still goes by this name. It extended farther 
south in the early days than now, taking in the Nathan Willis 
place. 



TOPOGRAPHY. 



17 



ANIMALS. 

As to the flora and fauna of Easton, they do not differ from 
that of this section generally, and do not call for special notice. 
The bears, wildcats, deer, etc., have all disappeared. The smaller 
animals still found here live a precarious life, there being several 
hunters and dogs for every fox, partridge, rabbit, or squirrel. 
Rewards were at first offered for killing wildcats, and we have a 
record of Benjamin Drake being paid five shillings for such ser- 
vice in 1724. Deer were plentiful, but they were such tempting 
game that there was great danger of their speedy extinction. In 
1698, therefore, a law was passed forbidding any one, on penalty 
of two pounds for the first offence and more for a repetition of 
it, from killing any deer between January i and August i. A 
more rigid act was enacted about 1739, and in December of that 
year a town-meeting was held " to chuse two good and lawful 
men to take good care that ye late act is not broken conserneing 
ye killing of Dear within their precincts ; and we maid choise of 
John Dailey, Sen., and Geoi^ge Keyzer to searve in yt affeare." 
From that date a deer constable, or " Informer of deer," was 
regularly chosen in town-meetings, until 1789. The honor of 
this office for many years fell upon Benjamin Harvey. Harvey 
lived on the old Allen road, now Britton Street, and the location 
of the house may still be seen, just east of the old house now in- 
habited by the "Twenty Leonards." One pleasant day in 1747 
Mrs. Harvey was sweeping, and she put her little baby Sarah 
in the warm sunshine just outside the door. Presently the child 
began to cry, and the mother went out and brought her in. 
She had no sooner done so than a bear, that had been attracted 
by the cry, emerged from the woods near by and came close to 
the spot where but a moment before the baby had been lying. 
This was the only child the Harveys ever had, and we may well 
believe that this circumstance enforced greater caution upon 
the mother in the future. 

There are, unfortunately, very few authentic bear-stories that 
have come to the writer's notice. Many years ago, old Mr. 
Britton used to tell Tisdale Harlow, when a little child, the 
story of the last bear killed in Poquanticut. The exact date 
cannot be given, but it was more than a century ago. It had 

2 



20 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

the rest of it. Then it was asked how much it was and how it lay : said 
Gentlemen answered it was all the land between Taunton bounds and 
Rehoboth bounds, and between Taunton bounds and the bay line 
home to Bridgewater Bounds, excepting two parcells that was granted 
unto others before. So we made a bargain accordingly with said agents 
or committee, and ten of us became bound for the payment of what we 
gave for said lands, & a deed was then written and left with said Wil- 
liam Harvey ; but we then not knowing all who would be proprietors 
in said lands," etc.^ 

Forty-three other persons joined with the ten alluded to in 
this statement ; and this company of fifty-three Taunton men 
paid to the Plymouth Court the sum of £ioo for the tract of 
land already specified. The following is a copy of the original 
deed of sale : — 

"Whereas the Generall Court of New Plymouth have impowered 
Mr. Thomas Prence, Major Josias Winslow, Capt. Thomas Southworth, 
and Mr. Constant Southworth to take notice of some purchases of land 
lately made by Capt. Thomas Willett, and to settle and dispose the 
said lands for the Collonies' use : Know therefore all whom it may 
anyway concern, that the above named Mr. Thomas Prence, Capt. 
Thomas Southworth, Mr. Constant Southworth, and Major Josias 
Winslow, by vertue of power by and from the said Court derived unto 
them, have and by these presents doe bargaine, sell, grant, allien, al- 
lott, confer, and make over unto Richard Williams, Walter Deane, 
George Macey, James Walker, Joseph Wilbore, William Harvey, 
Thomas Leonard, John Turner, Henery Andrews, John Cobb, Gorge 
Hall, John Hall, Samuel Hall, James Leonard, Sen"'., Nathaniel Wil- 
liams, Thomas Williams, Nicholas White, Sen'., Nicholas White, Jun'., 
Hezekiah Hoar, AUice Dean, Israel Deane, Robert Grossman, Shad- 
rach Wilbore, Thomas Caswell, John Macomber, John Smith, Edward 
Rue, John Parker, Samuel Paule, Thomas Linkon, Sen'., Thomas 
Harvey the Elder, Nathaniel Thayer, Thomas Linkon, Jun'., Peter 
Pitts, Jonah Austine, Sen'., John Richmond, Samuell Williams, Chris- 
topher Thrasher, Mistress Jane Gilbert, Gorge Watson, Samuell Smith, 
James Burt, Richard Burt, John Tisdall, Sen'., John Tisdall, Jun'., 
James Phillips, Edward Bobbitt, John Hatheway, Jonathan Briggs, 
Encrease Robinson, John Bryant, Thomas Harvey, Jun'., Proprietars 

1 The above is from a document in the handwriting of Thomas Leonard, and is 
one of the numerous and interesting historical papers preserved by the late Rev. 
George Leonard, of Marshfield, but now the property of the city of Taunton. 









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MAP 

OF- 

TAbfJioH NoRTf-l PLipcHASE 

AND THE TOWNS OF 

EASTQN. NORTON & MANSFIELD 

DRAWN ESPECIALLY FOB THIS hJI^TCRY BY 
E.B.HAYWARD, C.E. 



Scala XInch - SiJTtles 



Ge/^^S:Walker aizCa IfOt Soston 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 21 

of the town of Taunton, and to their heirs forever, a certaine tract of 
land lying and being on the northerly syde of Taunton aforesaid, and 
is bounded as followeth, viz. : beginning on the northwest, att the 
bounds of the lands formerly sold by us unto the Town of Rehobeth, 
and to be bounded on the northerly syde by the Massachusetts line, 
untill it Cometh to beare with the western bounds of the town of 
Bridgewater, and soe from the said Massachusetts line by a south line 
home to the bounds of Taunton, and thence by a westerly line until it 
meets with the bounds of Rehobeth aforesaid, and so to follow the 
said bounds of Rehobeth until it comes unto the bounds first men- 
sioned upon the Massachusetts line, — all the lands within this compas, 
excepting onley a small parcel! granted unto John Bundey, and alsoe 
a grant made unto Thomas Briggs (the son of Clement Briggs), to- 
gether with the meddows, woods, waters, and all other benefitts, privi- 
leges, emoluments, profitts, and ennuities thereunto appertaining and 
belonging." 

" To Have and to Hold," etc. [Dated June i, 1668.] 

The accompanying map u^ill show^ the exact location of this 
tract of land. 

There appear to be no data for determining where the " par- 
cell granted unto John Bundy " was. There is no evidence 
that he settled within the limits of the North Purchase. For a 
while he lived at Taunton, and his name appears upon the Old 
Proprietors' records of that town, his land then being described 
as within its boundaries. If he had a lot within the limits of 
the North Purchase he must have disposed of it before the 
lands were divided there, for his name never appears upon the 
books of this company. Neither the old deeds at Plymouth 
nor the Bristol County deeds at Taunton show that he ever 
conveyed any lands of this Purchase to any other parties. 
Some details concerning John Bundy may be found in a note 
on page 4 of Clarke's " History of Norton." The statement 
there made, however, that Bundy was probably the first settler 
within the limits of what is now Easton, is unsupported by 
evidence. 

The second "parcel! " of this territory not included in the 
North Purchase was that owned by Thomas Briggs. He was 
son of Clement Briggs, who was grandfather to the first settler 
of Easton of that name. The court-grant to Thomas was as 
follows : — 



22 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

"One hundred and fifty acres of land is granted to Thomas Briggs, 
son of Clement Briggs deceased, and twenty acres of meadow, if it 
may be had in the place desired, which is in the way to Deadum from 
Taunton, betwixt a pond and a mill river which comes to Taunton, 
betwixt Taunton and Massapauge Pond." ^ 

This was dated June 7, 1659. The location of this grant was 
in the northeast part of what is now Mansfield. Thomas Briggs 
was probably the first settler within the limits of Taunton North- 
Purchase. He had two sons, Thomas and Samuel. Thomas 
moved to Rhode Island and became a ferryman at Kingston. 
Samuel lived on the old homestead. On March 16, 1696, 
Thomas Briggs deeded to his son Samuel one half the upland 
and meadow that he had at a place called Tyump, and " like- 
wise my whole leantoo in my Dwelling house & one Bay in my 
Barne, but not of the leanto of my barne, upon the condition 
that my said son Samuel's wife shall be helpful to my wife 
& to take a childlike care of her." ^ It is also stipulated that 
Samuel is to take care of his father in case of need. There was 
a daughter who married John Cobb. Her name was Susanna. 
Samuel married Mary Hall. He died prior to 1707, and his 
widow married Benjamin Caswell. 

These two grants — one to John Bundy, the other to Thomas 
Briggs — were the only tracts in the North Purchase that had 
actually been laid out to persons not the proprietors, and were 
therefore excepted from the sale. But it seems that Plymouth 
Colony had promised at least one other grant within this terri- 
tory. The record of it is as follows, the date being 1665 : — 

" One hundred and fifty acres are granted by the Court unto the 
three sisters, the daughters of Roger Chandler deceased, viz. : to each 
of them fifty acres, lying between the Bay line and the bounds of 
Taunton, according to the desire of John Bundy." ^ 

The proprietors ordered that this land be laid out to these 
daughters, and a survey of the grant was made. Some meadow 
land was also laid out to them, located in Cranberry Meadow. 
Nothing further is known of their ownership here. No deed of 
sale of their lands appears. But such sale was no doubt made, 

1 Plymouth Colony Records, vol. iii. p. 164. 

2 Land Records, or Deeds, at Taunton, vol. iv. p. 123. 
^ Plymouth Colony Records, vol. iv. p. no. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 23 



for one of the first owners, Abiah Whitman, has land laid out to 
him " on the right of the daughters of Roger Chandler." They 
never had a residence in the North Purchase. Indeed, it is very 
probable that this grant made to Roger Chandler's daughters, 
" according to the desire of John Bundy," is the one referred to 
in the deed before quoted as the "small parcell granted unto 
John Bundey." Otherwise, why is not this Chandler grant 
alluded to in that document ? The connection of his name 
with it would account for the mistake. 

THE BOUNDARY LINE CONTROVERSY. 

There are some interesting facts that deserve notice, concern- 
ing the north boundary of the Taunton North-Purchase and the 
troubles that grew out of the uncertainty regarding it. This 
boundary was the divisional line between Plymouth Colony on 
the south and Massachusetts Colony on the north, which line, 
as finally settled, corresponds to the boundary between Norfolk 
County on one side and Plymouth and Bristol counties on the 
other.i poj. about thirty years after the settlement of Massa- 
chusetts Colony there had been controversies as to the exact 
location of the line between the two colonies. In 1663-64 com- 
missioners were appointed by both governments to settle this 
line. It was to run westerly from Accord Pond, which was sit- 
uated on the line between what is now Hingham, Scituate, and 
Rockland, to a point "three miles southward of the south part 
of Charles River." ^ In running this line west by southwest, 
these commissioners found, when they were within a few miles 
of Rhode Island, that they were considerably south of where 
they ought to be. But instead of retracing their steps they 
stopped at that point, and marking a tree, which became known 
as the " Angle Tree," they changed their course more to the 
north, so as to reach the point designated as the western end of 
the boundary line. By this mistake of the commissioners 
Plymouth Colony lost a large gore of land, which began in a 
narrow point at Accord Pond and gradually widened as the line 
diverged to the south. The old surveyors estimated that about 

1 See Hobart's " Sketch of Abington," p. 95 £t seq., where the question of this 
boundary line is ably presented, though without reference to its relation to the North 
Purchase of Taunton. 2 state Archives, vol. iii. pp. 114. "S- 



24 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

fourteen thousand acres were thus cut off from the Old Colony. 
What induced the Plymouth Colony commissioners to sign an 
agreement so detrimental to its interests can only be conjectured. 
There was probably a greater divergence than they supposed ; 
moreover, the commissioners were no doubt fatigued by their 
laborious journey through the forest, and did not think the land 
of sufficient value to pay for the labor and trouble of another 
survey. But as soon as the real location of this line was 
discovered, and the loss to Plymouth Colony understood, great 
efforts were made to rectify this boundary. 

It is obvious that it was for the interest of the Taunton North- 
Purchase proprietors to maintain the old line. Their purchase 
extended to the " Massachusetts line," and if they could main- 
tain their right to the territory up to the old line, it would make 
a difference of probably not less than five thousand acres in 
their favor. Gradually, however, the line of 1G64 came to be ac- 
cepted as the authorized boundary. But about 1700 it was dis- 
covered that some of the landmarks of this boundary were not 
in a straight line between Accord Pond and Angle Tree, but 
were a considerable distance south of it, and of course much 
farther south of the original line between the two colonies than 
even the line of 1664 was. This discovery led to frequent and 
prolonged troubles. Even accepting the line of 1664 between 
Accord Pond and Angle Tree, that line itself was not a straight 
one, and cut off some of the land from the North Purchase. The 
proprietors were of course justly indignant. Their records for 
the first quarter of the last century give frequent signs of the 
difficulty. In 1702 they appoint "John White as their agent to 
join with Dorchester men and all others concerned, to run and 
settle a straight line between the late Coloneys of the Massachu- 
setts and Plymouth, from accord pond to the angle tree." ^ The 
result of this survey has just been alluded to ; and as it would 
have restored to the North Purchase what they were claiming, 
and what even the line of 1664, if correctly drawn, would have 
conceded to them, Dorchester (which then included Stoughton 
and Sharon) refused to agree to the result. Accordingly there 
were frequent contentions, and in 1710 this action was taken at 
a meeting of the proprietors : " Then the said Proprietors made 
1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 26. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 25 

choice of Mr. Edward Fobes and George Leonard to be their 
agents, to Join with Bridgewater men in Defending the riming 
of the Hne that was last run by the agreement by and between 
Bridgewater men and said North-Purchase men on the one part 
and Dorchester men on the other part, and do ingage to bear 
their proportion of the charge thereof." ^ 

In May, 171 3, another attempt was made to settle the diffi- 
culty by appointing a committee to run a new line. An 
effort was first made to find the old Angle Tree which was 
marked in 1664. The report made by a part of this committee 
describes the search for this tree, and the evidence upon which 
they were satisfied that they had found it. But here at the very 
start the hope of the settlement of the trouble by this committee 
vanished ; for " The gentleman that appeared for Attleborough 
and Norton would not own the tree, and refused to be concerned 
in running the line," ^ — so reads the report of the minority of 
the committee, Samuel Thaxter and Jacob Thompson. In this 
report the three points on the new line that were north of what 
is now Easton are as follows : " The next is a heap of stones 
on a great rock about forty or fifty rods to the east of Dorchester- 
Meadow Brook ; the next is a black oak, marked about eighteen \\ 
rods to the southwest of Jeremiah Willis' house ; the next is a 
great, hollow black oak marked with stones about it on the west 
side of the Plain that is in the west side of Quantucket Cedar- 
Swamp." ^ This Jeremiah Willis was the ancestor of one branch 
of the Easton Willises ; his house was just north of the town 
line, east of the Bay road, and but for the mistake of the com- 
missioners of 1664 would have been within the town limits. 
In justice, Easton should have extended farther north than it 
does now. This uncertainty about the boundary was a great 
annoyance to Mr. Willis, and to others living near the north 
border of the North Purchase. Twice he "pitched" for land 
near the line, and twice he " doth let drop his pitch because it 
falls in Dorchester." Proprietors found in some cases that the 
land that had been laid out to them was, by the new Hne, included 
in Dorchester. The North-Purchase Company endeavored to 
get satisfaction for such of their number as suffered on this ac- 

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 30. 

2 Massachusetts Court Records, vol. ix. p. 280. ^ Ibid. 



\ 



26 'HISTORY OF EASTON. 

count. In December, 1717, they "Voted that the committee 
formerly chosen to lay out land in said North purchase, shall 
have full power to make satisfaction to those that are Damnified 
by the runing the line by Dorchester men, and the surveyor and 
any two of said committee to make satisfaction to them in laying 
out land to them, either in quantity or quallity ; and the person 
Damnified to have no hand in Judging his own Damage."^ In 
April, 1718, it was "Voted to make choice of a committee to 
take care and use all proper methods as shall be thought meet 
and convenient for the maintaining and holding their right and 
title on the north side of said purchase, home to the ancient 
Plymouth Colony line as Granted by Charter, whether it be by 
renewing the bounds with the Proprietors adjoining, or by any 
other lawfull way or means whatsoever." ^ In 1720 they voted 
to sell two hundred and sixteen acres of land to defray the 
charges growing out of these diflficulties ; they had previously 
voted a sale of fifty acres for the same purpose. Sometimes 
these troubles assumed a dangerous personal character. On 
June 2, 1722, a committee, appointed to sell a piece of land on 
the border, reported that they were opposed in their attempts to 
establish boundaries. They affirmed in their report as follows :^ 

We renewed the ancient bounds by erecting a heap of stones, 
which we intended for the first boundary. But Ephraim Fobes & 
Edward & Ephraim Howard [Hayward] jCame and told us that we 
had no business there, and that we had better take up the compass 
& be gone. Wee answered that what we did was by order of the 
General Court ; but the said Edward Howard told us that the General 
Court had nothing to do with any land there, — whereupon we read to 
them the Court's order ; and then the said Ephraim Fobes went and 
threw off some of the stones, and said there should not be any bounds 
there. And from thence they went forward to a fence where the line 
went, and there the said Eph, and Edw. Howard warned us to stand 
off upon our Perill, telling us that we came like Robbers, Highway- 
men, and Rioters : The said Edw. Howard had an axe in his hand, 
and the sd. Eph. Howard had a club. Wee told them we might pro- 
ceed on the business wee were sent for, and Col. Thaxter, who carried 
the line, stepped forward with the compass, to go over the fence in 

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 44, 

2 Ibid., p. 46. 

8 Massachusetts General Court Records, vol. xi. pp. 308, 309. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 27 

the course of the line ; but Edw. Howard & Daniel Howard laid vio- 
lent hands upon him & pushed him back, so that we were obstructed, . 
and unless we would have come to Violence & Blood shed we could 
not have gone on with our Business. Therefore we pray this great & 
Honorable Court would be pleased to consider the before mentioned 
offence, & give us further direction in the Premises. 

Sam. Thaxter. 

Robert Spurr. 

John Quincy. 

Edward Hayward and his three companions thought, no doubt, 
that they were defending their just rights. But the General 
Court took a different view of the matter, and ordered that they 
be arrested and shut up in Boston jail.^ Several weeks' confine- 
ment therein induced them to offer an humble petition for their 
release. This was granted them upon condition that they pay 
damages, and give security for better behavior in the future ; 
which they did.^ Of this Edward Hayward we shall soon hear 
more. 

In the year 1727 the proprietors voted that any person who 
will prosecute those who have settled upon the proprietor's lands 
in Stoughton, but south of the line as run by Nathaniel Wood- 
ward and Solomon Safery, shall have one third of the land which 
they may recover, — the suits, however, to be conducted at the 
expense and risk of the prosecutor. 

About 1729 it was determined to appeal to the Crown, and a 
committee was chosen and money raised to promote this appeal. 
It is in reference to this that we have the following curious vote 
in a meeting held May 2"], 1 729 : — 

" 2ly. the Proprietors voted that the Handkercheife which was the 
return of the money which was sent to England should be sold, and 
that that mr. Ephraim Howard should be paid two pounds and Eight 
Shillings, and Lt. James Leonard to be paid Sixteen Shillings, and mr. 
Edward Shove to be paid Sixteen Shillings out of the mone}' that said 
Handkerchiefe should be sold for, and that the rest of said money 
should be let out to Interest for the use of sd small proprietors. 

"3ly. said Proprietors voted that Lieut. James Leonard and major 
George Leonard shall have all the said Handkerchiefe, they Giving 

1 Massachusetts General Court Records, vol. xi. p. 315. 

2 Ibid., p. 369. 



28 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

good security for twenty-three pounds sixteen shillings to the Clerk, 
to be paid within one year's time," etc. ^ 

What do these curious votes mean ? The word " handkerchief" 
is evidently used to signify a special collection. The proprietors 
raised money for specific purposes, and kept the sums thus raised 
in separate amounts. Silver money was of course used for the 
purpose alluded to in this case. Was it tied up in a handkerchief ? 
If so, perhaps this is the first case on record where a handker- 
chief was ever used for a contribution-box. For some reason 
the proprietors were not ready to use this collection as yet, and 
they therefore voted to "sell the handkerchief," — meaning by 
this, to put its contents to interest, after paying the expenses 
that had already accrued. 

In 1750 the proprietors vote to choose a committee to act with 
a committee of the Rehoboth North-Purchase, or Attleborough, to 
petition the General Court to settle the line between the two late 
colonies according to the agreement of the Commissioners of 
1640. In both 1752 and 1753 they voted to begin an action to 
eject all persons who had, without authority from the proprietors, 
settled upon these disputed lands. 

There was no final settlement of the matter until 1772. The 
Court then appointed a committee to run the line from Accord 
Pond to Angle Tree, Artemas Ward being the chairman of the 
committee. They reported in favor of the line of 171 3, made by 
Thaxter and Thompson. On March 6, 1773, an act passed the 
Legislature, providing that the line should run from the pond, 
so often alluded to, west twenty and a half degrees south to 
the Angle Tree. This line is the present boundary between 
Norfolk County on the north, and Plymouth and Bristol coun- 
ties on the south. In 1790, a stone monument was by order of 
the State erected on the spot where this tree stood. 

INDIAN OWNERSHIP OF THESE LANDS. 

It will be interesting to the people of Easton to know what 
Indians were the immediate predecessors of the whites in the 
ownership of the territory of this town, which was on or very near 
the boundary lines that separated the important tribes of the 

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 64. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 



29 



Massachusetts Indians and the Wampanoags. The former were 
north of the limits of Bristol County ; the latter, according to 
Baylies, in his " History of Plymouth Colony," inhabited Bristol 
County. Massasoit was their chief, and his authority was recog- 
nized as supreme among the tribes living in the whole of the 
colony of Plymouth, as well as in the islands of Nantucket and 
Martha's Vineyard. These tribes were known under the general 
name of Pokanokets. Some doubt has been thrown upon the 
statement that the whole of Bristol County was once the posses- 
sion of Massasoit, and after him of Metacomet, who is better 
known to us as King Philip. These doubts are based mainly 
upon two considerations, which deserve a brief notice. The 
first of these rests upon a deposition of five Indians made in 
1650. The deposition is as follows: — 

Pecunke, Ahiumpum, Catscimah, Webacowett, and Masbanomett 
doe all affirm that Chickataubut his bounds did extend from Nishama- 
goquannett, near Duxberry Mill, to Teghtacutt neare Taunton, and to 
Nunckatatesett, and from thence in a straight line to Wanamampuke, 
which is the head of Charles River. This they doe all solemly affirme, 
saying, God knoweth it to be true, and knoweth their hearts. Dated 
the first of the fourth month 1650. 

Witness : Encrease Nowell. 

John Elliot. 

John Hoare.^ 

This deposition affirms that the boundary line extended from 
Duxbury to Titicut, thence to Nippenicket Pond, and thence to 
Whiting's Pond in Wrentham, This would cut off what is now 
the town of Easton from the dominion of Massasoit. But were 
there no other reason to doubt the correctness of this boundary, 
its great irregularity would condemn it, or at least, make it ex- 
tremely improbable. There are, however, other and convincing 
reasons. 

I. Plymouth Colony invariably recognized Massasoit as the 
chief sachem of all the territory included within its limits. 
Bridgewater on the east, and the lands on the west of the North 
Purchase were bought of Massasoit. It is therefore certain that 
this purchase, being in the same range as these, must have been 
in his jurisdiction. 

^ Plymouth Colony Records, vol. ii. p. 157. 



30 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

2, According to the deed of the above said purchase, the lands 
included in it were bought of the Indians by Captain Thomas 
Willett, and his negotiations were unquestionably with Massasoit 
or his successors, and not with the Massachusetts Indians. 

3. Several confirmatory deeds might be cited, were there suffi- 
cient occasion for so doing, which assume and plainly state the 
fact that the lands south of the Old Colony line were purchased 
of Massasoit. 

Another source of doubt concerning the rightful ownership of 
this territory by Massasoit and Philip is the fact that two deeds, 
at least, were given by sachems of the Massachusetts Indians 
covering a part of these lands. One of them appears, on the 
face of it, to acknowledge their ownership in the North Pur- 
chase. In the Book of Votes of the Taunton North-Purchase 
Company, page 7, is the following record : — 

" At a meeting of the proprietors of the north purchase the twenty- 
fourth day of Feb'y 1686-7, the said Proprietors agreed and voted to 
levey and raise sixteen pence in money on each share in said purchase, 
to pay Josiah the Indian sachim for a Deed they have percured of him ; 
and it is to be paid into Thomas Leonard by the sixteenth Day of next 
march." 

The original deed just referred to is still preserved, being among 
the papers left by the Rev. George Leonard, already referred to. 
That this sachem Josiah, who was one of the feeble remnant of 
the Massachusetts Indians, had no valid claim to the lands he 
thus deeded away, is sufficiently apparent from the fact that in 
1770 Squamaug, then the acting chief of this tribe, made an 
agreement with Philip that the line between the Plymouth and 
Massachusetts colonies should be the dividing-line between the 
Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians.^ Though Josiah was 
without any valid claim to this land, the North-Purchase proprie- 
tors were willing to give him the small pittance he asked for 
rather than have any further trouble about the matter. The 
whole sum he received was only three pounds, twelve shillings. 
The Indians of that date had so far degenerated that they could 
imitate white men by becoming beggars. " Sometimes, when 
our fathers had purchased lands of the real owner, and others 

1 Clarke's History of Norton, pp. 50, 51. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 31 

afterwards laid some claim to them, they would buy off the claim 
by a small consideration rather than suffer a controversy or leave 
a doubt to disturb private or individual purchasers hereafter. 
Thus the colonies practised what are called 'quieting titles,' 
and extinguished claims on expediency, and without regard to 
their validity." ^ 

It is very probable that the boundaries between the Indian 
tribes were rather indefinite, but there is no reasonable ground 
to doubt that the territory of Easton was once a part of the 
hunting-gro.unds of the celebrated Massasoit and his more cele- 
brated son Philip. 

Some readers may be disappointed to find that the Indians 
have done nothing to add to the interest of this history. This 
was not the fault of the savages. They would very cheerfully 
have tomahawked and scalped enough of our early settlers to 
have furnished us with most exciting and harrowing tales of 
bloodshed. But several years before our first settler built his 
rude dwelling east of the site of Dean's mill at South Easton, 
the spirit and power of the Indians in this section had been 
thoroughly broken, — King PhiHp's war having ended in 1676. 
There is a tradition that they had a village on the spot just indi- 
cated, east of "The Green." The tradition is probably correct, 
because, first, there have been from time to time a large num- 
ber of relics ploughed or dug up from the field there ; and sec- 
ondly, the selection of that spot by the first comer for his 
homestead makes it probable that it was a clearing where the 
previous occupants, the natives, had been accustomed to culti- 
vate maize, etc. There were, no doubt, other clearings in the 
south part of the town, where lands were easily worked : not 
even an Indian would be foolish enough to attempt to clear the 
soil in the northeast quarter. Indian relics have been found in 
many different places in Easton. Two stone pestles were dug 
from a gravel-bank southeast of Daniel Wheaton's house. They 
were deep enough beneath the surface to make it probable that 
they were buried with their owner, according to Indian custom. 
Further examination there might possibly indicate the pres- 
ence of one of the burying-grounds of the natives. That some 

1 Manuscript letter from the late Hon. John Daggett of Attleborough, to whose 
kindness the writer is indebted for some facts and suggestions used in this chapter. 



32 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Stragglers among the Indians remained about here and had 
come to sore need, is indicated by the following action of the 
town in town-meeting in the year 1763: "Voted to James 
Linsey one pound eleven shillings, for provisions and clothes 
for the Indians." 

THE PRESERVATION OF TIMBER. 

The North-Purchase proprietors showed much interest in the 
preservation of the timber, especially the cedar, which grew upon 
their lands. From the number of votes passed empowering 
committees to prosecute persons who had cut cedar, oak, and 
other timber, it is evident that there was considerable trespass- 
ing upon the undivided lands. As early as 1683 the proprietors 
"Voted and agreed that there shall be no cedar falne that Doth 
belong to the said north purchase or improved for any use, until 
the said Proprietors do otherwise agree." A committee is ap- 
pointed to " see that the aforesaid order be not broken nor the 
cedar wasted ; and to seize any cedar fallen or improved, or the 
produce thereof, for the use of said proprietors ; or to arrest 
the person or persons so transgressing, and by law to recover 
the value of the produce of such cedar, improved contrary to 
order, or what damage he or they do to the cedar swamps." 
Such votes are quite common for many years, and the preser- 
vation of the cedar in the Great Cedar-Swamp and in other 
places appeared to be a matter of much solicitude, the proprie- 
tors evidently placing a high value upon it. In the year 1699 
there is this curious record : " Samuel Briggs having bought 
about 1400 of Claboards and long shingles of an Indian, the 
stuff being got in the North Purchase, the Proprietors by vote 
agreed that he shall have them, paying six shillings in money to 
the proprietors, — which he then did, and it was then spent in 
drink." ^ This was in Taunton in mid-winter, and a good drink 
was, in the opinion of the proprietors, seasonable, and the easiest 
solution of the difificulty of disposing of this unexpected six shil- 
lings. Whether the absent proprietors, who were not on hand to 
share this good cheer, took the same view of the case we are not 
informed. This Samuel Briggs was son of Thomas, of whom we 
have already heard. How this unknown Indian became pos- 
1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 22. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 33 

sessed of these " Claboards and long shingles " must be matter 
of conjecture only. They were too bulky to steal and carry 
away ; an Indian was extremely unlikely to be a regular dealer 
in such merchandise ; and we are therefore obliged to imagine 
the extraordinary spectacle of one of these wild sons of the 
forest laboriously splitting out these articles from the trees 
among which he had so often roamed in his hunts for game. 
The mere thought of it touches our sympathy. 

THE DIVISION OF LANDS. 

The manner in which lands of the Taunton North-Purchase 
Company were divided is a subject of great interest. The deed 
of purchase was made June i, 1668. The Company organized 
on the 15th day of September following, by the choice of 
Thomas Leonard as clerk, and the election of a committee who 
were intrusted with the affairs of the Company. The next meet- 
ing took place November 15, 1671, when a committee was 
appointed to meet other committees from Rehoboth and Bridge- 
water, to settle the boundaries between the North Purchase and 
those towns. On December 31, 1674, it was voted to " lay out a 
Division of upland in the North purchase to each Proprietor 
alike, as near as they can both for quantity and quallity, no lot 
to be under a hundred acres, nor no lot above six score of acres." 
To equalize the value of these lots, it was voted that their size 
might vary from one another by a difference of twenty acres, the 
number being according to the worth of the land. Reference is 
made to this division at subsequent meetings, but no actual sur- 
vey of the lots was made prior to 1695. Meantime several 
settlers had come upon the lands, they having purchased a 
whole, or some part of, a share from some of the original pro- 
prietors or from their heirs, and being allowed to choose a loca- 
tion and settle upon it. When the first division of lands was 
made in 1696, as will be presently explained, these actual set- 
tlers, instead of choosing their divisions by lot, as the other 
shareholders did, were assigned the land upon which they had 
already located. This was the case with the first settlers in the 
east part of the North Purchase, now Easton. Clement Briggs, 
Thomas Randall, William Manley, John Phillips, and a few oth- 
ers whose acquaintance we shall soon make, were residents 

3 



34 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



before the first division of land. Briggs had made his home 
east of " the Green ; " Randall, just above on the north side 
of the stream ; Manley, next above him ; and Phillips, at the 
Morse place. 

It was not until May 12, 1696, that the first general division 
of land was made. It was a notable occasion for the proprietors 
as they met on that day in the old Taunton meeting-house. Fifty- 
four sections of land, of about one hundred acres each, had been 
roughly indicated by survey, and these were all numbered. This 
number of shares corresponded to the number of original share- 
holders, except that one share was added, which was to be laid 
out " for the use of the ministry," — that is, for the support of the 
preaching of the gospel. Some of the original proprietors were 
dead, and some shares were owned in company by as many as 
four different persons ; in which case each was entitled to a 
quarter-share, or about twenty-five acres. Everything being 
now ready for the lots to be drawn, the names of the original 
proprietors were called, in the order in which they appear upon 
the deed. As the names were announced, these proprietors, or 
their " successors " as they are termed, drew their lots, and were 
assigned the divisions of land corresponding to the numbers 
drawn. But in case any one did not like the lot that fell to him, 
it was provided that he might choose it in some other place. 
As already stated, those who had actually settled upon any land 
were assigned the location they were living upon. 

The divisions had thus been determined and numbered, but no 
careful survey of them had been made except the three lots 
named below. The first survey was made on the 6th day of 
January, 1696, and is recorded in the " First Book of Lands " of 
the Company, on the first page. It was the homestead lot of 
Clement Briggs and Thomas Randall, Sr. The lot of John 
Phillips and William Manley was laid out on the same day. On 
the next day the lot above the latter was laid out to Thomas 
Randall, Jr., and the Rev. James Keith, — the latter being the 
minister of Bridgevvater. It was more than a year before lots 
were surveyed in other parts of the North Purchase, which fact 
confirms the claim subsequently made by the settlers in what is 
now Easton ; namely, that they were the " first settlers " of the 
Taunton North-Purchase. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 



35 



Various other divisions of land were subsequently made. The 
one we have been considering was called " the first hundred-acre 
division." This was of upland. In January, 1699, there was 
a second division, which consisted of eight acres of meadow-land. 
The following list gives all the divisions of land from the organ- 
ization of the Company to the present time : — 



One hundred acres of upland 








. In the ye 


ar 1696 


Eight acres of meadow-land . 










, 1699 


One hundred acres of upland 










, 1700 


Fifty 










, 1705 


Sixty „ „ 










, 1714 


Forty „ „ 










, 1724 


Thirty 










, 1729 


Forty-five „ „ 










, 1731 


Twenty „ „ 










, 1744 


Ten 










> 1755 


Eight 










, 1773 


Four „ „ 










. 1774 


Sixteen „ „ 










, 1779 


Eight 










, 1811 


Four „ „ 










, 1814 


Four „ „ 










, 1833 



The aggregate of these divisions for the fifty-four shares is 
twenty-seven thousand, three hundred and seventy-eight acres. 
This was about four fifths of all the proprietors' lands. But in 
addition to this there was in 1699 a division of "the Great 
Cedar-Swamp " into nine shares of six lots each ; and there were 
subsequent divisions of the other cedar swamps. Nearly all the 
remainder of the land of the North-Purchase Company was sold 
to raise money for legal and other expenses, as they occurred. 
A little of the land still remains undivided, but is of small extent 
and of slight value. 

It is an interesting fact that this Taunton North-Purchase 
Company still exists, and is one of the oldest organizations in 
the State, being now over two centuries old. The clerkship of 
the Company was held by the Leonard family for one hundred 
and fifty-five years, — Thomas holding it for the first forty-six 
years. He was followed in turn by George, Samuel, George, and 
George, Jr., they living in Taunton or Norton. Alfred Williams 



36 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

of Taunton was chosen clerk in 1823, and Howard Lothrop of 
Easton in 1836. Alson Gilmore served from 1861 to 1876, when 
Edward D, Williams, the present clerk, was elected. The last 
meeting of the Company was held November 25, 1876. 

THE BOOKS OF THE COMPANY. 

The books of this Land Company are very interesting relics 
of other days, and they are exceedingly valuable to the anti- 
quarian and local historian. The old " Book of Votes," as it is 
called, is now (1886) two hundred and eighteen years old. It 
brings the record of the business meetings of the Company down 
to 1 712. As this book was then full, a new book was bought, 
the records of the old book copied into it, and the account of 
subsequent meetings continued down to the present time. 
Another book is called the " Book of Pitches." When land 
was due to a proprietor, or purchaser, he made a statement 
of the location where he wished his lot laid out. This choice 
was recorded in the book just named. This was called a 
"pitch." Here is an example of one: — 

February 22 : 1708-9. John Dayly, on Abiah Whitman's Right, 
doth pitch for twelve acres and halfe of Land on the Stone-House 
Plaine, Joining to Bridgewater Line, Joining to thomas Drake's lot of 
his second division on the northward and westward Parts thare of, and 
northward of William Manley seners, eastward of John Phillips and 
southward of John Dayleys, if the Place will afford : if not, the re- 
mainder to be Between Tussuky meadow and Bridgewater Line ; . . . 
and six and a quarter acres of Land in the northeast corner of the 
north purchase, Ranging south from a bever dam home to Bridgewater 
Line.^ 

The original " Book of Pitches " is not preserved. That book 
brought the account down to 1745, when it had probably become 
so much worn as to need transcribing. A new book was bought, 
a complete copy of the old book made in it, and the records con- 
tinued down to the present day. This book, purchased in 1745, 
and much used, is still in excellent condition. 

There are three books called " Books of Lands," or of " Sur- 
veys." They number in the aggregate nine hundred and eighty- 

1 Book of Pitches, p. 13. 



THE TAUNTON NORTH-PURCHASE. 37 

four very large and closely written pages. They contain the 
surveys or laying out of the shares of land due the proprietors 
on the several divisions, and also the laying out of the various 
pitches of land recorded in the book just named. The following 
illustrates what has been said : — 

In Taunton North-Purchase June 14th, 1699, we the subscribers 
who are of the committee chosen by the proprietors of said North Pur- 
chase, we have laid out & bounded nine acres of meadow & meadowish 
land for Mr. Keith and Thomas Randall, Junior, to the right of Sair^uel 
Smith Deceased. Said meadow lyeth up the River from Thomas Ran- 
dall's about three quarters of one mile. Bounded at the lower end 
Ranging from a marked tree across the swamp on a west and by north 
point, and so bounded by upland on both sides up the river about 
one hundred & five or six rods to a little oak tree, from thence on a 
west point across the meadow to the upland again. 

Thomas Randall. 

Thomas Harvey. 

John White, Sirvayer. * 

The first survey was made on the 6th day of January, 1696, 
and the last on July 18, 1882. Some of the boundary marks are 
interesting. For instance: "We began at a May Foal [maple.''] 
tree." " We began at a saxifax tree." Frequently the bounds 
begin at "a little pile of stones," with no indication of where 
said pile of stones may be found. On June 21, 1765, the heirs 
of Edward Hayward, Esq., have a lot laid out to them " north on 
said land forty rods to a bird's nest with one egg in it for a 
corner" ^ — a not very lasting boundary line, one would think. 
The oldest of these books of surveys is the original book, which 
was begun in 1695, and is not a copy. It is very valuable in 
determining the location of the homesteads of the first settlers 
of this region. This book was rebound in 1782, at a cost of 
" nine silver dollars " for binding and the trouble and expense 
connected with it. 

There are two other books of this Company ; namely, the 
ledger accounts. One is that of the "Original Proprietors," and 
the other of the " Present Proprietors," as they were called in 1724. 
The second book has an especial value to the genealogist, be- 

1 J'irst Book of Surveys, p. 3. 2 Second Book of Surveys, p. 41. 



38 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

cause in the transference and settlement of property and estates 
many family relationships are alluded to. These books have 
enabled the writer to fill up gaps in family genealogies by infor- 
mation which no other records could have supplied. The pro- 
prietors now living ought to secure the safe and permanent 
keeping of these valuable and ancient records. 

No thorough and adequate account of the Taunton North- 
Purchase and its celebrated land company has ever before been 
given ; and this is a sufficient reason for the extended notice it 
has received in this chapter. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 



39 



CHAPTER III. 

EARLY SETTLERS. 

The Seven Families of Squatters. — Subsequent Settlers. — 
Their Previous Places of Abode. — The Time of their Set- 
tlement IN Taunton North-Purchase. — Location of their 
Homesteads. — The Oldest House in Town. 

IN this chapter some account will be given of those who set- 
tled in the "East end of Taunton North-Purchase" (now 
Easton) previous to the incorporation of the town. Thorough 
search among the Bristol County deeds, and careful study of the 
North-Purchase records have enabled the writer to determine 
three very interesting facts concerning these settlers ; namely, 
their previous place of residence, their time of settlement, and 
the locations of their dwelling-houses. Most of the settlements 
were made subsequent to the first division of lands, in 1696. A 
few families were here, however, earlier than this, settling as 
squatters, so called. Among these were Clement Briggs, William 
Hayward, William Manley, Thomas Randall, Sr., Thomas Ran- 
dall, Jr., John Phillips, Thomas Drake, and possibly others. The 
first settlements were made in what is now South Easton village. 
At the time of the incorporation of the town, a. d. 1725, there 
were, or had been, about sixty heads of families here. Of these, 
fifteen came from Weymouth, fifteen from Taunton, twelve from 
Bridgewater, and the rest from various other places. Their 
names are given here as nearly as possible in the order of their 
settlement. 

Clement Briggs, reputed by tradition to be the first settler, 
bought a full share in the Taunton North-Purchase, in 1694. He 
neglected to get the deed recorded, and it was "defaced and 
damnified by the mice eating some part of it, so that it was not fit 
to pass the records ;" and accordingly, after his death, in order 



40 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

to make the title good, the heirs of the grantor (Benjamin Dean) 
gave to Clement Briggs's heirs a new deed. He was domiciled 
as early as 1694, and his house was on the north side of Depot 
Street, east of the Green and near the head of Pine Street. He 
came from Weymouth, with Thomas Randall his step-father, and 
was grandson of Clement Briggs, who is called an " old comer," 
having arrived in Plymouth in the ship "Fortune," in 1621. 
Three of this first Clement's children, being among the earliest 
born in the colony, received grants of land of the Government 
on that account. He was a felt-maker, and settled very early in 
Weymouth. His grandson, the Clement Briggs who settled here, 
was for awhile part owner of the saw-mill which the Randalls 
had built, and erected the first grist-mill in town. These mills 
stood near where the mill now stands, at the Green. He died 
previous to June, 1720, and left a family of seven children. 

William Manley was from Weymouth, and was residing here 
as early as 1694. He was a squatter, as was no doubt Clement 
Briggs and others. It is therefore possible that they may have 
been settled here some time prior to the appearance of their 
names in deeds and other papers. William Manley was the an- 
cestor of all the Manleys of this section. He owned land, and 
located his dwelling-house a little below where Palmer Newton 
now lives, in South Easton. While a resident of Weymouth, he 
served in the army. He and his three sons owned the west- 
erly part of F. L. Ames's estate in North Easton, and also owned 
both north and south of that. Like some others of this early 
time, he had to "make his mark." He died December 2, 171 7. 

William Haywakd was here in 1694. He was not one of 
the Bridgewater Haywards, but was the son of Jonathan and 
Sarah Hay ward, of Braintree, and was born February 6, 1669. 
His homestead was near Simpson's Spring, and the old location 
can still be identified, about fifteen rods to the east of the spring. 
He died March 26, 1697, leaving two children, Ruth and William. 
His widow returned to Braintree, and in two years married 
William Thayer, who afterwards settled in Easton. 

Thomas Randall, ist, came here from Weymouth, and was a 
resident in Taunton North-Purchase no doubt as early as 1694. 
He bought half the share which Clement Briggs had purchased 
of Benjamin Dean, The fifty-first share was set apart to them, 



EARLY SETTLERS. 



41 



and it included the Green, being partly west but chiefly east of it, 
and had one hundred and four acres. The half of this north of 
the mill-stream was owned by Thomas Randall. There, but a 
few rods from the saw-mill which he and his sons erected, stood 
his house. He was son of Robert Randall, one of the original 
settlers of Weymouth. Three sons certainly, and probably four, 
and at least two daughters, came with him to settle here. His 
saw-mill was soon built, the first one in town, and the noise of 
its wheel was the sweetest possible music to the new settlement. 
He is interesting to us as the father of what has been the most 
numerous family of Easton. He married, for a second wife, 
Hannah, daughter of Samuel Packard of Bridgewater, and widow 
of Clement Briggs, who was father to our first settler, Clement 
Briggs. He died June 11, 171 1. She died April 20, 1727. 

John Phillips came here from Weymouth at the same time as 
William Manley, they dividing one share of land (the fifty-second 
lot) between them. His half was north of the Manleys, and in- 
cluded the Morse privilege, extending north of Mr. Morse's house 
and quite a distance eastward. His house was on the spot where 
the house (formerly the home) of Mr. Morse now stands. He 
was a prominent man in the early town history, and was the first 
town clerk, serving twelve years in that capacity. His first 
wife was Elizabeth Drake of Weymouth, sister of two early set- 
tlers, soon to be mentioned. He was the first captain that bore 
a commission in the town of Easton. He was a soldier as early 
as 1690, serving in the expedition against Quebec. Forty years 
afterwards the Colony granted the township of Huntstown (now 
Ashfield) to the soldiers, and Captain Phillips had some shares. 
His son Thomas, and son-in-law Richard Ellis of Easton, were 
the first settlers of that town. He died November 14, 1760. 

Thomas Randall, 2d, came from Weymouth with his father. 
He was married January 20, 1697, to Rachel Lincoln, of Taunton. 
He had his dwelling-house a little north of John Phillips, the 
site being almost exactly where the barn of Benjamin Macomber 
now stands. In 171 8 he took up twenty-six acres of land in 
what is now North Easton, on both sides of the stream, near 
the Ames office. He had taken up five acres there, in 1711. 
Here he built either the second or third saw-mill in town- 
His first wife died February 18, 1715, and in 1719 he married 



42 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

widow Hannah Pratt, of Weymouth. During the first years of 
the settlement he was the largest property owner among the resi- 
dents, paying double the tax of any other. He was also deacon 
of the church. Indeed, the Randall family was more prolific in 
what in later times Elijah Howard called "deacon timber" than 
any other family in town. In 1727 the town voted that Deacon 
Thomas Randall should make a pair of stocks for the use of the 
town. Where these stocks were set up we are not informed ; 
but more than one culprit of both sexes had a chance to find out 
H Deacon Randall did this piece of work well. He died in 1752, 
dividing a large property among several children, but leaving 
his homestead to his son Deacon Robert Randall. 

Thomas Drake, the father of John and Benjamin Drake, soon 
to be noticed, came from Weymouth, and had a house here as 
early as 1695. He appears to have lived east of the Morse place 
at South Easton, about half the distance to the Bridgewater line. 
He died August 19, 1728, three days after the death of his wife 
Hannah. She was his third wife, as deeds at Taunton show that 
this Thomas Drake of Weymouth, in 1688, had a second wife 
Millicent, who was widow of John Carver and daughter of 
William Ford.^ 

These seven persons and their families appear to be the only 
settlers in what is now Easton, prior to 1696 ; for on July 20 of 
that year their names are given as inclusive of all the " neigh- 
bourhood " in the east end of the North Purchase. This appears 
by the following vote passed at a meeting of the North-Purchase 
proprietors held in the "Taunton meeting-house," July 20, 1696: 
" 3dly, at the same time Thomas Randall and William Manley 
Desired the Grass this year on the meadows in the North pur- 
chase, between the great Cedar swamp and Dorchester bounds 
and Bridgewater bounds, and as far southward as to take in 
Cranbury meadow, they acting for themselves and the rest of 
the Neighbourhood ; viz., William Haward, Thomas Drake, John 
Phillips, Clement Briggs, and Thomas Randall, 2d, for which 
they promise to pay ten Shillings in money this year to the 
Clerk ; for which the said Proprietors Promised said Grass to 
them for this year, 1696." ^ 

1 See also Savage's Genealogical Dictionary, vol. ii. p. 71. 

* Book of Votes of Taunton North-Purchase Proprietors, p. 14. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 43 



Jacob Leonard, of Bridgewater, had built a house as early 
as 1697. It was situated fifteen rods directly east of where 
William C. Howard now lives. The road ran between Leonard's 
house and well, the latter being in Bridgewater. He had lived 
at Weymouth, and then at Bridgewater, before coming here. 
He was the son of Solomon Leonard, of Duxbury, who was one 
of the first settlers of Bridgewater. 

Israel Randall was a son of Thomas Randall, Sr., and 
had a dwelling-house as early as 1697, which was very near 
the spot where N. W. Perry now lives. He married in 1701 
Mary, daughter of John and Experience (Byram) Willis of 
Bridgewater. In March, 1710, his father, "out of the good- 
will and natural affection which I bear towards my son," as the 
deed runs, gave to him his land on the west side of the river 
near the Green, this being the land north of the houses of 
Dr. Randall and N. W. Perry. He was interested in the saw- 
mill business with his father and brothers. He died March 24, 
1753. His widow died Nov. 29, 1760. 

James Harris, of Bridgewater, bought the estate of Jacob 
Leonard in November, 1697, and made it his home. He was 
first married to Elizabeth, daughter of Guido Bailey of Bridge- 
water, in 1693, and afterwards to Elizabeth Irish, in 1696. He 
sued Clement Briggs and John Phillips for cutting and carrying 
hay from his lot in Cranberry Meadow ; and this lawsuit cost 
the North-Purchase proprietors sixteen pounds sterling, they 
disputing his ownership to the lot and agreeing to sustain the 
charges of the suit.^ Timothy Cooper, who lived next below 
him, proved to be a very uncomfortable neighbor, and in 171 3 
Harris sold out his estate to Elder William Pratt. 

Timothy Cooper was a resident here in 1699 ; how much 
earlier cannot be determined. He married a daughter of Abiah 
Whitman, a leading citizen of Weymouth, and one of the 
largest land-owners in the North Purchase. Cooper was proba- 
bly of Weymouth, but this is only a conjecture. His house was 
a few rods south of the Roland Howard house, where Mr. Collins 
now resides, the land on which it stood being given to his wife 
by her father. In 1713 he bought three fourths of the saw-mill 
at the Green, owning it at his death ; or, as the legal record has 

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, pp. 15, 16. 



44 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



it, " he died seized of the saw-mill." He was killed by his mill- 
wheel in 1726, probably in March. Tradition represents him as 
a very rough man, and tradition is supported by documentary 
evidence, which, after being concealed for over a century and 
a half, has just come to light, and has been examined by the 
writer. His violent death was regarded by some persons as a 
providential punishment for his sins. He left a family of five 
daughters, one of them marrying Seth Babbit, who was admin- 
istrator of the estate of her father. The old road ran just east 
of Mr. Cooper's house, and thence on a southwest course coming 
nearly to the line of the present highway in front of David 
Howard's house. 

Benjamin Drake, the ancestor of many of the Drakes of 
Easton, was born in Weymouth, January 15, 1677, and came 
here in the year 1700. In June of that year he bought fifty 
acres of land, with a dwelling-house, on what is now the 
Cynthia Drake road, or Church Street, south and southwest 
of the old burying-ground, in South Easton. In that house 
his first child, Benjamin, was born in December of that year. 
The care of the meeting-house, after it was erected, was for 
many years his special charge. He served in numerous town 
offices. 

Ephraim Hewitt is recorded as of Taunton North-Purchase 
in 1 701, and may have been here a little earlier. He was prob- 
ably son of Ephraim Hewitt, of Scituate, and afterwards of Hing- 
ham. If so, he was born in 1676. He owned land here in 1700. 
His home-lot was northerly from Mr. Rankin's, where Mr. 
Littlefield now lives. A road ran on the south side of his house 
up to the present road near the track by F. L. Ames's saw-mill. 
It is interesting to note that he and his wife died on the same 
day, November 19, 1733, — she going at sunrise, and he following 
her at the sunset hour. 

Samuel Kinsley was grandson of Stephen, of Braintree. 
He came here from Bridgewater, buying his home-lot in Decem- 
ber, 1 701. It was about a quarter of a mile south of Timothy 
Cooper's place, just north of what is called the Thaxter Hervey 
place, about six rods east of the turnpike, and five rods north of 
the foundation of Cyrus Alger's old forge. He built his house 
in 1702, and became a resident at that time. He had eight 



EARLY SETTLERS. 



45 



children, his daughter Hannah marrying Edward Hayward, Esq. 
He died about 1720. 

John Drake was son of Thomas and brother of Benjamin, 
both of whom moved here from Weymouth. He bought a part 
of a share of land of Ephraim Hewitt in April, 1702, and had it 
laid out in 1703, when he settled upon it. It joined Bridgewater 
line north of Stone-House Hill, and probably included what be- 
came known a century later as the North Daily place. Some- 
where on this lot he had his home. He died, leaving seven 
children, October 10, 171 7, his wife Sarah surviving him just 
ten years. 

James Hodge is a settler as early as 1704. His home was 
next west of John Drake's, north of the old road running almost 
due west from Stone-House Hill. On August 8, 1704, Abiah 
Whitman, of Weymouth, "in consideration of the faithful service 
performed by James Hogg for Captain John Thomas, sone-in-law 
to the said Abiah Whitman," gave to him the land on which he 
settled. He does not seem to have prospered. A daughter 
Elizabeth was the occasion of great grief, and a son was for 
many years a town charge. 

William Manley, Jr., was of Weymouth, and was a son of 
one of the earliest settlers, before mentioned. He was of age 
in 1700, and settled on his father's place just above Thomas 
Randall, Sr.'s, home-lot. He died January 16, 1764, eighty-five 
years old. His wife almost completed her hundredth year, dying 
January 6, 1777. 

Thomas Manley was the second son of William Manley, Sr. 
He was born in Weymouth in 1680. In 1701 he married Lydia 
Field, of Bridgewater. He built his house on the upper half of 
his father's place, a little south of the No. i schoolhouse. He 
was father of six sons and seven daughters, the latter being 
the maternal ancestors of many persons now living in town. 
He died June 6, 1743, leaving considerable property, among 
which was "a negro boy George," valued at ;^38. His will 
shows that he meant to do all in his power to prevent any other 
man from taking his place as husband of Mrs. Manley. He 
ordains that the quarter-right in the saw-mill is to be hers "dur- 
ing her widowhood'' " So long as she shall remain my widow'* 
she shall have his dwelling-house and homestead land. But "if 



46 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

my well-beloved wife see cause to change her condition by mar- 
rying," she is summarily dismissed from the premises, and, save 
the pittance of ten pounds, loses all further claim to the property 
of her late affectionate spouse. 

Ephraim Marvell was a settler concerning whose antece- 
dents nothing can be learned. He was an early settler, coming 
here certainly prior to 1710. His dwelling-house was a little 
west of where N. W. Perry now lives, at South Easton. He 
seems chiefly noted as the possessor of an orchard, which is 
several times referred to in marking boundaries. His name is 
written indifferently Marble, Maravell, etc. ; but he will remain 
a marvel to us, for nothing further can be learned about him. 

Ephraim Randall came here no doubt with his father 
Thomas. He is taxed as a resident in 1708, and received as his 
portion of his father's estate the half of the homestead on the 
east side of the river, bounded west and south by the stream. 
The old house where he lived, and his father before him, stood 
several rods nearer the grist-mill than does the house now stand- 
ing on this lot. Five months after the death of his first wife he 
swiftly consoled himself by marrying a second, who was Lydia, 
the daughter of Timothy Cooper. He became prominent in 
town and church matters, and was a deacon as early as 1730. 
He died May 17, 1759, aged seventy-five years. 

Thomas Pratt came here from Middleboro in 1710. He was 
born in Weymouth, and was the son of Thomas, of Weymouth, 
and brother of Elder Pratt, who settled here about the same 
time. He moved from Weymouth to Middleboro before 1700, 
and was selectman there in 1704, and town treasurer in 1705. 
His house stood where what is called the Sever Pratt house now 
stands, in South Easton, just above the cemetery, on the east 
side of the road. The old homestead, settled in 17 10, has never 
passed out of the possession of the family, and is owned to-day 
by Isaac L. Pratt. He was ancestor of the late Amos Pratt, of 
Alfred Pratt, and of many others. He was much interested in 
the church in Easton, and was a deacon. He died December 
I, 1744. 

George Hall was a resident as early as 1708, and may have 
come here at the time of his marriage, 1705. His house was at 
the Caleb Pratt location, nearly opposite and a little west from 



EARLY SETTLERS. 47 



where the late Jonathan Pratt lived. He was son of Samuel Hall, 
of Taunton, one of the original proprietors of the Taunton North- 
Purchase. He married Lydia, daughter of Thomas and Kathe- 
rine Dean, of Taunton. He was a carpenter, and became part 
owner in the saw-mill that was built by Josiah Keith. He had 
nine children, but they moved away from Easton. He was alive 
as late as 1760. 

John Daily was here before 1708. He married a daughter 
of Abiah Whitman, of Weymouth, and may have come from 
that place ; but of his antecedents nothing has been deter- 
mined except that he was originally a native of the north of 
Ireland. He lived just east of the brook near Stone-House 
Hill, between where the old road once ran and the present road 
now runs. His father-in-law gave him part of a lot he owned 
near the Bridgewater line. Daily also bought land of Thomas 
Randall " for 5000 good marchantable boards in hand paid." 
He had an interest in the saw-mill at the Green in 171 3. He 
and his brother-in-law John Whitman had a little unpleasant- 
ness over a mowing privilege, which made considerable family 
trouble. 

Daniel Owen, Sr., moved here from Taunton between 1705 
and 1 710. He married Anna, daughter of Samuel Lincoln, of 
Taunton. His house was on the Bay road about thirty rods 
north of the head of Summer Street, sometimes called the 
Littlefield road. 

Daniel Owen, Jr., settled with his father, and lived in the old 
homestead for awhile after his father's death. He then located 
another homestead and built a house. It was forty rods south of 
the Tisdale Harlow place, on the west side of the road, at the 
top of the knoll in the field now owned by the Belchers, The 
cellar has been filled and ploughed over. The old well, now 
filled with stones, is near the bars. In 1730, and for several 
succeeding years, he was an innkeeper and a licensed retailer 
of liquors. 

Nathaniel Manley was the third son of William Manley, Sr. 
He was born in Weymouth, but probably came here with his 
father as early as 1695. He was a resident prior to 1708, and 
built himself a house where F. L. Ames's farm-house now stands. 
He sold this house and considerable land near it, in 1 716, to James 



48 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Leonard, of Taunton, the father of the first Eliphalet. He then 
built nearly opposite where Timothy Marshall lives. The old 
cellar there is not yet entirely filled, and the well may be 
located. He died April 21, 1753, his wife dying the next 
day ; or, according to another record, on the same day. 

Joseph Grossman was the only son of Joseph, who was the 
son of Robert, of Taunton. He came here in 171 3, and then 
hailed from Bridgewater, where he was temporarily residing with 
his sisters. His house was close to, if not exactly upon, the spot 
where Thomas Randall now lives, east of F. L. Ames's farm- 
house. He was a quiet, pious, and influential citizen, and be- 
came an elder in the church. He died March 14, 1776, at the 
good old age of eighty-six years. 

John Whitman was son of Abiah Whitman, of Weymouth, 
and brother of Timothy Cooper's wife. His house was about a 
quarter of a mile northwest of Avery Stone's. After long and 
careful search the writer found the remains of the old cellar of 
his house, a few rods west of the dam that is used to overflow 
Mr. Stone's cranberry meadow, near the brook which was called 
afterwards Whitman's Brook. The land on which his house 
was built was laid out to his father in 1701, and was a lot 
of a hundred acres. It was a narrow strip nine tenths of a 
mile long, and extended south into the meadow east of Lieu- 
tenant-Governor Ames's estate. He married, in 171 3, Rebecca 
Manley, after whose death he married a second time. He died 
about 1757. 

Isaac Leonard was son of Solomon, of Duxbury. He moved 
here from Bridgewater, buying his lot in October, 171 3. He 
purchased the land about the site of the old hinge factory, now 
the Novelty Works, at North Easton, There was no pond there 
at that time. This became his homestead. He was probably 
the first discoverer of the bog-iron ore in this part of the town. 
He found a bed of it in some land of his brother-in-law, Na- 
thaniel Manley, not far from Lincoln spring. For this service 
Nathaniel Manley deeded to him one third part of all the iron 
ore that should be taken from it. He married Mary, daughter 
of Guido Bailey, of Bridgewater, and daughter-in-law of Thomas 
Randall, Sr. In 1726 he sold his house, lands, iron ore, etc., to 
Eliphalet Leonard, and then moved away. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 



49 



Edward Hayward was son of Deacon Joseph Hayward, of 
Bridgewater, and was born July 24, 1689. He moved to Taunton 
North-Purchase about 1713, and February 2, 1714 (O. S. ?), he 
married Hannah, daughter of Samuel Kinsley. The late G. W. 
Hayward, in his account of the Hayward family, calls her the 
daughter of Benjamin. But Benjamin was her brother, and was 
then only sixteen years old. Edward Hayward was " the first 
Esquire that was ever in the town of Easton ; " that is, the first 
justice of the peace. This title of Esquire once meant some- 
thing, and was not indiscriminately applied as it is now. He 
was a very positive man, and the old church records show that 
several church meetings were held in order to labor with him 
and others with whom he had decided differences. In the long 
and bitter contention that began about 1750 over the location of 
the new meeting-house, he led the " town party," as it was 
called, with great ability, and the " party of the East Part " was 
led by the Rev. Solomon Prentice, a man of great force of char- 
acter. The details of this controversy, and of Esquire Hayward's 
connection with it will be given in another place. He lived 
where the house of the late G. W. Hayward now stands. He 
was a captain as well as justice of the peace, and held numerous 
town offices. He died May 21, 1760, being seventy years old. 

Seth Babbitt was son of Edward, who was son of Edward, 
all of Taunton. In early times the name was usually spelled 
Bobbet or Bobbot. Seth moved from Taunton about 171 5, and 
made his home at the extreme southwest part of the town. His 
house was very near the old Francis Goward place, or more prob- 
ably on the exact site of the old house now there. September 15, 
175 1, as the town records put it, " he departed this life for abeter," 
He was then fifty-nine years old. 

Erasmus Babbitt, brother of Seth, settled here about the 
same time, though probably a little later. He owned land north 
and west of his brother. In a sterile field north of the old Gow- 
ard place, less than a hundred rods from the house, may be found 
the vestiges of an old cellar. This was very probably the loca- 
tion of the house of Erasmus Babbitt. He was a"joyner" by 
trade. He was father of Dr. Seth Babbitt, who was a soldier in 
the French and Indian War, and who died of smallpox in 1761. 
There were several families of the Babbitts in this section, so 

4 



50 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

that in course of time it received the name of " Babbitt-town." 
Erasmus Babbitt died in 1730. 

Samuel Kinsley, Jr., was son of Samuel, of Bridgewater. 
By a natural and easily explained error the usually accurate his- 
torian of Bridgewater, Nahum Mitchell, has confounded this 
man with his father, giving to the latter his own and his son's 
children, thus dropping Samuel Jr. into nonentity. He settled 
here probably in 171 3, his homestead being west of the present 
Littlefield place, near the railroad, and southeast of Cranberry 
Meadow. 

William Hayward, son of the William who was, as before 
said, of Braintree, succeeded to his father's homestead soon after 
he became of age ; this was in 1718. The location of this home- 
stead has been given in what was said of his father. He had a 
large family, one of his sons being Edward, who must not be 
confounded with the Edwards of the other branch of the Hay- 
wards. He had a son William who died in the French War, 
several other sons serving in the same war. He died March 
27, 1774, seventy-nine years old. He was probably the first; 
child born within the limits of what is now Easton. 

JosiAH Keith was a son of the Rev. James Keith, of Bridge- 
water. In 1 71 7 he bought over two hundred acres of land on 
the easterly side of Mulberry-Meadow Brook, afterwards called 
Leach's Stream, and became a resident here either that year or 
the next. In 1720 he was selectman for the East Precinct of 
Norton, now Easton. His house was probably built in 1717, 
and is the oldest house standing in town. An addition was 
made to it at a later date. The old part of it is the west end, at 
the left of the accompanying picture as seen by the observer. 
This remains about as it was, and is an interesting relic of the 
olden time. It was used for an inn as early as 1724, Josiah 
Keith then being a licensed innkeeper. The house is now the 
property of, and is occupied by, Edward D. Williams. Not long 
after settling, Keith built a saw-mill ; at least it was in full 
operation in 1724, for he is then involved in a lawsuit concern- 
ing " sawing sundry planks, bords, and other timber at his saw- 
mill near his now dwelling-house." The location of this mill 
may still be seen west of Edward D. Williams's house. He 
died Feb. 4, 1754. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 



51 



Benjamin Selee was a son of Edward Selee, of Bridgewater, 
and was born in 1693. He was a resident here as early as 17 16, 
remaining here about ten years, when he removed to Norton. 
His house was probably a few rods south of where his brother, 
next to be spoken of, lived. 

John Selee, brother of the above, was born April 10, 1697, in 
Bridgewater. He was the direct ancestor of the Easton Selees. 
He settled in 1718, building a house about forty rods north- 
easterly from where John A. Selee lives now. The site of the 
original dwelling-house is marked by an old ash-tree now grow- 
ing there. The farm has remained in the possession of the 
family to this day. He died December 3, 1783, over eighty-six 
years of age. The name has been variously written, as follows : 
Sealey, Silli, Silly, Selle, Seele, Selee, etc. 

William Thayer, "a weaver," settled here as early as 1720. 
About this time he sold his place at Braintree, his previous 
residence, and purchased land in the section through which the 
north road to Brockton now runs. He was married to the 
widow of the first William Hay ward. In June, 1724, in order 
to develop the resources of his neighborhood, he gave land 
and needed privileges to a company of men, who immedi- 
ately built the first saw-mill in that vicinity. The stream 
then went by the name of Dorchester-Meadow Brook. William 
Thayer had an eighth ownership. He did not live long, dying 
May 5, 1727. 

Jonathan Thayer was a son of the last-named. He appears 
to have succeeded to the ownership of his father's estate. He 
married Tabitha, daughter of Timothy Cooper, January 11, 1727. 
His sister Bethia, who married Samuel Waters, and his brother 
William settled near him. 

Jonah Newland, of Taunton, was a settler here in 171 7. He 
was a relative of the Newlands of Norton, and lived not far from 
them. His house was in the extreme southwest part of what 
is now Easton, southeast of the Babbitts, on what became the 
Norton road. There are known to have been at least three 
houses on that road between Asa Newcomb's and the Norton 
line. He probably lived in the second or third. He married 
Joanna, daughter of Thomas Harvey, of Taunton, and, for a 
second wife, Abigail Babbitt. 



52 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Benjamin Drake, son of Benjamin, was born in Easton, De- 
cember I, 1700. He married Elizabeth Hewitt in 1723, and built 
his house just north of where Daniel Daily lives, at Easton 
Centre. No vestiges of the cellar can now be seen. In June, 
1724, he distinguished himself by killing a wildcat, as a reward 
for which he received the sum of five shillings. 

William Phillips was a son of Captain John ; but whether 
born before or after his father left Weymouth cannot now be 
determined. He was located with a homestead before 1720, and 
owned land " on both sides of the road that leads from Joseph 
Crossman's to Boston," — the old road that Washington Street 
has taken the place of He lived on the east side of the road, not 
far from, probably a little south of, where Allan Wade now lives. 
No house appears there on the oldest map of Easton, made 
about 1752, and it had probably been destroyed by that time. 
Phillips was a carpenter, one of the builders and owners of the 
saw-mill near William Thayer's house. 

Samuel Smith, Jr., was of Taunton, — a grandson, on his 
mother's side, of Hezekiah Hoar, one of the original proprie- 
tors of the North Purchase. In deeds at Taunton he is 
spoken of in 1718 as "living at Poquanticut." At that date 
Poquanticut was a more indefinite term even than now, includ- 
ing the whole of the northwest corner of what is now Easton. 
Samuel Smith lived just west of the Bay road, near the Sharon 
line. In 1721 he sold out and moved away; but as early as 
1 73 1 his wife Mary and her child had become town charges 
of Easton. 

Eleazer Gilbert was first of Taunton, and then of Norton. 
He bought out Samuel Smith, Jr., and lived on what has since 
been known as the Gilbert place. It was a little to the west 
of the Bay road, a few rods northwest of the pond-hole, and 
up the hill. Besides this, he purchased eighty-three acres, 
some of it being in Dorchester, now Sharon, — "a gore of 
land which Dorchester line cuts off from the lot of land 
which Jeremiah Willis's house stands upon." Reference is 
here made to the fact of the accidental change in the boun- 
dary line between the two colonies, by which a strip of land 
formerly belonging to the North Purchase was cut off from its 
northern part. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 53 



John Phillips, Jr., a son of Captain John, was born at Wey- 
mouth, in 1692. He owned land where the Dickerman brothers 
now live, on Washington Street, and his house appears to have 
been just south of where John Dickerman now lives. His son 
Ebenezer, the Baptist deacon, lived there after him, and the first 
Baptist minister of Easton was ordained there. He died Jan- 
uary 18, 1758. 

Benjamin Kinsley was a son of Samuel Kinsley, Sr., before 
mentioned. He was born May 16, 1701, probably in Bridge- 
water. He married Priscilla Manley, in 1732, perhaps for a 
second wife. He became the owner of his father's homestead, 
already located. He died March 13, 1759. 

John Austin, son of Jonah, of Taunton, had a lot laid out in 
1 7 19, and built his house soon afterwards. It was southwest of 
George Hall's, and not far from the No. 3 schoolhouse. He was 
as near to being a Mormon as the circumstances of the case 
would admit. In January, 1726, his wife Priscilla dies ; in the 
following June he marries Deborah Caswell, of Norton ; and 
she dying in August, he marries in the next March Elizabeth 
Briggs, — thus having three different wives in fourteen months. 
He was a rough character. In 1739, Esq. Edward Hay ward 
sentences him to pay " a fine of ten shillings for prophaine curs- 
ing, for the use of the poor of the town of Easton." Were pro- 
fanity taxable for the benefit of the poor of Easton, they might 
always have lived like kings. In the year following, Austin is 
indicted for a far worse offence. By trade he was a " cord- 
wainer," or shoemaker. 

Benjamin Fobes was a son of Deacon Edward Fobes, of 
Bridgewater. He was born in 1692, married Martha Hunt in 
1721, and settled in Easton at once. He lived on what is now 
called Pine Street, a little south of the cemetery on the hill. 
He was town-clerk in 1732, and also from 1740 to 1750 inclu- 
sive. His handwriting was remarkably good, and very legible. 
He died April 10, 1770, seventy-eight years old. 

Samuel Waters was son of Samuel, who was perhaps of 
Salem, and then of Woburn. He was ancestor of Asa Waters, 
who was so well known here in the first part of this century, and 
who once made shovels, in company with Oliver Ames. In the 
Waters genealogy, recently published, it is stated on the authority 



54 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

of Asa Waters, that the father of the Samuel under consider- 
ation came here from Woburn. This is evidently an error. 
Samuel, Sr., could hardly have settled here without having 
his name appear on the North-Purchase records, or on the 
county deeds in some way. There is no trace of him there. 
His son first appears in this locality in 1722. He was of 
Stoughton, September 27, 1719, when he "laid hold of" the 
covenant of the church there. He lived in the extreme north- 
east quarter of what is now Easton, north of William Thayer's. 
He married Bethiah, daughter of William Thayer, and lived 
here until 1731. In October of that year he sold his property 
here, and moved afterwards to Stoughton. In the old town- 
records, and in most of the deeds at Taunton, the name is 
spelled Walters. 

Mark Lothrop, son of Samuel Lothrop, of Bridgewater, set^ 
tied on land previously laid out for his father, who was an exten- 
sive owner in the North Purchase. His homestead was about 
twenty-five rods east of where Henry Lothrop now lives. Ruins 
may still be seen there. The name was at that time spelled 
Lathrop. He was born September 9, 1689, married March 29, 
1722, Hannah Alden, great-granddaughter of John Alden, and 
died January 21, 1777. 

Eliphalet Leonard, born in 1702, was the son of Lieu- 
tenant James, of Taunton, a man of considerable note. Lieut. 
James Leonard was a " bloomer," and the news of the recent 
discovery of iron ore in what is now North Easton led him to 
think of erecting a forge in that vicinity. Accordingly, he pur- 
chased of Nathaniel Manley thirty-five acres of land where 
Stone's Pond lies, including the dwelling-house, which was after- 
wards occupied by his son Eliphalet, and was very near the spot 
now covered by F. L, Ames's farm-house. He also purchased 
the three acres of "iron mine" near Lincoln Spring. The exact 
date of the erection of the forge where the Red Factory now 
stands, cannot be determined. It was an accomplished fact be- 
fore October, 1723. It was probably between 1720 and 1723, for 
at the former date Lieut. James Leonard bought the land below 
his first purchase, and apparently where the forge was built. 
Eliphalet was then eighteen years of age, and his name is 
always coupled with that of the forge. He was a prominent 



EARLY SETTLERS. 55 



man in town and church affairs, became a captain, and held 
various offices and positions of trust. He was grandfather of 
the well-known Jonathan, or " Quaker Leonard." He died Feb- 
ruary 4, 1786, aged eighty-four years, — his wife, with whom he 
had lived over fifty years, dying two months afterwards. Their 
tombstones are in the old cemetery, and are among the few that 
have survived the wear of time and the vandalism of the ruffians 
who have desecrated by their violence that sacred spot, the most 
interesting historical locality in Easton. On his tombstone one 
may still read this epitaph : — 

He was so Just his friends put trust 
In him for years to come. 
We hope the Lord will him reward. 
For He hath called him home. 

Benjamin Williams was a son of Benjamin, who was son 
of Richard, whose name heads the list of the North-Purchase 
proprietors. His father took up land in 1700, on Mulberry- 
Meadow Brook, but lived at Taunton. The son Benjamin does 
not appear to have settled here much before the incorporation 
of the town, in 1725. He and his brother, next to be mentioned, 
were the earliest members of the Williams families who settled 
here. The location of Benjamin's house was about where Daniel 
Wheaton now lives. He was a licensed innkeeper from 1726 
to 1730. He and his son Benjamin were captains. He died 
April 5, 1775. 

John Williams, early known as " Ensign," was brother of the 
last named. He was born in 1700, and settled here about the 
same time as his brother. His house was south of Benjamin's, 
and was where Walter Henshaw now lives. When his brother 
gave up innkeeping in 1730, John took up the business and 
carried it on until he died, in 1756. His wife Abigail continued 
the same for three years afterwards. Seldom does it fall to 
the human lot to have such an accumulation of sorrows within 
a month as visited this bereaved woman. Hardly regainng 
strength after the birth of a child, she buries, late in September, 
a son. October 3, another son dies; on the 15th she loses a 
daughter ; on the next day she sees her husband breathe his 
last. Four days after that another son passes away ; and in less 



56 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

than one month afterward still another son is gone. She loses 
a husband and five children in the space of a month and a half. 
Ensign Williams was one of the builders of the furnace at the 
Furnace Village. Both he and his brother owned each a negro 
slave. He died October i6, 1756. 

Joseph Drake, probably of Weymouth, and nephew of 
Benjamin, settled, when just of age, in 1723. His house was 
north of William Phillips's, and south of John Phillips's, a little 
north of the No. 8 schoolhouse, in the hollow on the east 
side of Washington Street. He must be distinguished from 
Joseph, Jr., son of Benjamin, who settled at the Centre soon 
afterwards. 

Thomas Manley, Jr., was the only early settler who can boast 
that he was a grandson of an original settler. His house was 
situated a few rods southwest of the Philip Willis place, in the 
field east of the south end of the pond. This was the old 
house bought by Philip Willis, the one in which he lived until he 
built the house now standing. There, for about twenty years, 
Mr. Manley kept an inn, and probably did something at 
farming also. 

Samuei, Phillips, son of Captain John, born May 17, 1702, 
married Damaris Smith, of Taunton. He was one of the last 
settlers before the incorporation of the town. The location of 
his homestead cannot be indicated with certainty. It seems 
probable that it was where his son Samuel afterwards lived, close 
by the location known fifty years ago as the Turner place, near 
the Old Meeting-house road, west of the DeWitt place. This 
may be seen on the old map. 

To the list of early settlers now given must be added the 
names of Elder William Pratt and the Rev. Matthew Short. The 
former came here in 171 1, buying land, with a dwelling-house 
and other buildings, south of Captain John Phillips's, about 
where the factory and store are located. The Rev. Mr. Short 
came probably in 1722, and had his dwelling-house on the 
north side of the street leading from the Green to the Railroad 
station, a few rods east of where the street from Morse's factory 
joins it. As, however. Elder Pratt and Mr. Short will require 
our particular notice further on, nothing more will be said of 
them in this chapter. 



EARLY SETTLERS. 57 



We have thus found that prior to the incorporation of the 
town, in 1725, there were fifty-nine families that settled here. 
We have been able in most cases to state their previous resi- 
dence, the time of their settlement, and the location of their 
dwelling-houses. This list is, undoubtedly, quite complete ; for 
as the land belonged to the North-Purchase Company, their 
books give the names of all the purchasers, and the deeds at 
Taunton show to whom these purchasers sold any part of their 
land. 

It is interesting to notice how many of these old names have 
entirely disappeared from the town. Briggs, Manley, Cooper, 
Kinsley, Hodge, Owen, Crossman, Whitman, Babbitt, Newland, 
and Waters, — names once as familiar as household words, — no 
longer remain, except as they are carved on the perishing tomb- 
stones of our burying-grounds. Some of their descendants are 
here, however, under other names. 

It is also affecting to consider, that with very few exceptions 
there is no sign to mark where the ashes of these our earliest 
settlers rest. These exceptions are nearly all in the old cemetery 
near the Green. There we may find the gravestones of Elder 
William Pratt and his wife Elizabeth, Eliphalet Leonard and his 
wife Ruth, Ephraim Randall and his wife Lydia, Edward Hay- 
ward and his wife Hannah, John Dailey and his wife Mary, and 
Elder Joseph Crossman. The gravestone of the Rev. Matthew 
Short was removed from this place to the burying-ground at the 
Centre ; this being done, no doubt, to rescue it from the dese- 
cration from which the graves of our ancestors in the oldest 
cemetery do not seem safe. 



58 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER IV. 

ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 

Origin of the Easton Church. — Its First Minister. — His Call, 
AND THE Gift of Land to him. — His Previous Life. — Mis- 
sionary Journey to South Carolina. — Second Journey. — 
Final Return to New England. — Settles in Easton. — His 
Remarkable Piety. — His Short Ministry and Death. 

IN the year 1696 there were in the East End of the Taunton 
North-Purchase seven faraihes. Six of them had come 
from Weymouth and one from Braintree. They were piously 
inclined, and began at once to consider what they should do 
about attending public worship. They were within the bounds 
of the town of Taunton; but the Taunton church was twelve miles 
away, with a wilderness between it and them. Much the nearest 
meeting was that at Bridgewater, the meeting-house standing 
where the West Bridgewater Unitarian Church now stands, — 
that society being in fact the lineal descendant of the old 
Bridgewater church. These families therefore applied for per- 
mission to attend the Sunday services there ; and the result was 
the following vote, as shown by the Bridgewater town-records of 
1696: "Thomas Randall, William Manly, and their neigiibors 
allowed to come here to meeting, and to make a horse-bridge 
over Cutting-Cove River." This bridge was over the stream 
a few rods south of the road to Copeland and Hartwell's from 
the Turnpike. 

The families of this neighborhood continued to attend services 
in Bridgewater until they were strong enough to found a church 
of their own. After the Taunton North-Purchase was incorpo- 
rated into the town of Norton, that part of the Purchase east of 
the Bay road was not included within the Norton parish, and its 
inhabitants neither attended meeting there nor had anything 
to do with the support of its religious society. Besides, that 
society was not organized until about the beginning of 1710, and 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 



59 



at that time the people at the East End (now Easton) began to 
think that they could support a church of their own. 

The foundation of the Easton church dates back certainly to 
1 71 3. There were twenty-six families here then, some of them 
possessed of what, for that time, was considered competent 
means. They therefore decided to form a society. The lead- 
ing spirit in this movement was Elder William Pratt, one of our 
early settlers, — a man of exceptionally pious character, good 
abilities, and prosperous estate. This chapter will be chiefly 
devoted to him, — a distinction he deserves, as being the first 
man called to minister to our religious society. 

As early as 1699, the North-Purchase proprietors seem to have 
had a foresight of the time when there would be two religious 
societies within the limits of their territory, one at the west part 
and one at the east ; for they voted that when land is laid out for 
the ministry, it shall be in two lots, "half toward Bridgewater 
and half toward Chartly Iron-works." The first clear light we 
get concerning the date of the formation of a religious society at 
the " East End of Taunton North-Purchase " is from the follow- 
ing interesting document, dated September 11, 171 3, which is 
of great historic interest to Easton : — 

" To all Christian people to whom all these presents shall come : 
Thomas Pratt, John Phillips, Thomas Randall, Israel Randell, & 
Ephraim Randell, all of Taunton North-Purchase, in the County of 
Bristol in New england, send Greeting in our Lord God Everlasting. 
Forasmuch as Mr. William Pratt late of Weymouth hath been moved 
to accept of the Call of the East Society of sd North Purchase to come 
& preach the word of God among them, and we being willing accord- 
ing to our severall abilities to give Encouragement to so pious a work : 
Know ye, therefore, that we the Sd Thomas Pratt, John Phillips, 
Thomas Randell, Israel Randell, and Ephraim Randell, for ourselves 
and for our Severall and Respective heirs, executors, & administrators, 
have given and granted, and by these presents do fully, freely. Clearly, 
& absolutely give and grant with the sd William Pratt, his heirs & 
assigns, Twenty-Two acres of Land, to be taken out of the second & 
third Divisions of Land in said North Purchase of each of us Above 
named, his severall proportion as followeth ; To wit, of Thomas Pratt 
Seven acres, of John Phillips five acres, of Thomas Randall five acres, 
of Israel Randell Two acres & a half, and of Ephraim Randell Two 



6o HISTORY OF EASTON. 

acres & a half, the said Land being now Lotted and Bounded out to 
the sd William Pratt in sd North purchase in a place commonly called 
by the Name of Chestnut Orchard, on the Northeast side of Daniel 
Owen's Land, — To Have and To Hold," ^ etc. 

This document assumes the existence of the religious society, 
and proves that it was organized at least twelve years prior to 
the incorporation of the town, — that is, as early as 1713. It was 
probably organized at just this time, under the lead and with 
reference to the settlement of Mr. Pratt. William Pratt was 
not a minister, but was a ruling elder. A ruling elder might 
assist a minister, or, in case of need, might carry on the work of 
the ministry. Thus from the Bridgewater records of 1678 we 
find that " Mr. Keith being sick. Elder Brett was chosen to 
assist him in carrying on the work of the ministry between this 
and May next," 

A ruling elder might also with propriety be ordained as a min- 
ister. It is certain that Elder Pratt was invited to settle as a 
minister; whether or not any ordination took place there is no 
means of determining. It is quite evident that the support of 
Mr. Pratt was entirely voluntary. There was then no organized 
precinct or town which could form a legal parish and compel the 
payment of ministerial rates. But the expenses were small, and 
Mr. Pratt was a man of means, and of such exemplary piety 
and interest in religious things that he would be satisfied with 
such moderate support as the voluntary gifts of his people 
would afford. 

Who was this Elder William Pratt who was chosen to minister 
to our early Easton fathers in the infant days of their church ,'' 
He has left behind him the data from which particulars of great 
interest are to be gathered. The form in which these data 
were preserved is a curious combination of almanac and note- 
book bound in leather, after the manner of a pocket-book. This 
precious relic is now in the possession of Joshua E. Crane, of 
Bridgewater, a lineal descendant of Elder Pratt. It is about two 
hundred years old, but is in a good state of preservation, and has 
afforded the materials for a biography of its early owner which 
is sufficient for the purposes of this History. 

1 Bristol County deeds, Book x.xv. p. 50. 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 6 1 

William Pratt was the son of Thomas Pratt, of Weymouth, 
who was " Slayne by the Indians in the Sudbury fight, April 19, 
1676." William was born March 6, 1659. October 26, 1680, 
he married Elizabeth Baker, of Dorchester, and about the middle 
of April, 1690, he moved from Weymouth to that place. He 
was a pious member of the church there, and when in 1695 a 
new church was organized to carry the gospel to South Carolina, 
Mr. Pratt joined the expedition and took a prominent part in 
the missionary enterprise. A teacher, Mr. Joseph Lord, was 
chosen pastor of this missionary church, and in December, 1695, 
they started on their voyage to Charleston. The narrative of 
this voyage deserves to be published in full ; as it is an account 
of the first missionary enterprise undertaken outside of New 
England by any of our old churches, and it intimately concerns 
the pious elder who first ministered to the early settlers of 
Easton in religious things. It is so quaint in its expression 
that an exact copy is here given : — 

" On Dec. the 3, 1695, we the Church that was gathered in order to 
Caring ye gospel ordinancis to South Carolina, at this time sum of us 
went into a long bote to go on bord the Brigantine frindship of boston 
in new ingland, in order to our passing to Carolina ; but raising ye 
vessel at first, we by reason of ye strength of the wind could not come 
up with here again, but were constrained to endure ye cold 3 or 4 hours 
before we could get at any land, til at length we got to Dorchester 
Neck, & from there returned to boston all in safty. 

December the 5 we set sail in ye aforesaid vessell to go on our 
voyage, & haveing a moderate & strong gale on ye Sabath evening, 
which was the 8 Day of ye month & ye 4th day of our being upon ye sea, 
we were in ye latitude of ye capes of Virginia. this evening ye wind 
begun to bluster being at norwest, & ye day foloing blew hard, continu- 
ally increasing its strength, so yt on monday ye 9th day of the month 
in ye evening we were fain to lie by, i. e. take in all ye sails except ye 
main Course, which being reafed was left to give vesel sum way as well 
as to stedy her, the helm being lashed to leward. So we continued 
til tusday night ; & about midnight ye wind was risen so high that ye 
vessel had like to have sunk, by reson that ye small sail was enough 
then to run her under water, & had lik to have don it, but ye seamen 
made way for ye vessel to rise by furling ye mainsail & bearing up be- 
fore ye wind, we were fain to scud thus, excepting sumtimes when 
ye wind abated, as by fits for a short time it did ; at which times we lay 



62 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

by as before all ye next day & part of ye day following ; either on 
wedensday or thursday we agreed to set apart friday to seek ye lord 
by fasting & prayer, & to beg of him prosperous winds & weather. . . . 
on thursday about noon ye wind began to fall & ye sun to shine out, 
which it had not don so as that there mit be any observasion after our 
going out before ; so yt on frid?y we could with sum comfort cary on ye 
work of ye day. on Saturday, ye loth day of our voyage, we found yt 
we were geten allmost as far southward as the latitude 31°, & wanted 
much westing, for ye northwest wind had driven us southestward. on 
Sabbath day, which was ye 15 day of ye month, we were so favered 
with wind as that we went with great spead on our course. On Mun- 
day & so forward ye wind often shifted, yet not so as to hindr our go- 
ing on in our desired course, tho we could not go wth so much speed 
as we desired, thursday morning, being ye 19th day of ye month, we 
came in sight of the land of Carolina, but were by a disappointment 
hindered from geting in yt day; but the next day we got in thro divine 
goodness, being the 20th day of december. 

when we cam to ye town our vessel fired 3 guns, & the peepel to 
welcom us to the land fired about 9 guns, which was more the usial ; & 
when we came to an ancor, being in ye evening, many of ye peepel be- 
ing worthy gentelmen came on bord us & bid us welcom to Carolina, 
& invited many of us ashore & to ther housis. I was among the rest 
kindly entertained that night. I keept in Charlestoun about a week, 
& then was caried by water up to mr. normans. increce Sum-ner & I 
war kindly reseved & entertained by the lady Extel,' & the two other 
men war indevering to get into faviour with ye lady & other neigh- 
bors & to obtain the land at ashly rever,^ & that we mit not obtain 
it ; yet they could not prevail, for as soun as we came, the lady & 
others of ye neighbors did more hily esstem of us then of other, as 
they told us, & reioysed at our coming, tho ther was no more of 
ye church then increce Sumner & I ; & after we had discorsed 
secretly with them thay war not only very kind to us, but allso used 
all menes & took great pains to obtain our setteling upon ashly rever, 
& that we shuld indever to perswad our pastr & the church to settel 
their. 

our minister was at this time up at landgrave Morttons, & sum of 
the church & others of the church at Charlestoun. our minister & 
church war strongly perswaded by ye Lieut-general blak & many others 
to go to new london to settel, & upon yt acount wer perswaded to go 
to landgrave mortons, wh was near this place. 

1 Lady Axtell. 2 Ashley River. 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 6'' 

about a week after, we went by land to Charlestoun, & war carved by- 
water up to landgrave mortons. We, many of us together, went to vew 
the land at newlondon ; after two days we returned to landgrave mort- 
tons. mr. lord cald me aside, & I had much discors with him ; & when 
he heard what I had to say consarning ashly rever & consarning new- 
london, mr. lord was wholy of my mind, & willing to tak up at upon 
thos condishons that we discorsed about, at ashly rever, which con- 
dishons war keept privet, between to or 3 of us. when I sought arn- 
estly to god for wisdom & counsel god was grasious to me, for 
which I have great caus to prais his name, as well as for many other 
signel marsys. we keept sumthings secrit from others, which was 
greatly for our benefit, we came from there to mr. curtesis, & from 
there to mr. gilbosons. we were very kindly entertained at every plase 
wher we came ; but where we came we herd of sum of thos that came 
from newingland that had ben giltey of gros miscareyis, wh was a 
trobel to us. but mr. gilboson cald me aside & had much discors with 
me ; afterward he told me he was very glad yt I came to Carolina, & 
that he had seen me & had opertunity to discors with me. he told me 
he was much discureged to see ye 11 carey ^ of those yt came from 
newingland ; but afterward he was beter satisfied, & told me he did 
think ther was a great diferenc betwen the parsons ^ that cam from 
newingland; tho many did manifest their dislik of bad parsons yt came 
from newingland, yet thay wer glad of ye coming of good parsons, we 
tarried their 2 or 3 days, being kindly entertained ; & when we came 
away thay gave us provission for our voyag doun to charlstoun, & wer 
very kind to us. from there we came to governor blakes, wher we wer 
kindly entertained, & we dind with them ; & after sum discors with 
governor blak we came to Mrs. bamers, where we lodge all night, be- 
ing very kindly entreated ; next day peppel being very kind, we had 
a comfortable voyag doun to Charlestoun, being the 14th of Janir. 
The i6th of January was ye eleksion day at Charlstoun ; after this mr. 
lord & sume of ye church came up to ashly rever, & upon ye sabath 
after, being ye 26th day of Janry, mr. lord precht at mr. normans hous 
upon that text in 8 rom i vers, ther was many that cam to hear, of 
the neighbors round about, & gave diligent atension. 

the Second day of feburary being sabath day, mr. lord precht at 
ashly rever upon yt text i pet 3. 18. most of ye neightbors came to 
hear ; all ye next neighbrs & severall parsons came about 10 miles to 
hear, the sacriment of ye lord's supper was administered yt day & 2 
decons chosen, at this time ther was great Joy among the good pepel, 

1 111 carriage. 2 Persons. 



64 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

tho I have sumtims ben il & afraid of sicknes or of on ^ treble or other 
yt would Happen ; yet god hath ben verygrasious to me, & hath heard 
my request from time to time & helped me & shoed me great marsy ; & 
when I was ready to be discuraged, many times god incureed me again 
and delivered out of my trobles. 

the first day of feburary being the last day of yt week, & the sacri- 
ment to be administred, & many of us wer to come away on second 
day morning to Charlstoun to com to newingland, — we got apart 
sum time in ye afternoon to pray unto god, & there was much of the 
spirit of good brething in that ordinenc. 

& when we took our leave of our Christian frinds ther was weeping 
eyes at our departuer, & we had many a blessing from them." 

Mr. Pratt, as above stated, returned to New England in Feb- 
ruary, 1696. At the beginning of the next year he took his 
family to South Carolina. The following is his account of the 
voyage : — 

" When I came from newengland to South Carolina with my family, 
we came out of boston the 8th day of Janeuery in the year 1696-7, & 
we sat sail from nantasket for Carolina the nth day, the 2nd day of 
the week, the 15th day of the month. The 6 day of the week it began 
to be stormmy, wind and Rain, & the 16 day being the 7th day of the 
week it began in the morning to be very violent, & wee shept in abun- 
denc of water ; at that time we lost the bolsplit,^ & it continued very 
stormy. We then Sat to praying, espesially on Saterday night ; but on 
the Saboth we had sum mettegasion, but afterward it gru mor stormmy 
again & much rain, & on the 4th day of the week being the 20th day 
of the month about midnight our mast fel doun. But in all these trobles 
ther was much of marsy mixed with it, for altho the wind was very high 
& stormy yet it was fair for us, & that we sumtims sum metigasion, es- 
pesially after earnest prayer ; allso that when our mast fel doun it fel 
Right along about the medel of the vesell toward the stern, & did not 
break the pumps but fel Just by it ; the mast being so exceding 
heavy, falen over the sid of the vesel we mit have ben all lost. 

On the 6th day of the week, 22nd day of the month, we with the free 
consent of the master & mat & marchant, we all of us together keept 
a solum day of fasting & prayer ; & on the next day we had calm 
weather & a comfortable opertunity to get up an other smal mast, 
which was a great help to us ; we had allso a fair wind, & on the saboth 
day we had a fresh gal & fair, & had much caus to prais god ; and on 
1 He means one. - Probably this word means bowsprit. 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 



65 



munday the wind was fair, but somuch of a calm that ther was oper- 
tunity to lenkthon our mast & mak it beter for sailing ; after this much 
calm wether but fair winds, until we cam in sight of the land. 

But god haveing a design to try & prove us furder, & to sho his pour 
& faithfullnes, & to mak us to pris marsys the mor, cased a violent storm 
to wris, & driveing us from land again for about a fortnite, but on the 
23rd of feburary brought us all safe to land, for which we promised to 
prais his holy name." 

This religious colony selected a spot on the Ashley River in 
South Carolina, in the midst of an unbroken wilderness, twenty 
miles from the dwelling of any whites, and called the place Dor- 
chester, after the town from which they came. Here they made 
their settlement, and built a church after the New England 
model. The old church building is now in ruins. The Rev. 
E. C. L. Browne, now of Charleston, South Carolina, has visited 
the interesting settlement and the site of this old church, and 
has written of it as follows : — 

" A few dilapidated dwellings remain : and of the brick church the 
tower alone stands, two courses high ; its woodwork all decayed, its 
doors and windows shown, but destroyed in their outlines by the bricks 
having fallen away. Visiting it last summer, I rode my horse through 
its crumbling doorway and vestibule into what was once the body 
of the church, making my way, with some sense of desecration and a 
good deal of difficulty, through the tangle of tropical vines and full- 
grown trees that stand and lift their heads to heaven where once a 
pilgrim congregation stood and prayed. The foundations and outline 
of the edifice could be distinctly traced ; and all around were the fallen 
stones and broken tombs of the old churchyard. A few rods distant 
the concrete walls of the' old fort stand on the banks of the Ashley, 
which, narrow, sluggish, and dark with the overarching trees, flows 
quietly by."^ 

The society that worshipped here moved to Medway, Georgia, 
about 1752, where it still exists, retaining its Congregational 
form. It took the lead against British oppression in 1776, 
when Georgia was a doubtful State ; and it opposed Secession 
in 1 86 1, but was swept into line by the overwhelming pressure 
brought to bear upon it. 

1 Unitarian Review, vol. xxii. p. 263 (1884). 
5 



66 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

It must already have been noticed that Mr. Pratt was very ac- 
tive and influential in this planting of a Congregational church 
in South Carolina. Not only his narrative proves this, but we 
find him, December i6, 1697, " ordained as a ruling elder of the 
Church of Christ in South Carolina." The climate not agreeing 
with him, he returned to Weymouth. December 19, 1705, he 
removed to Bridgewater. It is not probable that he lived there 
long, for when he moves to the North Purchase he is spoken of 
invariably as " of Weymouth." The precise date of his moving 
here is probably June, 171 1. At that time he purchased twenty- 
eight acres of land of John Phillips, mostly on the "westerly 
side of Saw-mill River, and bounded southerly by land of William 
Manley, — land with housing thereon." This was just south of 
John Phillips's house, and must have been very near, but a little 
west of, Morse's factory. He bought, in 171 3, James Harris's 
house and fifty-nine acres of land, the house being back of 
where William C. Howard now lives. The deed before quoted, 
wherein he is called to the ministry, gives him twenty-two acres 
of land at Chestnut Orchard, — a locality that has kept its 
ancient name, being north of South Easton village, and includ- 
ing the Nathan Willis place. The deed is dated September 
II, 1 71 3. But the gift was made at least three months earlier ; 
for in June this land, with sixteen acres more not named in the 
deed, of which Abiah Whitman and George Hall and his wife 
gave a part, was surveyed and laid out to the Elder. Eight 
acres of this land were at Tusseky Meadow, which is the low 
meadow-land northwest of Stone-House Hill. As the sur- 
vey of this land was made in June, Elder Pratt's invitation to 
become the minister must have somewhat preceded this date. 
The absence of records prevents our knowing whether or not he 
was ordained, and gives us no details about his ministry. But 
there is no reason to doubt, that, since he accepted the gift of 
land, he also comphed with the condition of the gift, — the ac- 
ceptance of the call as pastor. He must have been a most pious 
and faithful one. His account of the two voyages given above 
evinces an unsurpassed faith. He does not doubt that the fierce 
storm and wind are sent with special reference to the little band 
of believers who are to plant a Christian church in the wilder- 
ness ; he does not doubt, that, because on Wednesday they 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 67 

agreed " to set apart Friday to seek ye lord by fasting & prayer, 
& to beg of him prosperous winds & weather," therefore, " on 
Thursday about noon ye wind began to fall & ye sun to shine 
out." What could exceed the faith that could put upon a violent 
storm that delays them two weeks the interpretation he gives in 
the concluding sentence of his narrative of the second voyage ? 
Thus also from his note-book we have several instances where 
he believes rain is sent as special answer to the prayers of the 
church. For instance : " The 20th day of Jun. the Church of 
Christ at dorchester [South Carolina] keep a day of fasting & 
prayer to seek unto god for rain. The next day it pleased god 
to send great showers of rain, & much refreshed the earth & 
revived the corn." 

His intensely religious spirit, and his inward dealings with 
God are shown in such experiences as the following: — 

'■^ A fast in secret. — the 28th day of august, in the year 1699, 
I keept a day of fasting & prayer in secret, alltho at the begin- 
ing of my entering upon the work of the I found much unability 
& discuragings in my self & lettel liklihoud that I shuld hold out 
to go thorow the work of the day alon. But at the begining i 
beged help & asistunts, and god was pleased so to help me so that 
I hild out comfortablely until it was near night ; alltho I begun under 
discuragments, yet g'd was pleased so to asist & incuragment me 
afterward as that I was much incuraged, & ended the work of the 
day with much comfort." 

This believing spirit in Elder Pratt seems to have bordered 
on credulity, especially when it came to the treatment of dis- 
eases. He appears to have had almost a passion for collecting 
medical prescriptions. In this little note-book there are nearly 
a hundred of them, some of them from an Indian in whose medi- 
cal skill he placed great reliance. Three of these are quoted 
below : — 

" For a great cold & cof that leads to the consumsion, Take youlk of 
an eag & sum pouder of brimston, & put to it & tak it in the morning. 
Or hunny & brimston, & after that take the youlk of a newlayd eag & 
sum good win mixtd together." 

"To stop bleeding take sum nip & hold in the left hand, «S: put sum 
to the hollow of the left foot, & lay sum nip in the neck." 



68 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

"When nothing ale would do to stop the excessive bleeding at the 
nous, the pouder of a dryed toad mixed with beesweax put to the nous 
hath stoped it : the toad for hast was dryed in the ouven, but it shuld 
be hung up by the leag alive until it is dead «Sc dry." 

From this ancient almanac we extract the following curious 
advertisement : — 

" There is now in the Press, and will suddenly be extant, a Second 
Impression of The New-England Primer enlarged ; to which is added 
more Directions for Spelling, the prayer of K. Edward the 6th, and 
Verses made by Mr. Rogers the Martyr, left as a Legacy to his 
Children. 

" Sold by Benjamin Harris, at the London Coffee-House in Boston." 

The following quotations will illustrate the variety of topics 
touched upon : — 

" Swaring in a religious maner is a duty when called unto it (Exodus 
20, 7 ; Deut. 10, 20 ; jer. 4, 2 ; james 5, 12 ; heb. 6, 16 ; 2 cor. i, 23 ; 
nehe 13, 25)." 

"The 24th day of feburary (1698) there was a great fire in Charls- 
toun, which burnt down a great part of the town; & a few days before 
the fire there was an earthquak in Charlstoun." 

"I have given a bond to Capt Rit, of Charlstoun, to pay for a negro 
woman twenty & five pounds, at or before the i8th of august the year 
1699." 

By the last item we perceive that Elder Pratt was a slave- 
owner. What became of this female slave we cannot tell. The 
inventory of his estate shows that he owned two negro slaves 
here when he died ; but as their story will be told when the sub- 
ject of slavery is treated, it may be passed for the present. 

Elder William Pratt had only a short ministry, for he died the 
13th of January, 1714, serving but a few months in his pious 
work. His tombstone, which is still standing well preserved in 
the old cemetery, is the oldest in town, and ought to be guarded 
with sacred care. Upon it is the following inscription : — 

HERE-LISE-THE-BODY 
OF-ELDER-WILLIAM 
PRATT-AGED-54-DIED 
IN-THE-YEA 1713-IANVARY 
THE-13- 



ELDER WILLIAM PRATT. 69 

It will be observed that the deed of land to Mr. Pratt was 
made in September, 1713, while the date of his death is Jan- 
uary 13, 1 713. This discrepancy is explained when it is remem- 
bered that the date upon the tombstone is according to " Old 
Style." In fact, according to the " New Style" or present method 
of computation, this date should be 17 14. 

Elder Pratt left behind him a widow and a daughter. The 
latter, whose name was Thankful, was born October 4, 1683, 
and was married to Daniel Axtell (probably son of Lady Axtell, 
of South Carolina) May 12, 1702. They had ten children; and 
among their descendants are Silas Axtell Crane, D.D., of Rhode 
Island ; Mrs. Caroline (Crane) Marsh, widow of the late Hon. 
George P. Marsh ; Joshua E. Crane, Esq., of Bridgewater ; and 
others. The inventory of Mr. Pratt's estate is as follows : — 

£■ s. d. 

His purse and apparel 15186 

Books II 03 6 

Bills and bonds 65 19 6 

1 horse, 3 cows, and 2 calves 19 10 o 

Brass, iron, pewter, bedding, & other movables . 20 o o 

Dwelling-house and land 120 00 o 

Dwelling-house and land known by the name of 

Harris's 105 00 o 

2 young negroes 52 00 o 

Out lands 20 00 o 

429 II 6 

The question may naturally arise, How is it that Elder Pratt 
can have accepted a call of the East Society of the North Pur- 
chase, and have served it as their minister, and, notwithstanding 
this, that the Rev. Mr. Short can be called "The first minister of 
the Church of Christ in Easton".? In the church records of 
1747 he is so designated, and this is the unquestioned tradition. 
The explanation probably is that the church over which Mr. 
Pratt ministered had no legal existence. This East End of the 
North Purchase was then neither town nor precinct ; there was 
therefore no legal parish, and the little religious society here was 
entirely voluntary in its character. Not until the formation of 
the precinct, January 19, 1722, did the settlers here have a legally 
organized parish and church ; and it is over this that Mr. Short 



70 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

was soon called to preside. But though Mr. Short may have the 
technical right to this title, and it may not be well to attempt to 
disturb the common tradition, we cannot but regret that this 
pious Elder, who ministered to the little band of believers that 
were the founders of the Easton Church, should not be regarded 
as our first minister. The writer of this history takes great sat- 
isfaction in discovering and making known the interesting con- 
nection which this devout and excellent man, whose tomb is with 
us to this day, has had with the religious history of our town. 

His widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Pratt, lived until August 20, 1728, 
when she fell a victim to a fatal epidemic sickness which pre- 
vailed in town. She manumitted her two slaves, of whom we 
shall hear further, and made them a present of a piece of land in 
town. The inscription upon her tombstone, clear-cut to-day as 
when originally made, is as follows : — 

Here lyes y^ body 
of M Elizabeth 
Pratt wife to 
Elder William Pratt 
Died August y^ 20^"* 
1728 in 73'' 
Year of her age. 

Let us close this chapter with the words of the Rev. Mr. 
Short, who speaks of her in these appreciative terms: — 

" She was, I trust, a Person of excelling Piety and uncommon Pru- 
dence, one of a very strict and religious Conversation, a great lover 
of GOD'S House, one of a Charitable spirit, and knew how to commu- 
nicate to others, and when there was real Occasion would do it chear- 
fully. O that these eminent Virtues that were apparent in her may 
be imitated and practised by us ! " ^ 

1 See Mr. Short's sermon in the Appendix. 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. 71 



CHAPTER V. 

PRECINCT AND TOWN. 

A Church Needed in the North Purchase. — Contention as to 
ITS Location. — Compromises. — Incorporation of Norton. — 
The Norton Parish extends temporarily Eastward to the 
Bay Road. — Formation of the East Precinct of Norton. — 
Incorporation of the Town of Easton. 

WE have seen how the tract of land, of which Easton forms 
a half part, was purchased, managed, divided, and settled, 
and how a feeble beginning of the Gospel ministration was made 
under the care of Elder William Pratt. We shall now trace the 
steps that led to the organization of the precinct, and to the in- 
corporation of the town. 

It will be seen by a reference to the North-Purchase m.ap con- 
tained in this volume, that the north part of Taunton originally- 
extended in a triangle up through the present limits of Norton, 
the apex of the triangle being as far north as the centre of what 
is now Mansfield. As this section of the town became settled, 
the inhabitants found themselves so far removed from the church 
in the old part of the town that it was exceedingly inconvenient 
to attend it. They were living from five and a half to eleven 
miles away, and though attendance upon the worship of God was 
considered an imperative duty, it was not to be expected that 
these settlers would go so many miles through the wilderness, 
and by rough cart-paths, even for this purpose. Therefore those 
living in this angle, and in parts adjacent thereto, naturally de- 
sired a church and ministry of their own. They asked the town 
to consider "the vary difficult circumstances that we are under 
in liveing so remote from the publique worship of God, that great 
part of the year we cannot come to the meeting : so that, if we 
continue long after this manner, the sowls of our children, and 
those under our care and charge, will be in danger of perishing 



72 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

for lack of knowledge. For it is Evident from scriptre that faith 
comes by heering, and heering by the word preacht."^ Accord- 
ingly they petitioned the town of Taunton to allow them to form a 
distinct precinct of their own for the building of a church and the 
support of a minister. It was necessary to do this if they would 
be exempted from the support of the town minister. The town 
of Taunton was unwilling, however, to grant their request. The 
petitioners, therefore, presented their request to the " Great and 
General Court" at Boston. This was on the 20th of October, 
1708. They represent the difficulties in the way of their attend- 
ing the meeting at Taunton, and cite the fact of their having pre- 
sented petitions to the town on the 27th of November, 1707, and 
on the 23d of March, 1708 ; which petitions were refused. They 
ask that their precinct may include all the territory of the present 
towns of Norton and Mansfield, and also extend east as far as the 
Bay road, which road was then substantially in its present loca- 
tion.^ The town of Taunton strenuously opposes this proposition. 
A division is created among the petitioners themselves, — those 
who live nearest to the church having found that they will not 
be much better accommodated by the proposed new meeting- 
house, which is to be built too far, as they judge, to the west. 
This location had been fixed by a committee that had been sent 
out by the General Court to determine the limits of the proposed 
new precinct. As already stated, the eastern boundary of this 
proposed precinct was the Bay road. This left out the settlers 
in the east part of the North Purchase altogether, — the people 
about whom the readers of this history are most concerned. 
They do not relish this cool way of the petitioners in ignoring 
them, and they bestir themselves to checkmate the proposition 
for a precinct. The petition which they present, which is 
given below, is very interesting. We learn from it that the 
east end of the North Purchase was the first part of that 
tract of land to be settled, the first settlements being in what 
is now South Easton village and vicinity. It shows also that 
while the petitioners objected to the formation of a precinct 
which would leave them outside its limits, they favored the 
plan of having the whole North Purchase formed into a town, 



1 State Papers, vol. cxiii. p. 513. 
^ History of Norton, pp. 19, 20. 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. 



73 



and of having a meeting-house built in the centre of it for the 
use of the whole town. This would have been a very unfortu- 
nate arrangement, as it would have left many of the settlers over 
five miles away from the meeting-house. The petition is as 
follows : — 

September 9, 1709. 
To his Excelleticy jFoseph Dudley^ Esqr., dv^r. •• 

Wee, ye subscribers, Inhabitance and propriators of Taunton 
North-purcheis (so called), humbly sheweth, that whereas we under- 
stand that som of our neighbours, with som of ye inhabitants of 
Taunton, have obtained incoragement from this General Cort to be 
a Precints ; but forasmuch as our neighbours have not acquainted us 
therewith as they ought to do, we, being major part of sd. purceis in- 
habitance and ye first Setlers, do, in all humble submition, ofer to your 
honors ye unhapy effects yt may happen, not only to ourselves, but to 
ye whole tract of Land which was from ye foundation intended for a 
township, which now it is capable of, theire being many inhabitance 
already settled, and many more going to settel, on said tract of Land. 
But if there be so great a part of sd. Land taken of as we understand 
is set forth for a precints by those honorable gentellmen ye committy, 
who have doon according to their plesure ; and if ye meeting-hous be 
bult whare sd. committy hath appynted, — which is neare ye west End 
of sd. purchies, which will be servicable but to very few, wh. will be a 
means to spyle ye sd. tract of Land, and caus it to be wholly unfitt for 
a township, and frusterate ye intention of us, ye proprietors thereof, 
and will discorage many from setling on their Lands in sd. purcheis. 

And whareas they have left about one third part of sd. purchies of 
ye East part, supposing Bridgewater will add part of their town to it 
to make ye part a precints, it is a great mistake, — ye inhabitance of 
Bridgewater give us no such incoragement. Therefore we pray this 
honered Cort that there may be no pertition-lines between ye one end 
of our sd. purcheis and ye other, but yt if ye Honered Court thinks 
it convenient, wee pray yt ye Honered Cort would grant us a township 
with all the privilidges belonging to a town, to ye whole north pur- 
cheis, and so much of Taunton old township as belongs to our military 
Company, which is from ye mouth of a Broock called Burt's Brook, 
and from thence to wenaconett bridge, and from thence north-East to 
ye sd. north-purchies line ; and yt ye meeting-hous may be set in ye 
most conveniant place in ye senter, between the East and ye west End, 
which we concive will be most convenient for ye whole town, both for 
ye worship of God on Sabbath dayes, and for military trainings and all 



76 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

worship of God, and several familys of them live but about four miles 
from Bridgewater meeting-house, — It is hereby ordered, that a line be 
run from the extent of sixty rods eastward from John Austen's house 
north to Dorchester line; and that all that do or shall live to the 
eastward of said line shall be freed from paying to the minister on the 
westward side of said line. And that when by the providence of God 
those on the eastward side of said line shall be Increased so as to be 
either a Town or a precinct, then a line to be run north & south devid- 
ing the land in the said north purchase one halfe on the one side and 
the other halfe on the other side of said line, and each to pay to the 
ministry in their own Town or precinct." ^ 

The proposed line of division referred to is the same, or nearly 
the same, as the present vilest boundary of Easton. 

But the people of the East End of Taunton North-Purchase 
were unable to defeat the formation of the precinct proposed. 
They were however completely satisfied by a compromise. In 
the act which legalized the formation of this precinct, passed by 
the House of Representatives, September 19, 1809, this addition 
was made, namely : " Provided, that the East End of the North 
Purchase shall have half the sa'd Purchase as their Precinct 
where they are able to maintain a minister ; and this Court shall 
judge them so."^ 

By this proviso the East End people only temporarily relin- 
quished their plan of forming a precinct or township that should 
include half the whole North Purchase. Only those of their 
number who lived west of the Bay road were bound to pay a 
ministerial tax to the new precinct, and they were, at that date, 
only two or three families. It is even doubtful if any family 
within the limits of what is now Easton ever paid ministerial 
rates in the North Precinct of Taunton, or Norton. Either by 
specific agreement, or by common understanding, they were 
• doubtless exempted from this tax. 

In less than two years from this time (namely, June 12, 
171 1) this North Precinct of Taunton was incorporated as the 
town of Norton. This new town then included the entire 
territory of the present towns of Norton, Easton, and Mans- 
field, But the wording of the original act of incorporation 

1 State Papers, vol. cxiii. p. 516. 

* General Court Records, vol. viii. p. 470. 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. ']'] 

presents a curious difficulty. The first paragraph of that act 
is as follows : — 

" Whereas the tract of Land commonly called and known by the 
name of the North Purchase, Lying situate within the Township of 
Taunton, in the county of Bristol, circumscribed within the Lines and 
Bounderies prescribed by a committee some time since appointed by 
the General Assembly, as follows ; viz. : Beginning at the Line be- 
tween the two late Colonies of the Massachusetts and Plymouth, in 
the line of the said North purchase and Attleborough ; from thence 
Running Southward to Rehoboth North-East Corner ; and from thence 
Eastward, on the North-purchase-Line, to Taunton bounds ; thence 
eastward to the Mouth of the Brook calld Burt's Brook, and extend- 
ing from the mouth of Burt's Brook to the Bridge over the Mill River, 
near Wm. Witherel's ; and from thence North-eastward to the North- 
purchase Line ; and from the North-purchase Line, the road that 
leads from the said Bridge towards Boston to be the Bounds till it 
come to the Line betwixt the two Late Colonies aforesaid ; which Line 
to be the bounds to Attleborough aforesaid was set off from Taunton 
by and with the consent of that Town, and by an order of the General 
Assembly passed at their Session in March, 17 lo, made a distinct and 
separate Town from Tawnton, containing a sufficient quantity of Lands 
and a competent number of inhabitants for that purpose, and named 
NORTON ; the full perfecting of the said Grant being adjourned and 
referred to the present Courts." ^ 

It is absolutely certain that the whole of the North Purchase 
was intended to be, and was in fact, included in the town of 
Norton. But the above description does not include the whole 
of that Purchase. The bounds on the east as above defined cor- 
respond essentially with the location of the Bay road, leaving 
out of the proposed limits of Norton that part of the North 
Purchase between the Bay road and Bridgewater. This may be 
a mistake of the person who drafted the act of incorporation. 
He probably supposed that the bounds of the town of Norton 
were to be the same as those of the North Precinct of Taunton, 
for he has copied the boundaries of that precinct ; and he appar- 
ently thought that the whole North Purchase was included 
within these boundaries, which was not the fact. However this 

1 See Clark's History of Norton, pp. 35, 36. 



78 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

discrepancy may be accounted for, two facts become evident by 
subsequent events : first, the people of the East End of the 
North Purchase acted with the Norton people in all municipal 
affairs ; and second, they were independent of them so far as the 
support of public worship is concerned. Long before they be- 
came a separate precinct they had organized, as we shall soon 
see, a religious society of their own, and they never helped sup- 
port the Norton Church. But until the incorporation of Easton, 
they attended and voted in the Norton town-meetings, electing 
officers for their part of the town. Prior to 1718, this part is 
called the " East End of Norton." 

It was not long, however, before the people of the East End 
deemed themselves strong enough to become a town by them- 
selves. The following extract from the General Court records 
of November, 171 5, shows that an attempt was thus early made 
to organize this section into a town : — 

Upon reading a petition of several of the Inhabitants of the East 
End of Taunton North-Purchase, setting forth that it being formerly 
reserved by the General Court in their grant of a township that one 
half part of Taunton North- Purchase (namely the Easterly Part thereof 
next to Bridgewater) should be and belong to the inhabitants thereof 
to make a distinct plantation as soon as the Court should judge them 
able and fit to have the privilege of a distinct village or plantation 
granted them, — the petitioners, notwithstanding their poverty and 
the small number of their inhabitants, humbly praying that they may 
be formed into a distinct town, and that they may have the privilege of 
a township granted to them, — 

In the House of Representatives. — Ordered that Sam'l Thaxter, 
Jonah Edson, & George Leonard, Esqs., be a committee to enquire 
into the state & number of the inhabitants, the extent and quality 
of their lands, & whether they are fit to be created into a township or 
precinct, and make return to this Court in May next, the petitioners 
to bear the charge of ye committee. 

In Council. — Read & concurred. 

Consented to, Wm. Tailer.^ 

This attempt to organize the East End of Norton into a sepa- 
rate town, in 171 5, did not meet with success. Two years after- 
ward an effort is made to form a separate precinct of this half 

1 Court Records, vol x. pp. 8, 9. 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. 



79 



of the North Purchase. The following is the report of the 
action of the General Court concerning a petition for this 
precinct : — 

Oct. 30, 1 7 17, a petition of the Inhabitants of the Easterly part of 
Taunton North-Purchase, shewing that whereas the Honble, Court, 
when they granted the North Precinct in Taunton to be a town by the 
name of Norton, made this proviso, — that the East end of the North 
Purchase shall have half of the said Purchase as their precinct when 
they are able to maintain a minister, and this Court judged them so ; 
and that since the passing of that order of the General Assembly 
(which was in March 17, 1710-11) the number of the settled families 
in the said East end of Taunton North-Purchase is much increased, 
and their settlements are too remote from any place where the public 
worship is carried on to travel comfortably to any such place, they 
now judge themselves in a capacity to support a minister themselves : 

Therefore, praying that a committee be appointed between them 
and the town of Norton, that they may know their bounds of the half- 
part of the North Purchase, and that this Hon. Court would grant 
them to be a distinct Precinct or Township, as they shall in their 
wisdom think fit. And the petition was on that day read in Council, 
and sent down to the House of Representatives." 

In the House of Representatives, November 11. — Read, and 
Ordered that the said East end of Norton be made as a precinct, and 
have the powers and privileges granted by law to precincts ; and that 
John Field, Ephraim Howard, and John White, surveyor, be a com- 
mittee to run and settle a divisional line, by which it is to be set off 
from the other part of Norton, — pursuant to an order of the Court, 
March 17, 1710-11, — and make report to this Court. 

Sent up for concurrence. 

In Council. — Read and Concurred. 

Consented to, Saml. Shute.^ 

The committee named above attended to their work, and on 
May 13, 1718, they made their report. The dividing line that 
was to separate the proposed precinct from the rest of Norton 
was about the same as that which now forms the western bound- 
ary of Easton. From this time precinct-meetings are held, a 
clerk chosen, and business conducted under the name of the 
" East Precinct of Norton." A meeting-house is erected, and 

1 Court Records, vol. x. pp. 169, 170. 



8o HISTORY OF EASTON. / 

the people are considering about settling a minister, when it is 
discovered that they are not, after all, a legal precinct. By some 
informality the divisional line had not been confirmed by the 
Court, and the precinct had no legal existence. The proof of 
this is the following : — 

A petition of Geo. Hall and sundry others, Inhabitants of the East 
end of Norton, shewing that Whereas the general Court did in the year 
1 710 appoint a committee to run a divisional line by which they were 
to be sett off from the other part of Norton, and the said committee 
did run the said divisional line accordingly, & gave in their report to the 
General Court in May, 17 18. — The petitioners were negligent in the 
affair, in that they did not request a confirmation of the line accord- 
ing to the sd. report. But since they cannot procede to settle a gosple 
Ministry amongst them before the sd. line is settled, therefore praying 
that the sd. Report may be brought for acceptance, and they may be 
made a separate & distinct precinct. 

In Council. — Whereas the report of the Committee referred to in 
this petition is not accepted, ordered that Jacob Thompson, Esq., with 
such Persons as the honble House of Representatives shall appoint, 
be a committee to run the divisional line between the easterly end of 
Norton & the other part thereof, conformable to orders of the General 
Court, passed March 17, 17 10, and make report to the General Court 
at their session in May next. 

In the House of Representatives. — Read & concurred ; and the 
Hon. Samuel Thaxter, Esq., & Mr. Benjamin Crane are joined in the 
affair. 

Consented to, Samuel Shute.^ 

The date of this action was November 30, 1720. A new appli- 
cation for legalizing the proposed precinct was necessary; and it 
was not until January 19, 1722, that the East Precinct of Norton 
was legally constituted. The evidence for this is the following 
account of the proceedings of the General Court on the above- 
mentioned date : — 

A petition of Divers Inhabitants of the East end of Taunton North- 
Purchase praying to be set off a separate Township or precinct, by a 
line reported by John Field, Ephm. Howard, & John White, in the 
year 17 18, & pursuant to the order of the General Court that they 

1 Court Recods, vol. xi. p. 72. 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. 



should be set off when they are capable of settling & maintaining a 
minister, as they apprehend they now are, and that they may have half 
of ye land of ye North-Purchase : 

In the House of Representatives. — Read & ordered that the division- 
al line between the East end of Taunton North-Purchase & the other 
part of Norton, be according to the report of Messrs. John Field, 
Ephraim Howard, & John White, a committee appointed by this Court 
on ye first day of November, 1717, to run the same. 

In Council. — Read & concurred, that the East End of Taunton 
North-Purchase be constituted a separate precinct, according to the 
sd. line. 

In the House of Representatives. — Read and concurred. 

Consented to, Wm. Dummer.^ 

It is therefore evident that at this date, which was January 
19, 1722, the East Precinct of Norton was first legally consti- 
tuted, and not in 171 8, as even the residents there at first 
supposed. 

There had been considerable disputing prior to this time be- 
tween the East and West ends of Norton relative to the dividing 
line between them. In 1720, and in the two following years, 
attempts were made to come to an agreement. After the final 
formation of the East Precinct in 1722, John Phillips, Edward 
Hayward, and Josiah Keith met a committee from the other part 
of Norton, and, with "Justice Thompson of Middleborough as 
umpire," made a settlement of the line. 

In 1725 the settlements have so much increased in the new 
precinct that the inhabitants feel themselves strong enough to 
become a town, and they petition to be incorporated as such. 
December 9, 1725, the following action is taken in the Gen- 
eral Court : — 

" A petition of the Inhabitants of the East End of Taunton North- 
Purchase shows that in the setting off of the town of Norton a reserve 
was made of land in the East End of the North Purchase against they 
should be of a competent number of inhabitants to be separated from 
the other part ; that they now consist of between forty & fifty families, 
and they are under great difficulty in attending public duties at Norton, 
therefore praying to be set off a separate &: distinct township. 

1 Court Records, vol. xi. pp. 509, 510. 
6 



82 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

" In the House of Representatives. — Read & Ordered that the prayer 
of the petitioners be granted, and the petitioners have leave to bring in 
a bill accordingly. 

"In Council. — Read & concurred," etc.-' 

December 21, 1725, an engrossed bill entitled "an act for 
dividing Taunton North-Purchase, so called, in the Township of 
Norton, and erecting a new town in y" Easterly Half thereof by 
the name of Easton," was passed and enacted by both Houses 
and signed by the Lieutenant-Governor. The following is the 
act : — 

Act of Incorporation of the Town of Easton. 

Whereas, in the year 1710,^ When the township of Norton was 
granted by the general assembly of this province, provision was made 
that the inhabitants on the east end of the said North Purchase should 
have one half of the said purchase when they were able to maintain a 
minister, and this court judge them so ; and the said east h^lf of 
the said North Purchase is now competently filled with inhabitants, 
who have already built a house for the publick worship of God, and 
provided an able and orthodox minister, and have thereupon ad- 
dressed this court that they may be set off a distinct and separate 
town, to be vested with all the powers and privileges of the other 
towns of this province, — 

Be it therefore enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and 
Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of 
the same — 

(Sect, i.) That the easterly moyety or half part of the tract of 
land commonly called and known by the name of Taunton North- 
Purchase, bounded westerly on the township of Norton (which con- 
tains the westerly half part of the said North Purchase), southerly 
upon the town of Taunton, northerly on the town of Dorchester, and 
easterly on the town of Bridgewater, be and hereby is sett off and 
constituted a separate township, by the name of Easton ; and that the 
inhabitants of the said lands, as before described and bounded, be 
and hereby are vested with the powers, privileges, and immunities 
that the inhabitants of the towns of this province by law are or ought 
to be vested with. 

("Sect. 2.) And that the inhabitants of the said town of Easton 
do, within six months from the publication of this act, procure and 

1 Court Records, vol. xiii. p. 69. 

2 It was, in fact, in 1711. The date above is " Old Style." 



PRECINCT AND TOWN. 83 

maintain a schoolmaster to instruct their youth in writing and reading; 
and that thereupon they be discharged from any payments for the 
maintainance of the school at Norton. [Passed December 21, 1725; 
published January 3, 1725-26.] 

It would be gratifying to know positively why the new town 
was given the name of Easton. Elias Nason in his " Massachu- 
setts Gazetteer" states that it was named after Governor Nicholas 
Easton. The statement is made without authority ; and as one 
guess is not only as good but sometimes better than another, the 
writer ventures to give his own conjecture as to the reason for 
the adoption of this name. For many years this part of the 
North Purchase had been called the " East End of Taunton 
North-Purchase." It was, after the incorporation of Norton, 
called the " East End of Norton." For several years it was 
called the " East Precinct of Norton." The transition from 
these terms to that of East-Town, abbreviated finally to Easton, 
is easy, and seems the most natural explanation of the adoption 
of this name. 

On the date of the passage of the Act of Incorporation 
an order was passed for calling a town-meeting. It was as 
follows : — 

/;/ the House of Representatives. 

Ordered that Mr. Josiah Keith, a Principal Inhabitant of the Town 
of Easton, be and hereby is empowered and directed to notify and 
summon the Inhabitants of the said Town, duly qualified for voters, to 
assemble and meet some time in the month of March next to chuse 
Town Officers according to Law, to stand for the year. 

In Council. — Read and Concurred. 

Consented to, W. Dummer. ^ 

The following is a verbatim copy of the record of the proceed- 
ings of the meeting thus called, — the first town-meeting held 
in Easton : — 

" At a Leagal meeting and warned by Leagal authority in the 
Town of Easton, for the Election and choice of Town officers, to 
be on the second day of March in the year 1725-6, and accordingly 
met. 

" I. we made choice of Mr. Josiah Keith modrator for said meeting. 

1 Court Records, vol. xiii. p. 89. 



84 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

"2. we made choyce of John Phillips for our Town Clerk for the year 
ensuing, and he was present and sworn. 

"3. we made choice of John Phillips, Josiah Keith, and Benjamin 
Drake for our selectmen of said town. 

"4. we made choice of Josiah Keith, Benjemin Drake, and John 
Phillips assessors for the year ensuing, and thay were present and 
were sworn. 

"5. we made choice of Israel Randell for our counstable, and by 
consent of the Town the said Israel Randell was Released, and George 
Hall was chosen in his roome, and was present and was sworn. 

" 6. we made choice of Ephraim Randell Town Treasurer for the 
year ensuing, and he was present and was sworn. 

" 7. voted to make choice of but two servairs of highways. 

"8. we made choice of Seth Babbat and Benjemin Kinsly servairs 
of highways, and thay were present and was sworn. 

"9. we made choice of Israel Randell Tything man, and he was 
present and was sworn. 

" 10. we made choice of John Daily and Timothy Cooper Hogreves. 

" II. we made choice of Thomas Manley and Ephraim Huett fence- 
vewers, and thay were present and sworn." ^ 

1 Town Records, vol. i. p. i. Whenever the town records are referred to in this 
History, the references will be to the original records, and not to the copies recently 
made. 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. MATTHEW SHORT. 85 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE MINISTRY OF THE REV. MATTHEW SHORT. 

Birth and Parentage. — Settlement in Attleborough. — Settle- 
ment AT the East Precinct of Taunton North-Purchase. — 
Sickness and Recovery. — His two published Sermons. — The 
FIRST Meeting-house. — Early Dissatisfaction with its Loca- 
tion. — Death of Mr. Short. 

REV. MATTHEW SHORT was born March 14, 1688. 
He was the third son and sixth child of Henry Short, of 
Newbury, and Mary ^ Whipple, his wife. So writes J. C. Coffin 
in his " History of Newbury ; " and he adds that Mary died 
December 28, 169 1, and that May 11, 1692, Henry married Anne 
Longfellow, and died October 23, 1706, fifty-four years old. 
Matthew Short graduated at Harvard University in 1707. From 
that time until 171 1 he was probably teaching school or study- 
ing divinity, perhaps both. October i, 171 1, the town of At- 
tleborough, being met "for the chosing of an able orthodox min- 
ister of good conversation to Dispence the word of god to us," 
chose Mr. Short for their minister. He was to have jCs*^ ^ 
year for six years, — one third to be in money, and the rest in 
grain, beef, pork, butter, or cheese, or any or either of them, at 
current prices. By a vote in November, 17 10, Attleborough had 
agreed to give away the house that was built upon their minis- 
terial land, to the first minister that should serve the town for 
seven years. Mr. Short was not destined to become its owner. 
Difficulties arose between him and his people. Early in 171 5 
an attempt was made to come to some agreement. In stating 
his case to the town and church Mr. Short writes as follows :^ — 

"This you may expect and depend upon, that unless there be a 
speedy and friendly composition of the differences amongst us, I shall 
not continue the exercise of my ministry." 

^ Savage, in his Genealogical Dictionary (vol. iv. p. 89) names her Sarah. 
2 See Attleborough Town Records. 2 Ibid. 



86 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

The difficulty was some misunderstanding concerning his 
salary, as well as other money promised him. The town did not 
accept his terms, but proposed others on condition that Mr. 
Short " will forthwith Desist ye ministry in this town." May 
31, 171 5, he requested to be dismissed, and the town voted to 
grant his desire. While in Attleborough he married Margaret 
Freeman, of that place. This was on December 27, 171 1. Two 
children, Anna and Judith, were born to Mr. and Mrs. Short 
while they were in Attleborough. 

Mr. Short is next heard of in Saco, Maine (then, however, a 
part of Massachusetts), where he is preaching, in 17 16. He 
was at the same time Chaplain of his Majesty's fort at Winter 
Harbor, and on this account his salary was paid in part by the 
General Court.^ He remained there until some time in 1722. 
Two of his children, Matthew and Ebenezer, were born during 
his ministry there. 

The Rev. Matthew Short appears to have received his call to 
settle as minister of the church in the East Precinct of Norton, 
March 28, 1723. This appears from the following record of the 
General Court for June 4, 1723 : — 

A petition of the inhabitants of the East End of Taunton north- 
purchase, setting forth that the inhabitants met together on the 28th 
of March last & passed sevral votes relating to the affairs of their 
precinct & for the encouragement of a minister to settle among them, 
which votes were passed in an amicable manner & with good agree- 
ment among themselves, but the said meeting . . . not being le- 
gally warned, they doubted that some difficulties may hereafter arise 
about the matters then voted, and therefore praying that the sd. votes 
(annexed to the petition) may be confirmed by this Court. 

In Council read and ordered that the prayer of the petitioners be 
granted, and that the votes passed at the meeting of the inhabitants of 
the East precinct of the North purchase on ye 28th day of Mch., 1723 
(which votes are hereunto annexed), be allowed, ratified, and confirmed 
to all intents & purposes whatsoever, any law, usage, or custom to the 
contrary notwithstanding. 

In the House of Representatives. — Read & Concurred. 

Consented to, Wm. Dummer. 

1 State Papers, vol. vi. p. 330; vii. p. yjT). Folsom's History of Saco and Bidde- 
ford, pp. 203, 223, etc. 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. MATTHEW SHORT. Sj 

Mr. Short began his ministerial work soon after his call in 
March, or certainly before August 31, 1723, for at this date 
there is a record of a marriage performed by him here. A deed 
dated November 22, 1723, states that it was — 

"agreed with a minister for a settlement; afterward voted at our 
Precinct to give unto Matthew Short fifty acres of land, . . . and to 
build him an house and to find him all the materialls except nayles, 
glass, lime, and Iron worke, and to finish it if he would comply with 
said offer." ^ 

Mr. Short's house was situated on Depot Street, a little east 
of its intersection by Central Street. When Depot Street was 
widened, a part of the cellar over which this house had stood was 
cut off. At that time a flat stone which had been built into the 
chimney was found, having chiselled upon it the date of the build- 
ing of the house. Mr. Short was presented with ten acres of 
land at this place, which came to be known as the " Short Place." 
This gift was a personal one, made by Thomas Randall, John 
Phillips, and Mark Lathrop, who gave two acres each, Timothy 
Cooper who gave three, and Daniel Owen who gave one. The 
Precinct, as before stated, gave their newly-chosen minister fifty 
acres more, as an encouragement for him to settle here. This 
was on November 22, 1723 ; but it was not until February, 1730, 
that he came into possession of this latter gift. Nor did he ac- 
quire a quit-claim deed of his house until November, 1729, though 
it had been promised him much earlier. 

The town however, in an emergency that soon occurred, 
treated their minister in a way that won his heartfelt gratitude. 
In 1728, in midsummer, a distressing and very fatal disease 
visited the town. Mr. Short was taken sick July 15, and was 
very sick for two months, his life being despaired of. The 
town generously provided for his needs at this time, doing all 
they could to make him comfortable and to restore him to 
health. On September 17 it was voted in town-meeting "that 
thirteen pounds ten shillings and eight pence be assessed on the 
Inhabitants of this town, and collected of them and paid into the 
Town Treasury, for the defraying of the charges towards our 

^ Bristol County Deeds, book xv. p. 213. 



88 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Pastor's late sickness ; and sd. money to be paid out by order 
of the Selectmen of this town to those persons that hath don 
towards said sickness as they shall find it to be justly don, and 
if there be any money Left to be delivered to mr. Short for his 
use." 

Soon after this, their minister, pale and worn with his sick- 
ness, met his people in the little log meeting-house, and preached 
to them a sermon which was appropriate to the occasion, and 
was entitled "A thankful Memorial of God's sparing Mercy," 
This was followed by another ; and they made such an impres- 
sion upon his congregation that he was requested to have them 
printed. This was done, and some stray copies were bound up 
in book form with fugitive sermons of other ministers. A few of 
these books are still extant. A sermon preached in the earliest 
meeting-house in Easton by its first minister, as long ago as 
1728, is a very interesting relic of the olden time. A verbatim 
copy of the first of these sermons may be seen in the Appendix 
of this history. In these sermons he says that he was visited 
by Providence " with a sore sickness, whereby I was brought 
nigh unto Death ; but God in his wonderful goodness spared 
me, and did x\o\. give me over 2into Death, for which I would now 
humbly and heartily praise his holy Name. ... I freely acknowl- 
edge the Justice and Holiness of God in bringing that sore 
Chastisement upon me. I acknowledge my sin deserved it. I 
acknowledge the unerring Wisdom of God in sending it season- 
ably. I plainly see that I needed it, and therefore I hope I 
heartily thank God for it. ... I am laid under a new Obligation 
to you by the endearing Kindness which God helped you to 
show to me in the time of my late distressing sickness. . . . God 
hath taken away several from among us of late by Death, empty- 
ing a House hard by us, and sweeping it clean as it were by 
Death; and taking away the principal Person^ in another, whose 
Death we have great reason to lament." The fatality of this 
general sickness is indicated by the following quotation from the 
second sermon : " Let us all consider how awfully the holy hand 
of God was lifted up against us of late. If it had pleased the 
holy God to have gone on the way of his judgment in multiply- 
ing deaths among us as he began, every person in the Town 
1 Mrs. Elizabeth Pratt, widow of Elder "William Pratt. 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. MATTHEW SHORT. 89 

would have been swept out of the world by death. But the 
destroying Angel hath been commanded to put up his sword into 
his sheath, & not go on to destroy." 

This second sermon ends with the following interesting quo- 
tation from the conclusion of a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Cotton 
Mather: — 

" But when Sickness Returns upon such a Man, with Circumstances 
that intimate his Call to be Go?ie, what a Welcome can this Man give 
to such a Call ! Welcome, Sickness ; Thou Alessenger of Heaven / Wel- 
come The Waggons that are sent now to fetch me away unto my yesus in 
all His Glory I Amen." 

The following quaintly expressed preface to these two ser- 
mons, addressed to this church and congregation, deserves to be 
perpetuated here : — 

To The Church &^ Congregation in Easton : 

Dearly Beloved, — These Discourses, as you remember, were 
delivered immediately after my late Visitation with a sore Sickness of 
about two Months Continuance, And were designed in some measure 
(especially the former of them) to sute that occasion. They were com- 
posed while I was under considerable remains of bodily Weakness 
and without any Expectation of their being thus made publick. But a 
number of you being desirous of the Publication of them, and having 
Grounds to think that they will be acceptable to you in general, as I 
trust they were in the preaching (and as, I bless God for it, my other 
labors have been among you), and therefore I hope profitable ; and these 
Discourses having been perused by a Reverend Brother who has encour- 
aged their going to the Press, I have yielded to the Publication of 
them, humbly hoping that it will be acceptable to God and for his 
Glory, that there be a monument of this Nature erected to render to 
God the praise due to his Name for his memorable Works of Mercy 
and Goodness towards us in the Time of our Distress. And whereas 
there is some mention made in the first of the following Discourses of 
. the Kindness which God helped you to shew to me in the Time of 
my distressing sickness, So I would now with hearty praises to God, 
and with a due Gratitude to you, mention the Kindness you have 
shewn me since my Recovery from Sickness, when you did at a 
public meeting grant a considerable gratuity for me, without my ask- 
ing it, which rendered it the more obliging and endearing. In Token 
of Gratitude, I here present you with the following Discourses, which 



92 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



though the work drags on for a long time it is finally completed, 
and the " East-enders " have their way. They foresaw in- 
creasing trouble with the determined "West-enders" concerning 
the location of the meeting-house. They therefore, in order 
to strengthen their own party, tried to get a portion of Bridge- 
water annexed to Easton. This would increase their numbers, 
and also bring their locality nearer the Centre. In January, 
1727, John Phillips, Thomas Randall, and sundry others pre- 
sented a petition to the General Court, citing that about twelve 
families of the west part of the North Precinct of Bridgewater 
desired to be annexed to Easton, and praying that their desire 
might be granted. The General Court ordered that a copy of 
this petition be served on the town of Bridgewater, and also on 
the North Precinct. This was done ; and after further hearing 
of the case the Court, in 1728, dismissed the petition. ^ 

June 4, 1736, this plan was again proposed. The families 
living near the Easton line in the North Precinct of Bridgewater 
found it more convenient to attend the Easton church, and they 
petitioned again to be annexed to Easton, but with no better 
success than before. 

The ministry of Matthew Short was, upon the whole, a quiet 
one. It lasted eight years, and he died April 16, 1731, forty- 
three years old. A proposition was made in town-meeting to 
pay eighteen pounds, eleven shillings, six pence for his funeral 
charges, but only about half of it was voted. He left a widow 
and nine children, one child having died in 1728. Six of these 
were born in Easton. The family record will be given in detail 
in the " Genealogical History of Easton " which the writer expects 
to publish in about a year. Mr. Short died intestate. He owned 
at his death his house and one hundred acres of land. That he 
had a good library, for that day, may be inferred from the fact 
that it was rated in the appraisement of his estate at £T,g, ^s. 

Mrs. Short soon found consolation for the loss of her first 
husband by marrying Jeremiah Freeman, by which marriage she 
resumed her maiden name. She sold her right of dower to her 
eldest son, Matthew. It illustrates the difference in the education 
of children in those times as compared with the present, to learn 
that three of the minister's children, perhaps others, were unable 
' General Court Records, vol. xiii. p. 528. 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. MATTHEW SHORT. 93 



to write their own names. One of these, Glover Short, finally 
became a town charge, and died at an advanced age. Rev. 
Matthew Short's remains were buried in the old cemetery, not 
far from his church. But the continual desecration of that 
sacred place led ultimately to the removal of his gravestone to 
the burying-ground north of the Centre, where it would be safe 
from vandal hands. His remains were also removed. Upon 
the gravestone is the following inscription : — 

In memory of ye Rev'd. Mr. Matthew Short. Deceased April 
ye 16th, 1 73 1, in ye 44th year of his age. 

" The sweet remembrance of ye Just 
Shall flourish when he sleeps in dust." 



94 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE MINISTRY OF THE REV. JOSEPH BELCHER. 

Distinction between Church and Parish. — Call and Settlement 
OF Mr. Belcher. — His Antecedents. — The Ordination. — Dis- 
satisfied with his Salary. — Partial Insanity. — Involved in 
Lawsuits. — Disappearance. 

VERY soon after the death of the first minister of Easton, 
the religious society became much interested in Mr. Joseph 
Belcher, who preached here as a candidate for settlement. The 
church voted to give him a call, and on July 28, 1731, the town, 
in town-meeting assembled, voted to concur with the church in 
this invitation. It may not be amiss at this point to remind the 
reader that in those early days the parish included the whole 
town. By the "church" was meant the church-members, one 
of whose special prerogatives was that of choosing the minister. 
But their choice must be ratified by a vote of the parish, or town, 
— all the legal voters in town taking part in this as in any of the 
business matters that came before them. The town also fixed 
the amount of the minister's salary, terms of settlement, and 
attended to all the business details involved in the management 
of parish affairs. There was one custom of the time that was 
very interesting, at least from the standpoint of the minister. In 
addition to a salary, the town always voted him what was called 
an " encouragement," or " settlement." This was sometimes a 
generous gift, and was intended to cover the expense of his 
getting settled in a new place, — an expense that was often a 
considerable burden in days when goods had to be removed 
upon ox-carts through the wilderness. 

Mr. Belcher evidently was considered a prize, and had also a 
due sense of his own value ; for in the vote giving him a call 
there is this clause : " If we can come up to his terms." What 
are his terms ? Mr. Short had been receiving fifty-six pounds 
for his salary. Mr. Belcher asks for eighty pounds yearly for 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. JOSEPH BELCHER. 95 

the first five years, ninety pounds for the sixth, and ever after- 
ward one hundred pounds a year. He is also to have " for his 
incoridgment " two hundred pounds. Besides this, he is to be 
given the "improvement" — that is, the use — of the ministerial 
land. They vote " for his further incoridgment that he shall im- 
prove the Land in this town laid out for the use of the ministry, 
as he shall have occasion for planting, sowing, mowing, pastur- 
ing, timber for his own building, and firewood for his family, 
fencing stuf for his own fences," etc. In his letter of acceptance, 
quoted below, he has an eye to his worldly good, for he expresses 
the hope that his people will not be wanting in kindness "with 
respect to my comfortable subsistence among you." We shall 
see that this shrewd regard for his financial condition is a 
marked peculiarity of the new minister, and gets him at last 
into serious trouble. 

The town having now " come up to his terms," Mr. Belcher, in 
a rather wordy and pretentious epistle, signifies his acceptance 
of their call. The following is the document : — 

To the Church and Congregation in Easton : 

Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, — Where as I have received 
a call from you to settle in the work of the ministry among you, I de- 
sire to observe the signal conduct of the Providence of Almighty God 
in bringing me among you, I being in a manner a stranger to you, and 
in disposing and inclining your hearts to this uncommon unanimity 
that attended your call of me to the Pastoral office among you, which 
I look upon as a very happy circumstance of my settlement, and as 
one peculiar encouragement to me which very much moves upon my 
inclinations in this weighty affair. 

I am sensible that the work and service unto which you have so 
kindly invited me among you is of great importance and concern, 
which requireth great deliberation and serious thought. And who is 
sufficient for these things .-' I hope I have taken the call which I re- 
ceived from you to settle in the work of the ministry among you into 
serious consideration, and I hope I have endeavored to deliberate 
thereupon with solemnity and becoming affection ; and I hope I have 
reason to trust that I have had the Divine direction in the methods of 
Piety, together with the advice of judicious and wise counsellors with 
respect to my proceedings in the weighty affair before me. And taking 
notice of the direction of Divine Providence in the several steps of 



96 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

your proceedings in your call of me to the Pastoral office among you, 
I am persuaded that the Providence of God calleth me to an accept- 
ance. Wherefore, thanking you for your kind regards expressed to 
me, I accept of the call received from you to settle in the work of the 
ministry among you ; and my answer thereunto is in the affirmative, 
in which I do willingly and sincerely give up myself to the service 
of Christ in the Gospel Ministry among you, hoping that as in your 
ability you may be increased, you will not be wanting hereafter in your 
kindness and encouragement towards me with respect to my comfort- 
able subsistence among you as my circumstances among you may 
require. Thus, bespeaking you to join with me in most hearty and 
earnest prayers to the God of all strength and grace for his gracious 
assistance, direction, and blessing in the important affair before us, 
and wishing that grace, mercy, and peace may be multiplied unto you, 
I subscribe myself your true friend and servant in office of love and 
duty. 

Joseph Belcher.^ 

Easton, August 20th, Annoq Dom'", 1731. 

The materials for a biography of the Rev. Joseph Belcher are 
unfortunately very meagre. He came of what is called " good 
stock." He was born at Braintree, August 19, 1704, and was 
son of Gregory and Elizabeth (Ruggles) Belcher. Gregory was 
a deacon of the church, and was associated in that office with 
Deacon John Adams, father of President Adams. The Ruggles 
family, to which his mother belonged, was wealthy and influential. 
Joseph was sent early to Harvard University, from which he 
graduated in 1723, just before he was nineteen years old. He 
is not to be confounded with the Rev. Joseph Belcher, the well- 
known minister of Dedham, who was his uncle. 

Where our young graduate spent his days, or what he did, 
from the time of his graduation until his settlement at Easton, 
cannot now be told. For a part of this time he was studying 
divinity, and he may have taught school, this being a common 
thing for graduates of the time to do. He was not settled as 
minister previous to coming to Easton, as his ordination oc- 
curred here. He married a wife whose given name was Deborah, 
but whose family name is unknown. She was known in Easton 
as " Madam " Deborah Belcher, this term seldom being applied 

^ Town Records, vol. i. p. 25. 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. JOSEPH BELCHER. 97 

then. By her he had nine children. The family record will be 
given in the Genealogical History of Easton. 

Mr. Belcher was ordained minister of the Easton church on 
Wednesday, October 6, 1731. The sum of fourteen pounds was 
voted to defray the expenses of the ordination. Ordination ser- 
vices were important affairs in those days. Not only were the 
most impressive religious services held, but there was also a great 
deal of hearty feasting, and not infrequently considerable money 
was spent for good liquors as well as for food. In some places, 
though perhaps never in Easton, an ordination was a two days' 
affair, and was ended with a ball, at which were music and dan- 
cing. It is well to think of these things when we are tempted to 
fall into the too common cant of condemning our early fathers as 
so rigidly austere and gloomy. Their creed may have been so. 
But while a gloomy creed may oppress a few sensitive souls 
with sorrow or despair, most believers wear it easily. Human 
nature asserts itself. The dark shadows are in the distant 
background ; hope, love, common-sense are at the front, and 
rule our common life. Our early fathers loved a good time. 
If the Sabbath strictness was rather hard on them, they knew 
how to unbend on other occasions ; and at military trainings 
even the minister sometimes became more lively than could 
be accounted for except by reference to the stimulants that 
were in almost universal use. We may therefore be sure that 
if the ordination of Mr. Belcher was a solemn occasion, the feast- 
ing which followed was all the more joyous. The people were 
very happy in the belief that they had secured an exception- 
ally gifted and promising minister, — an expectation that was to 
meet with sore disappointment. 

In March, 1732, Mr. Belcher bought of Deacon Joseph Snow 
the land and buildings that became his homestead property. 
It was 33 acres of land just east of the Green, part of it be- 
ing between the road and the brook, and not far from the mill. 
His dwelling-house was on the north side of Depot Street, just 
east of the Green. On the opposite side of the road, east of 
J. O. Dean's house, he had an orchard, of which some persons 
now living remember to have seen the vestiges. 

There is very little that is noteworthy during the early years 
of Mr. Belcher's ministry. His salary, according to the original 

7 



98 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

agreement, somewhat increased as the years went on ; but this 
does not satisfy him, and in 1739 he asks for a special gift of 
fifty-six pounds. This may have been because of a depreciation 
of tlie currency, for the older issues of paper money called "old 
tenor" were steadily depreciating in value. But however this 
may be, the parish regarded his request as unreasonable, and 
at a meeting on February 5, 1740, "Mr. Moderator put it to 
vote to see if the town would choose a committy of three men 
to treet with Mr. Belcher, to see if that he would not take up 
with Know Lees sume then he Requested for ; and they votted 
in ye affermitife, 3dly, we made choice of Joseph Grossman, 
George Keyzer, and Nathl. Perry for a committy, for to see if 
that no Less sume than fifty and six pounds would satisfie ye 
Revd. Mr. Joseph Belcher." Evidently Mr. Belcher would not 
be thus satisfied, and at a town-meeting a month later the 
town refused to vote to him the money he requested. He was 
then receiving a salary of one hundred pounds. But the town 
was two years in arrears in the payments due him ; and this 
tedious delay, which was a chronic characteristic of the town 
in its dealings with its ministers in olden times, must have 
been very embarrassing to Mr. Belcher. In 1742, the town so 
far complies with his request for additional pay as to vote him 
" fourty pounds in mony old tener, or other spesee, att markit 
price Betwixt man and man the present year." Apparently 
disturbed at this increase of its expenses, the town immedi- 
ately voted " not to Raise any mony for to support a scholl." 
It votes the same additional amount, however, the next year to 
Mr. Belcher, which proves to be his last in the ministry. He 
was dismissed from his pastorate by a vote of the town passed 
April 16, 1744, twenty-eight voting for dismissal to twelve 
against it. No cause for this action is assigned. A common 
tradition reports that Mr. Belcher became partially insane. Jason 
Reed heard from his father, the Rev. William Reed, that Mr. 
Belcher became so much deranged that he used often to pray 
in the pulpit for "little Gregory," one of his children. He 
would sometimes go to meeting with his pockets full of ser- 
mons, and would read one after another without regard to the 
departure of his audience, ceasing only with the going down 
of the sun. Emery's "History of the Ministry of Taunton" re- 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. JOSEPH BELCHER. 99 

ports this tradition ; and it is made probable by the subsequent 
conduct of Mr. Belcher, by his giving up the ministry at the age 
of forty, and by the fact that insanity appeared in the family 
afterward. His grandson Gregory was known as " Crazy Greg," 
and used to roam about the woods. 

Rev. Mr. Belcher continued to make Easton his home until 
1754, ten years after his dismissal. That his insanity was 
only partial, or was intermittent, appears from the fact that 
he was a part of this time teaching school. He taught school 
in Stoughton a portion of each year from 1747 to 1752 inclu- 
sive, five different years ; but old account books show that his 
home remained in Easton all this time. In 1748, for example, 
he buys here a bushel of corn and a barrel of cider. His 
children are born here, and here his wife dies, March 21, 1753, 
— three days after the birth of his youngest son, Jonathan. 
Evidently his wife's death quite unsettled Mr, Belcher, for he 
begins about this time to do business in a reckless manner, 
and sometimes in such a way that only the plea of insanity 
can save him from the charge of dishonesty ; for he sells land 
upon which an attachment had already with his knowledge 
been made. Apparently advantage is taken of his condition, 
for a prominent but not always upright townsman brings suit 
for one hundred pounds against him, having induced him to 
sign a note for that amount on some pretext. But Mr. Belcher 
has wit enough to defend himself, and not only wins the case 
but recovers the cost from the plaintiff. He borrows money 
right and left, however, mortgaging one piece of land after 
another. In March, 1753, Edward Hay ward, Esq., brings suit 
against Joseph Belcher, who had, as the writ alleges, bound 
himself to Mr. Hayward as clerk. Mr. Belcher's defence is 
that he " was not a clerk at the purchase and service of the 
plaintiff, but a gentleman," etc. This defence was overruled, 
and the case went against the ex-minister, who appealed to the 
Superior Court. In June, 1754, Mr. Hayward brought another 
suit against Mr. Belcher, and won the case. The amount in- 
volved, including costs, was less than ten pounds. In the 
Court's decision was this order : " We command you to take 
ye body of ye said Joseph Belcher and commit him to our 
goal in Taunton, and detain him in your custody in our goal 



lOO HISTORY OF EASTON. 

until " all claims against him are settled. What a change is 
this from the day when, having " come up to his terms," the 
parish joyfully ordained him and were so proud of him ! Mr. 
Belcher himself feels the change, and determines to escape 
from it, and when the sheriff goes for him is nowhere to be 
found. Then a committee is appointed to " apprise and set off 
so much of the estate " as will satisfy these claims. They find 
one lot of six acres and twenty rods southeast of the meeting- 
house, which they value at nine pounds ; " and for satisfaction 
of ye remaining part of ye execution and charges, was shown 
to us a black cow of about seventeen years of age, and both 
of her horns cutt of at ye top, which we apprised at twenty- 
six shillings." The lot designated was all the real estate of 
Mr. Belcher that could be found, and this was made over to 
Mr. Hayward. Let us trust that the poor old black cow, " with 
both of her horns cutt of at ye top," which had furnished 
the little Belchers with milk for so many years, was merci- 
fully spared to the now motherless and (practically) fatherless 
family of children. Seven of these children were placed under 
the guardianship of Ephraim Hunt, of Greenwich, Hampshire 
County. Samuel and Jonathan were supported by the town. 
Samuel died in 1755, but Jonathan, and his children after him, 
were supported as paupers for many years. It is a matter of 
sad interest to think that children of the first two ministers 
of Easton should need to rely upon public charity for sub- 
sistence ! The oldest daughter, Hannah, married Deacon Ste- 
phen Badlam, of Stoughton, and was the mother of two sons, 
Ezra and Stephen, who became distinguished officers in the 
Revolutionary War. Joseph was a soldier in the French and 
Indian War, as well as in the Revolutionary War, and finally 
settled in Stoughton. William was killed or taken prisoner 
while in his country's service at New York, in September, 
1776. Gregory married in town and resided here. 

What became of the Rev. Joseph Belcher ? Many days of 
careful search on the writer's part have failed to find an answer 
to this question. He flies from his creditors before April, 1754, 
for at that time the town is considering what to do about " the 
circumstances of Mr. Belcher's children and estate." Three 
years afterward, having waited in vain for his reappearance, it 



THE MINISTRY OF REV. JOSEPH BELCHER. loi 

is voted to sell his books and spend the money as far as it will 
go for the maintenance of his pauper children. Mr. Belcher 
thus vanishes into thickest darkness. The only glimmer of 
light after this is the record in the Harvard Triennial Cata- 
logue, that he died in 1773. Though unable to verify this 
statement, we may accept it as probably correct. And so 
the second minister of Easton, beginning his ministry with 
brilliant auspices, ends it in misfortune, and dies in deep 
obscurity. 



I02 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE REVEREND SOLOMON PRENTICE AND A MEMO- 
RABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 

Rev. Mr. Prentice accepts a Call to Easton. — His Exciting Min- 
isterial Experience at Grafton. — He is a "New Light." — 
Where shall the Easton New Meeting-House stand ? — Stormy 
Times. — The General Court invoked to interfere. — They 
order it built at the Centre. — It is done, but Disaffection 
INCREASES. — Mr. Prentice Threatens to "break the heads" 
OF the General Court's Committee. — The Church and Parish 
DIVIDED. — Mr. Prentice's Friends begin to build a Meeting- 
House. — Church Councils. — Personalities. 

THE Rev. Joseph Belcher was dismissed from his pasto- 
rate April i6, 1744. The church and town had some 
trouble in finding a successor. At the beginning of 1745 the 
church gave a call to the Rev. Silas Brett, of Bridgewater, to be- 
come its minister, but the town refused, January 17, to concur in 
this call. On July 28, 1746, a call from church and town was 
extended to Mr. Solomon Reed, who for some reason did not 
accept. On January 7, 1747, a call is given to Mr. John Wads- 
worth, and apparently accepted, as arrangements are made in 
March for his " Instolment." But he unaccountably disappears 
from notice, and on September 14, 1747, the Rev. Solomon Pren- 
tice, of Grafton, is invited to the pastoral charge of the Church of 
Christ in Easton. A salary of ^230, old tenor, was voted him, 
*' together with ye improvement of ye ministerial land, (viz.) to 
plant and sow or moo or pasturing, to gether with cutting of fier- 
wood for his own fier and fencing stufe for to fenc ye ministerial 
land with all." Evidently this did not " come up to his terms," 
for in October, " 2ly, We voted to give ye Reverd Mr Solomon 
Printice four Hundred pounds old tenner for his yearly Salery 
During His Ministry amoung us ; and Beef att twelve pence per 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 103 

pound to be ye standard for to Eastimate said salary by as said 
species shall be sold in ye town of Easton. He Being Excluded 
from any improvement on ye ministeriell Lands. Voted in ye 
Affermitive." 

This statement furnishes a means of estimating the present 
value of Mr. Prentice's salary. The paper currency known as 
" old tenor " was, as we have said, a depreciating one. At the 
date of Mr. Prentice's call it does not appear to have been 
worth one third of its face value, judging it by the standard 
of the price of beef ; for in 1730, when this currency had al- 
ready lessened in value, beef was fourpence a pound. If Mr. 
Prentice therefore received ;^400 salary when beef was twelve 
pence a pound, his salary was equivalent to eight thousand 
pounds of beef. It is probable that this means the wholesale 
price, as it was quite the custom for persons to buy by the 
quarter, or in larger amounts than at the present day. If we 
reckon the present value of beef thus bought at ten cents a 
pound, we find that Mr. Prentice's salary amounted to eight 
hundred dollars. It was, at all events, equivalent to eight thou- 
sand pounds of beef. 

The word " specie," as used in the above vote, and as else- 
where employed in records of that date, has a different meaning 
from that to which it is now limited. It does not mean hard 
money, but rather the various commodities that are bought with 
money, and whose price forms a standard by which to estimate 
the real value of a fluctuating currency. Thus on June 8, 1730, 
it was voted to raise ^^42 for the Rev. Mr. Short " in mony, or 
in speceia at the set price following par Lahore four shillings par 
day, Indian corn at five shilings par bushel, rye at six and six 
pence, weate at nine shilings, mutton at six pence par pound, 
beave at four pence par pound, porke at six pence per pound, 
and any other speshew at the market price." 

In addition to the salary of ^400, the town voted an equal 
sum for Mr. Prentice's "settlement," — a very liberal offer. With 
this salary, of the present value of about eight hundred dollars, 
and a gratuity of eight hundred more promised, — one half the first 
year, and the other half the next, — we can see that there is far 
less disproportion between the old time and the present pay of 
ministers than is commonly supposed. But it is always easier 



I04 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

to vote money away than to pay it out, and we shall see Mr. 
Prentice obliged to sue the town at Court for the payment of the 
money voted to him with such apparent generosity. Happy 
however in his ignorance of what is in store for him here, Mr. 
Prentice accepts the call in the following terms : — 

The town of Easton having invited and called me, ye subscriber, to 

ye work and office of a gospel minister among them, and voted four 

hundred pounds old tenor for my settlement among them, and four 

hundred pounds old tenor for my annual salary, stated as their vote of 

October ye 23, 1747, doth appear, I hereby manifest my satisfaction 

therewith and declare my acceptance thereof ; and in ye name and fear 

of God give up myself to his service of ye ministry among them. 

Solomon Prentice. 
Easton, November ye 2, 1747. 

This brief and business-like letter contrasts favorably with the 
verbose and affected epistle of his predecessor. 

The Rev. Solomon Prentice, the son of Solomon, was born in 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 11, 1705, and graduated from 
Harvard University in 1727, in the class with Governors Hutch- 
inson and Trumbull. He was the first minister of Grafton, 
Massachusetts, where he was ordained December 29, 1731.^ 
Towards the latter part of his ministry in Grafton he developed 
marked pecuharities, that led to serious trouble with his parish. 
He was one of those ministers who was greatly moved by the 
ministry of Whitefield. Whitefield arrived in Boston in the latter 
part of 1740, and the churches were thrown into intense agita- 
tion by his preaching. Mr. Prentice espoused his cause, and be- 
came a zealous "New Light." Against the wishes of his society, 
he freely admitted itinerant preachers into his pulpit. He was 
charged with making use of fanatical and extravagant expres- 
sions, and with joining in the general condemnation of the minis- 
ters of the land as unconverted men. In 1743 a disaffection 
sprang up in his church in Grafton, and seven members withdrew. 
A council was called in October, 1744, and it resulted in showing 
that the neighboring ministers had in a manner lost confidence 
in his judgment and discretion. He was charged with saying 
that " we were to love none but such as are savingly converted;" 

^ For details of Mr. Prentice's life and ministry in Grafton, see Pierce's History 
of that town. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 105 

that the "life and practice are the negative part of Christian- 
ity; that a converted man might know if others were converted 
merely by conversing with them ; " that he might, in fact, "give a 
near guess, if they held their tongues " ! It was declared that 
he said of Christ's coming, " The court of Heaven was ad- 
journed a little space, till one of the members came down from 
heaven to take upon himself humanity." These expressions 
were condemned by the council " as discovering a want of sound 
knowledge, and implying a variety of absurd notions." He was 
said to have used the following language : " To what purpose 
is it to preach to an 'unregenerate man, ... to tell him he must 
not kill, must not steal, must not do these and those things ? 
for he has no power to resist them, for he is the Devil's slave 
and vassal, and doeth just what the Devil would have him do." 
This was considered by the council as "carrying the matter 
rather too far"! He was condemned for introducing unedu- 
cated itinerants and exhorters into his pulpit, and obtruding 
himself into the parishes of other ministers ; but no charge 
was made against his moral character. Peace therefore was 
advised, and his people were recommended to listen quietly to 
his ministrations, if he should accept the judgment and advice 
of the council. 

The result of the council was accepted by both parties ; but 
it brought only a temporary quiet. In 1746 the dissatisfaction 
broke out anew ; church meetings were resumed ; council fol- 
lowed council ; advice was again accepted, but again disregarded. 
Mr. Prentice was discouraged, and asked for a dismissal, which 
he received July 10, 1747. In his communication to the council 
he shows a deep concern for the souls of his people. This com- 
munication evinces the spirit of a devoted Christian pastor. He 
was indeed pious and pure-hearted, but had a zeal tempered 
with too little discretion; he was strong and self-willed, and 
determined to carry out whatever he began to do. A man more 
unsuitable for the trying times about to dawn upon the Easton 
parish could not have been selected. A peacemaker, a discreet 
and considerate man, was needed ; but Mr. Prentice was a 
champion of the church militant, one-sided, positive, excitable, 
and with sufficient ability to make these qualities productive of 
serious trouble and mischief. 



I06 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Mr. Prentice was installed minister in Easton, November i8, 
1747, ten churches assisting at the installation. The Rev. Mr. 
Balch, of Dedham, preached the sermon ; Leonard of Plymouth, 
gave the charge, and Goddard of Leicester the right hand of 
fellowship. Mr. Prentice began immediately to look after the 
spiritual interests of the church, which seem to have been great- 
ly neglected. He is surprised to find a church with no church 
records and no covenant. There was not even a list of church 
members. He proceeds at once to remedy these defects. A 
meeting of the church is called, and a committee appointed to 
wait upon Mr. Belcher the late pastor, who was still living here, 
•' to know of him whither there were in his hands, or whither he 
knew anything of a Covenant this chh had submitted unto ; and 
to Intreat him if he had any, to deliver it up to said Com'tee, As 
also any other Records he had in his hands that belonged or 
Related to this chh." 

The pastor, with " Dea. Edward Hay ward, Capt. Eliphalet 
Leonard, and Bro. Jos. Grossman," waited upon Mr. Belcher and 
got from him an answer which confirms the tradition of his de- 
rangement. They reported, " That he had never seen or sign*^, 
Neither did he know anything about, any Covenant the chh here 
had. And as for Records, he said if there was no Covenant there 
could be no chh, and if no chh no Records ; and further he saith 
not." ^ This comprehensive answer was far from being satisfac- 
tory, but it was conclusive. It was evident that the demented 
ex-minister had either lost or destroyed both the records and 
the covenant. Whereupon the church voted "that it is altogether 
unfitt & Improper for a chh to be without a Covenant." ^ These 
votes were passed January 28, 1748. Another covenant was pre- 
pared and signed ; and so well satisfied were the church at what 
they had done that they praised themselves thus : " Propos*? that 
the Conduct of this chh is not only Justifiable but very Comend- 
able, in that when they Discovr'd that there was no Covenant 
to be found, that they took proper care to procure a Scriptual 
Covenant, and have Solemnly and publickly Enterd there into 
and subscribed the same. Voted afirmat." 

This covenant (which is not to be confounded with a creed) is 
printed in the Appendix, with the names of the signers thereto. 
1 Oldest Easton Church Records, p. 16. 2 ibid. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 107 

Mr. Prentice, having reorganized the church, having secured 
the signing of a covenant and begun new church records, 
endeavored to promote a real church life and enforce church 
discipline. He was too much in earnest to permit careless man- 
agement or to ignore any violation of ecclesiastical order. One 
of the first things done is to call some of the brethren to account 
for having abruptly left meeting contrary to rules. He tried 
to enforce the Scriptural methods of deciding differences and 
quarrels between the brethren by church exhortation, counsel, 
and rebuke, reconciling contending brethren without appeal to 
the courts. Thus when Samuel Drake complained to the church 
that Nathaniel Perry had accused him of keeping false accounts, 
the church appointed a committee to examine the case between 
the two brethren. Several meetings are held about the affair. 
The case is tried, and Mr. Perry, by evidence produced, sustains 
his charge, and Mr. Drake is excluded from the privilege of 
"coming to the Lord's table." It reflects credit upon Mr. 
Prentice and the Easton church that they made honesty between 
men a necessary condition of church fellowship. 

A difficulty that caused the church serious trouble occurred 
between Dea. Edward Hayward and Henry Howard. It was 
after the bitter contention about the location of the meeting- 
house, soon to be narrated, had begun. Deacon Hayward de- 
clared that Mr. Howard had told him, " ten times within three 
months, that ye meeting-house in Easton stood in the suitablest 
place to keep the town together." Mr. Howard denied the 
statement, and evidence taken sustained the denial. The church 
then made a charge of misrepresentation against the Deacon ; 
and when, after much debate, it was about to be put to vote, the 
following interesting scene occurred, which is recorded by Mr. 
Prentice in the church book : — 

Upon beholding matters bro't to such a crisis, the Dea. Bow'd his 
head, and with tears in his eyes utter'd and caused to be taken down 
the following acknowledgement, viz : Wher'as in the Late day of tryal 
& Temptation I have spoken very rashly & unadvisedly, and espe- 
cially in saying that I could prove Bro'r Henry Howard had told me 
Ten times within three months, and that within three Weeks he had 
said, that the Meeting House (in Easton) stood in the most suitable 
place to keep the Town together, as appears by plentiful! evidence I 



I08 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

did, — I do acknowledge it was very rashl)' said, and I am sorry I said 

so ; and I ask forgiveness of God whom I have offended, as also of 

this Chh, & of Bro! Henry Howard in special, & I promiss by Divine 

help I will Carry my selfe more circumspectly towards God, this Chh, 

and all men I may be Concern^ with, than of Late I have Done. 

Edw^ Havward. 
Easton, April 26, 1751. 

Upon which, Bror Henry Howard, of his own accord, voluntaryly De- 
clare' as follows, Viz: I am sorry for any thing I have s? or acted 
Rashly in this Late dae of tryal. Either against God, this Chh, or Dea. 
Hayward in particular ; and do beg forgiveness of God, this Chh, & 
Deaf Hayward in special. H. Howard. 

Which the Chh beheld, with great joy and surprizing Delight, Chear- 
fully Vot? their agreeable satisfaction with, Restor'' these their Breth" to 
their Charaty & Usual standing again. With which hapyly Ended all 
matters of Difificulty and Uneasyness, which were in or had been Laid 
before the Chh. 

Wher'upon with Thanksgiving, Prayr, & Praise the Meeting was 
Dissmiss? 

att" S. Prentice, V. D. M. 

We shall now attend to the history of one of the most note- 
worthy church contentions that ever occurred in New England, 
but one which has never before been chronicled. It divided the 
town, mainly on territorial lines, into two warring factions, mak- 
ing in some cases "a man's foes those of his own household," 
and did a harm to religion that was felt for many years. Where 
shall the meeting-hoiise stand? This was the rock on which the 
church split. Shall the new building be erected on the site of 
the old one, to suit the people in the east part of the town, or 
shall it stand at or near the centre of the town, better to accom- 
modate those in the west part .'' It will be noticed farther on 
that those settlers who lived in the northeast part (now North 
Easton) sided with the East-Enders. And the reason for this 
was that they had not only become accustomed to the old lo- 
cation, but the road thither was the old travelled way, there 
being no road, but only a rough cart-path, to the Centre. 

Curiously enough, even before the incorporation of the town 
we can see the first rising of the cloud which was now to bring 
such a tempest upon the people. About 171 8 what is now called 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 109 

the Furnace Village was just being settled, and it was giving 
promise of considerable growth. The first Josiah Keith (who 
had built a house, and was erecting a saw-mill) and some of his 
neighbors foresaw the attempt that would be made, and soon 
was successfully made, to build the new meeting-house near the 
Bridgewater line ; for a precinct was petitioned for, and had just 
been granted. Keith and others therefore, as early as June 5, 
1 71 8, presented to the General Court the following petition : — 

" A petition of several of the Inhabitants in the East Precinct in 
Norton, Shewing that the Inhabitants of the Western Part of said East 
Precinct, with many others that are beginning to settle upon their 
Lands in the said Part, will be much discouraged from settling there 
(which will be much to the Damage of the said new village) until the 
publick Meeting House for Divine Worship be built in the Center 
of the said Precinct ; and therefore Praying that a Committee may be 
appointed by this Honourable Court to find out the said Center & 
appoint the place where the said Meeting House shall be built. 

"In Council. — Read & Ordered that the Hon''!'^ Nathaniel Payne, 
Esq., with such as the Hon''!" House of Representatives shall join 
with him, be a committee to go to Norton, & View & Report to this 
Court the most proper & convenient Place for setting up the said 
Meeting House." ^ 

These petitioners were the few families living in the west part 
of what is now Easton. Their petition was unavailing : the 
precinct will not build a meeting-house at the centre of the town. 
The defeated party were very sore over the result, and lost no 
opportunity to manifest their displeasure. In 1728 and 1729 
we find them, as before narrated, opposing any expenditure of 
money to repair and improve the meeting-house. They are out- 
voted ; but they do not forget, and they will bide their time. 
Their time is now at hand. In January, 1745, they are strong 
enough, with the aid of some of the more generous of the east 
part, to get a vote passed " to Buld a publick meeting House 
for ye publick worship of god in this town, in ye senter or within 
twenty Rods of ye senter. Voted to have it finished within six 
years from ye date hereof." Nearly a year before, a committee 
of out-of-town men, with Lieut. Morgan Cobb of Taunton for 
1 Massachusetts General Court Records, vol. x. pp. 237, 238. 



no HISTORY OF EASTON. 

surveyor, had been appointed by the town to find out where the 
centre was. It was found to be on Benjamin Pettengill's land, 
near the present residence of L. K. Wilbur. Nothing is done 
about carrying out this vote to build a meeting-house for four 
years. On Christmas day, 1749 (no regard being paid to Christ- 
mas in those days), the subject was revived. The people of the 
west part of the town are now willing to make a concession (are 
perhaps forced to do it in order to carry their point), and no 
longer demand that it shall be built at the exact centre, near Ben- 
jamin Pettengill's. Several votes are passed and reconsidered, 
and the town votes finally to build the meeting-house "on ye half- 
acre of Land that Capt. John Phillips had laid out for yt Use, 
which is near one half a mile east from ye center of said town ; 
and it was voted to raise Fifteen Hundred Pounds in bills of 
credit of ye old tenor towards Building sd Meeting House." 
Let it be remembered that this vote passed by a large majority ; 
that many voted for it who after the work was partially done 
fought against it ; and that even Mr. Prentice indorsed it and 
co-operated with the proposed plan. Mr. Prentice is especially 
enthusiastic, and makes a generous offer of assistance, as we 
see by the following vote of the town on this Christmas day : — 

" Voted cherfully and thankfully to Accept of ye Rev. Mr Solomons 
prentice Kind offer, and to comply with ye conditions annex? viz : for 
ye Encorragement of ye town Chearfully & Loveingly to go forward 
in Building their New meeting House, mr prentice offers & hereby En- 
gages to stand in ye place & pay ye tax of ye fifth Highest payer in 
town, towards building & finishing said meeting House (not to Ex- 
empt ye said fifth man from paying, but to help ye whole town), on con- 
dision said prentice may Have ye Liberty of ye fifth choice of pews in 
s? meeting House, He paying what ye same shall be set att by ye towns 
com'"" " ^ 

Mr. Prentice's action here recorded must be taken into ac- 
count in our judgment of the strenuous opposition which he 
soon so inconsistently made against the completion of the new 
meeting-house, and against worshipping in it when it was ready. 
At first the people went busily to work. Timber was cut 
and hewn, and drawn to the spot where the building was to be 

1 Original Town Records, vol. i. p. 65. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. m 

raised. But an undercurrent of opposition set in, and increased 
in force. On February 26, 1750, two months after the work 
was determined upon, twenty persons entered their protest 
against the continuance of the work on the building. It is in- 
teresting to note that nearly all of these persons were from the 
northeast part of the town, among them being Eliphalet Leon- 
ard, John Randall, and George Ferguson. The dissatisfaction 
increased. April 9, 1750, a town-meeting was called, at which 
the malcontents were present in force. It was "Voted for to 
build ye Meeting House in some other place than where ye 
timber Now lies ; " and it was then voted to build it four rods 
northward of the spot where it was formerly voted. This lot 
was bought of Benjamin Drake. The concession of four rods 
did not please the dissatisfied. They then asked that the north 
part of the town might be set apart as a separate precinct; but 
this was denied them. 

Everything was now in readiness for raising the frame, and 
the committee who had thus far attended to the work appointed 
a day for this to be done. At this there was an outcry of oppo- 
sition ; so much so that three of the committee wavered, and 
postponed the day. They reported : " We see the contenshon 
was grate about the Place Perfixed for said hous, ... so we 
thot it our Dutey to for bid the Rasing said fraim till the town 
could be coled together," etc. So the frame lay untouched upon 
the ground. It was no time for such indecision. The town 
had sufficiently declared its purpose, and there was no prospect 
of better agreement in another town-meeting. Fortunately the 
town party had a leader who was not afraid to take responsi- 
bility, and " Esquire " Edward Hayward (who was also captain 
and deacon) with others raised the frame in spite of the com- 
mittee's attempt at delay. Two of the committee who advised 
delay were dismissed from their duties ; they were John Dailey, 
Sr., and Henry Howard. The house was raised in four days, 
beginning Monday, April 23, 1750; and unless our fathers de- 
parted from the usual custom of the time, there was plenty of 
good drink to enliven the occasion. 

Some of the opposing party, when they saw matters proceed- 
ing thus far and their defeat a certainty, began to yield. Capt. 
Eliphalet Leonard, for instance, had vowed he would never con- 



112 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

sent to a church being built upon that spot ; but taking his 
short-stemmed pipe from his mouth, he told the leading men 
that if they would save his vow inviolate by moving the sills 
the length of his pipe-stem, he would go with them. They how- 
ever would not yield even so small a point as that ; and he 
went away in wrath, and, next to Mr. Prentice, became the lead- 
ing opponent of the town party. The raising was completed 
on Thursday, April 26, at which time the assembled people, 
full of enthusiasm, sang the one hundredth Psalm. This was 
doubtless Watts's versification. Its appropriateness is apparent 
from the fifth stanza, which is as follows : — 

" We '11 crowd thy gates with thankful songs, 
High as the heavens our voices raise ; 
And earth, with her ten thousand tongues, 
Shall fill thy courts with sounding praise." 

It is interesting to imagine that throng of our Easton fathers 
and mothers with their families grouped about this solid frame 
of the new meeting-house, and lifting up their voices in thanks- 
giving to God. We cannot help thinking, however, that mingled 
with all this sacred joy the West End people must have felt a 
little human exultation at their victory, and that those opposed 
to them, such as were present, must have found their cup mixed 
with gall. 

John Dailey, Sr., and Henry Howard having been dropped 
from the committee appointed to build the meeting-house, Lieut. 
John Williams, George Keyzer, and Esquire Hayward were 
chosen, but not without protest. Benjamin Williams and Thomas 
Manley were already on the committee. The work now rapidly 
progresses during the summer of 1750, but the disaffection in- 
creases. It is even proposed in town-meeting, September 24, to 
divide the town by a north and south line, so as to make two 
towns of Easton, The proposition fails of sufficient support. 
In November the new meeting-house, though not finished, is 
ready for occupancy. On November 5 the town votes that the 
committee may pull down the old building when they think 
proper. Two of the committee went to Mr. Prentice on Satur- 
day evening, told him they meant to pull the old house down on 
Monday, and asked him to give notice that services would hence- 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 



113 



forth be held at the new meeting-house. We have this account 
in Mr. Prentice's own words. Writing of the new house, he 
states as follows : — 

"By Novf (it) is so far Inclos^ that 2 of the Selectmen on Nov. 10, 
Saturday night, came to my house Informing me the Town desigher? to 
pull down the Old Meeting house the next Week, and they would have 
me to Morrow after exercise enform the congregation ther'of, that ye 
town might meet in the New Meeting house the Sabbath after. I In- 
timate to ye gentlemen I thought itt did not pertain to me to do that 
Business. Accordingly I did itt not. On Nov' 12 the Old Meeting 
house was pulL' Down." ^ 

The crisis had now come. The new meeting-house was 
ready, and, to allow no excuse for not worshipping in it, the old 
house was pulled down. What was to be done .-' Shall the dis- 
affected minority yield } A meeting of the church (that is, the 
church members) is called. Surely the assembly of the saints 
will counsel peace and the surrender of personal preferences for 
the general good. On Friday, November 16, at one p. m., 
thirty-six members were present, and they voted, twenty-three 
to thirteen, that they would not worship in the new meeting- 
house, and that they would meet for public worship at " Mr W" 
Hayward's New House." This refusal to worship at the meet- 
ing-house at the Centre, which had been built by vote of the 
town, made an open breach between the two parties. On the 
next Sunday probably no service was held in the church, and on 
Tuesday the 20th Mr. Prentice received the following letter : — 

M"^ Prentice. Rev. Si^ — We the Subscribers desire that you would 
attend the publick Worship of God On y^ Sabbath Days for y^ time to 
come att Our New Meeting House in Easton. 

Sighn? Joshua Howard, ] Selectmen for y' 

Nov' 20"' 1750. John Williams, j Town of Easton. 

Mr. Prentice's party consult the Hon. George Leonard, of Nor- 
ton, and other legal authority, the result of which is not reported. 
They however are determined not to yield, and a petition headed 
by Dea. Robert Randall, with fifty signatures, is presented to 
the pastor asking him to preach in private houses, until a meet- 
ing-house is erected near Israel Randall's corner, — that is, at 

1 Mr. Prentice's letter to the General Court. State Papers, vol. xiii. pp. 222-24. 

8 



114 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

the Green. The majority of the church members, at least of 
those attending the meetings that are called, vote to the same 
effect, and December 7 they decided to hold services by turns, — 
four Sundays at William Hayward's, which was near Simpson's 
Spring, and four Sundays at James Pratt, Jr's., his house being a 
little south of the South Easton Cemetery. Mr. Prentice hesi- 
tated at first in his decision, as well he might ; for he had acqui- 
esced in the town's vote to build where the meeting-house now 
stood. " I was frequently with them, and encouraged them what- 
ever I could," he had written. The only reason he gives for re- 
fusing to preach in the new meeting-house is that the church 
has voted to hold services elsewhere, and that he considers 
it his duty to obey the church. 

On December 24, 1750, the town voted to choose a committee 
of five men to treat with Mr. Prentice, and " to see if he will 
atend and preach to us in our Meeting House in Easton, & to 
know of a Sertainty whether he will or will not." On the 26th 
the committee delivered him a letter, which he answered immedi- 
ately, and in which he writes : "Upon mature consideration, I find 
myself able to give no other answer there unto att present than 
this, — viz., I must scrupel your authority by proper Deligation 
from ye town determining to atend public worship of god in ye 
new meeting house," etc. Until this scruple is removed, he 
declares that he will obey the requirement of the church. He 
subscribes himself their " most humble ser't & most affection- 
ate pastor, most willing to serve both town & church wherin I 
may." What can the town do ? Mr. Prentice prefers to obey 
the church rather than the parish. The first thing that is done 
after this is that on January 15, 175 1, the town refuses to vote 
him his yearly salary. At the same meeting they choose a com- 
mittee " to Lay our Difficultys before ye General Court, Relating 
to a number of ye inhabitance of ye town in there absenting 
themselves from us & going about to build another meeting- 
House in ye easterly part of Easton ; entreating sd Court to en- 
terpose by a [all] There autority, & to prevent our Runing further 
into confusion & Dificulties." ^ 

Mr. Prentice's shrewdness and ability are proved by the fact 
that as soon as this vote is passed, indeed on the very day of its 

1 Old Town Records, p. 69. The date of 1750 is Old Style; it is really 1751. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 115 

passage, he drew up a petition to the General Court himself, got 
it headed by Eliphalet Leonard and signed by sixty other per- 
sons, and forwarded it to Boston before the town's committee 
presented their own message. The petition is in his own hand- 
writing, and merely asks that the petitioners shall be served 
with a copy of the petition about to be presented by the town's 
committee, of which Esquire Hayward is the chairman. This 
committee prepared a statement of the main facts relating to the 
building of the meeting-house, such as have been already nar- 
rated, and then added : " Ye Inhabitants In general went chear- 
fully on with ye work, until lately there is a seperation of a 
considerable number of ye Inhabitants yt voted to have ye meet- 
ing House where it now stands, which seperatists live in ye east 
part of ye town, and argot to such a head yt our minister hath 
joined them and Refuseth to preach to ye Inhabitants of ye town 
in ye meeting House, But preaches to sd. Seperate party in a 
Private house ; and sd party ace about building a meeting house 
between ye new meeting House & Bridgewater line, on ye east 
side of sd town, tho ye meeting House now built stands not a 
mile & f from Bridgewater line and more than three miles from 
Norton line and ye west of said Easton, and was placed further 
east to accommodate sd Party. Wherefore as two separate Par- 
ishes is more than sd. town can maintain, they humbly pray ye 
Interposition of the Great & Gen. Court to prevent ye proceed- 
ings of sd. party, or otherwise to Relieve sd town as shall seem 
meet." ^ A copy of this petition is sent to Eliphalet Leonard, 
who with others merely answer that the Centre of the town is 
very unsuitable for the meeting-house, which they say should " be 
set in the center of the Travial of the present Inhabitants." Mr. 
Prentice adds to this a long paper of his own, already alluded 
to. He does not present the matter in any new light ; but he 
is especially indignant over the charge that his party are " Sep- 
aratists," for he writes : " And now asking yr Hon'rs Pardon 
for my Prolixity, I Humbly Beg the faviour of this Hon'ble 
Court, that the chh & Pastor may be acquitted from that Infa- 
mous term of Seperatists fixed upon us by the Town's Com'tee 
in their Petition. Because it is an epithett we renounce with 
abhorrence and Detestation." ^ 

1 State Papers, vol. xiii. pp. 219, 220. ^ Ibid., p. 224. 



Il6 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

In the General Court the whole subject was referred to a com- 
mittee, who, hearing the parties interested, proposed that three 
persons should be sent to Easton " to view their circumstances " 
etc., and report to the General Court; and that meantime all pro- 
ceedings as to "building a meeting house in the town be stayed." 
A committee was accordingly appointed, consisting of James Mi- 
not, Esq., Captain White, and Captain Clapp.^ This was on Feb- 
ruary 12, 175 1, the dates in the original papers being Old Style. 

Mr. Prentice's party, however, had already decided to build a 
meeting-house of their own. He had offered a lot of land for this 
purpose ; it was a part of what is called the Green, at South 
Easton, and the building was to stand at the southeast part of 
the Green. In January, 175 i, his friends were collecting materi- 
als for erecting it, and work had already begun with great enthu- 
siasm. But this order of the General Court, that all proceedings 
as to building a new house be stayed, they interpreted as apply- 
ing to themselves as well as to the town party. Nothing could 
exceed the ire of Mr. Prentice and his friends at being obliged 
to lay down their tools and stop work on the meeting-house they 
had with such lively interest begun to build. Hard words were 
uttered by both sides, and an especially Hvely colloquy occurred 
between Nehemiah Randall and the minister at the house of 
William Hayward, of which a sworn statement is as follows : — 

Nehemiah Randal, of Easton, of Lawful age, testifith and saith, that 
He being at the House of William Hayward at Easton, on the Later 
end of febuarey or the begining of March, 175 1, and thare Discorsing 
with Mr. Solomon prentis, Late or then Minister of Easton, consarning 
the Genaral Corts Commitey that did Establish the Towns meeting 
House; and then the Reverent Mr. prentis Said in Conversation with 
said Nehemiah Randal, Discorsing consarning the meeting House that 
Capt. Leonard and a number of the Inhabitance of Easton ware then 
abuilding in Easton on Mr. prentises Land, and the said Nehemiah 
Asced Mr. prentis whither they would go forward with building there 
meeting House, and he said he se nothing to hender ; and then Nehe- 
miah said it may be the Cort will send a Commetey to pul it down, and 
Mr. prentis made this reply, Let them Come into my field, I will breake 
theare Heads ; when it was answered to Him that the Genaral Cort's 
Committey might Command Assistance, and he would not be abel to do 

1 State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 224. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 117 

it, and His reply was this : I do not fear it, I can have anofe to assist 
me in that afare ; Let them Come in to my field if they Dare, I will 
split theaire braines out. 

Nehemiah Randall. 
Sworn to before Edward Hayward, Justice of the peace.' 

This violent language of Mr. Prentice proves him to have 
been a man of passionate feeling and little discretion. Glad 
enough was his principal opponent, Esquire Hayward, to get 
sworn evidence of his uttering such language ; and he will use 
it before the General Court and before church councils ere the 
affair is over, much to the minister's disadvantage. 

The committee of the General Court who came here "to view 
the circumstances" presented their report on April 12, 1751. 
They reported that the new meeting-house was in the best place 
to accommodate the whole town, and recommended that unless 
Mr. Prentice would preach therein the town be freed from pay- 
ing his salary. In accordance with this recommendation the 
Governor's Council and the House of Representatives concurred 
in the following action : — 

"Inasmuch as the said Town of Easton have, by a Major vote of 
the Inhabitants thereof at a great expense erected a large meeting 
house in a much more suitable Place, for the accommodation of the 
whole town, than any other place proposed to the Committee by the 
Parties, and have almost finished the outside of said house, therefore 
ordered that the Inhabitants of sd Town proceed to finish said house ; 
and that they be freed from paying anything towards the support of 
Mr. Solomon Prentice, their minister, unless he complies with their 
vote & Desire to preach in the new meeting-house." ^ 

These recommendations were adopted, and when the fact was 
made known in Easton, it created consternation in the ranks of 
the Prentice party. Mr. Prentice must now retreat from his 
position and preach in the Centre meeting-house or forfeit all 
claim upon the town for his salary. He broods over it a few 
days, and then addresses the following communication to the 
selectmen : — 

To the Selectmen of the Town of Easton : 

Gentlemen, — Having seen & perused the order of the Great & 
General Court relating to Affairs of this Town : I do desire and insist 
^ State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 760. "^ Ibid., p. 230 



Il8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

upon it, that there be a meeting of the Inhabitants of Easton, qualified 
to act in Town Affairs, forthwith called, to see if the Town will grant 
me a Dismission from my Relation to them as a minister. 

In doing of which, you will much oblige your now affectionate 
Pastor, 

Solomon Prentice.^ 

Easton, April 20, 1751. 

Mr, Prentice's request for a town-meeting to grant him a dis- 
missal does not seem to have been acted upon. The annual 
March meeting had been adjourned in disorder. The excite- 
ment was so great that many of those chosen for office refused 
to serve, and the meeting was adjourned for two months. In May 
it met again, and with difficulty the vacancies in town offices 
were filled. It is observable that those of Mr. Prentice's party 
who are elected refuse to serve, and the town officers are nearly 
all chosen from the new meeting-house party. Thus bitter was 
the feeling generated by these church difficulties. At this ad- 
journed meeting in May no allusion is made to Mr. Prentice's 
request for a dismissal, nor is there any action upon it at the next 
town-meeting, in July. Evidently, even the town party do not 
wish to lose their minister ; and instead of entertaining his pro- 
position for release, they adopt an entirely new plan for the 
settlement of the prevailing difficulties. They propose to call a 
council of churches. The State had interposed in vain ; it was 
now hoped that the Church might succeed in promoting peace. 

Accordingly Edward Hayward, James Dean, and others of the 
town party, one week after his letter was sent to the selectmen, 
addressed him and the church members adhering to him, ask- 
ing that on account of the " Difficulties & Unhappy Sentements 
subsisting among us," and because of the " frowns of God " 
under which they rested, they would unite with them "in seting 
apart a day of Solemn Fasting & Prayer, and Implore Heavens 
Blessings on us, and call a Number of Neighbouring Ministers 
to assist in the same, and Likewise to advise with," etc. This 
proposal, however, was not supported by a single vote in the 
church meeting of Mr. Prentice's party, held a few days after- 
ward. They were too much excited and disappointed at their 
defeat ; they distrusted the motives of the men making the pro- 

1 State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 717. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 119 

posal, and they doubtless anticipated that neighboring ministers 
would not give the advice they cared for. This plan failing, the 
town party, on May 18, requested the opposing brethren to 
agree with them in calling an ecclesiastical council of a number 
of neighboring ministers, to advise with them and endeavor to 
heal the difficulties they labored under. This proposition was 
debated by the church party, and its further consideration post- 
poned for a month. Whereupon the town party called a council 
of neighboring churches to sit at Joshua Howard's house on 
June 4, at 9 a. m., and they, " with all due Reverence & Respect, 
Do intreat our Rev. Pastor & chh to attend." The Prentice 
party, however, refused to attend what they considered an ex- 
parte council. 

After duly considering the grave matters presented to them, 
this council report that "the minor part of the church" have 
just cause to be aggrieved that Mr. Prentice will not attend ser- 
vice in the town meeting-house ; they advise him in obedience 
to the authority of the land and for the good of religion to com- 
ply with the request of the town ; they counsel charity for one 
and all ; and if he will not comply, they would urge calling a 
mutual council, etc. The words " minor part of the church " 
refer to a portion of the town party ; for though this party was 
in the majority as a parish and in town-meeting, it was a minority 
of the " church members," so called. Mr. Prentice's party had 
just about two thirds of the church members, and the other 
party one third. 

All prospect of settlement seemed now so faint, that the ad- 
herents of the minister determined to proceed with the building 
of their own church. The raising of the frame was completed 
June 23, 1 75 1, and at a meeting held on the spot at the time 
they voted, that, in case it was fair weather, they would worship 
under that roof the next Sabbath, — "which accordingly they 
did." It was certainly an interesting occasion. The building 
was scarcely yet more than a frame, roofed and floored. Chairs 
may have been brought from neighboring houses, and other seats 
variously extemporized, while many of the worshippers were 
probably standing. The novelty of the occasion no doubt gave 
vigor and warmth to the preacher's utterance ; but the unfor- 
tunate contention, which none could forget, makes it doubtful 



I20 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

whether the spirit of Christ or that of Adam most animated the 
hearts of the assembled congregation. 

At this stage of the controversy the town party, headed by 
Edward Hayward, formulate eleven charges against Mr. Pren- 
tice and his party. These are submitted in church meeting, 
July I, both the minority and majority church-parties being pres- 
ent. They are read in order, and the majority of the church 
members vote that they " are fully satisfied & easy with their 
Rev. Pastor, Notwithstanding what is alleged," etc. 

" Wher'upon the Pastor turn^ to Dea. Hayward & the rest of the Sub- 
scribing Breth", and Demanded satisfaction of them all for those 
Scandlous & Sinfull Reflections they had cast upon him, in which they 
had gone Contrary to y*" Word of God {vide Math, xviii. 15, i6 ; i Tim. 
v. 19) and to the Solemn Covenant they have with us subscribf {Vide 
Partic' 7th). Which being Refussf itt was with Regrett and Concern 
proposs'' Whither Dea'' Hayward and all the rest of the Subscribing 
Breth", — Viz., Israel Randall, Ephraim Randall, Benj-^ Drake, Tho' 
Drake, Israel Randall, Ju', Joseph Randall, Nehemiah Randall, James 
Dean, John Selle, George Keyzar, Benjr Pettingill, Jonathan Lothrop, 
& Mathew Hayward, — ought not to be suspended from the commu- 
nion of this chh in all Special Ordanances, untill they make christian 
Satisfaction to the Pastor and chh, especially in those Particulars the 
chh Voted they ought too. Vot^ affinnat." ^ 

Mr. Prentice's party again refuse to join in a mutual council, 
which seems to indicate a want of confidence in their own posi- 
tion. The town party therefore recall the council termed ex- 
parte by the minister and his friends, which holds a second 
meeting, July 9. The church party, as before, refuse to acknowl- 
edge its authority, but this time vote to send a committee to it 
" to save the council from being Imposed upon by false light." 
The council meets at Joshua Howard's again. There is a very 
exciting time. Mr Prentice is carried away by his feelings, and 
uses language more forcible than elegant or just, in which, how- 
ever, he is not alone. The charges preferred by the town party 
against the minister are taken up one by one. It is not neces- 
sary to speak of them all in detail. The fourth is to the effect 
that at a military training of a year before he had taken more 

^ Old Church Records. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 12I 

Strong drink than was consistent with sobriety. So Lieut. 
John Williams and his wife had alleged, though they would not 
so testify to the council. The vote upon this charge was as 
follows : — 

"As to the fourth article, we think that though it be not sufficiently 
proved, yet that Mr. Prentice has given his aggrieved brethren great 
occasion to fear that he is too much given to wine and strong drink." 

He is also judged as having in his conversation with Nehe- 
miah Randall (already alluded to) "spoken unworthily, contemp- 
tuously, & even audaciously of the Great & General Court." 
The council concludes that both parties were hasty and blame- 
worthy " in some respects." They advise the aggrieved brethren 
(the town party) to humble themselves before God for not deal- 
ing in a more brotherly way with Mr. Prentice, and for being 
too ready to believe and spread false reports about him. On 
the other hand they advise him to render Christian satisfaction 
for the offences he had committed towards them. They also 
recommend that if Mr. Prentice will not attend worship in the 
town meeting-house, he shall be dismissed ; and they conclude 
by advising a day of fasting and prayer for all. 

Mr. Prentice's opinion of the decision of the council may be 
gathered from his record of it. He says that his committee 
" offered them light, but they refused to see or accept itt, and 
show them also the Darkness and Mistakes they Were in 
danger of, but they would not Regard, and so drew up a 
Result founded upon falsehood and Lies, to the Damage and 
Defameing both Pastor & chh. Lord forgive them, for they 
knew not what they did." ^ 

On the next day after the adjournment of the council, Edward 
Hayward and nine others of the suspended brethren requested 
that a church meeting be appointed, in order that they might, 
in accordance with the advice of the council, make Christian 
satisfaction to the church. This they do in the following terms : 

To the Rev, Mr. Solomo?i Prentice: to be communicated to the Brethren. 

Brethren, we desire to be sorry for all that undue heat of temper we 

have discovered, and for all those hard words we have spoken to or off 

I Old Church Records. 



122 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

you or an)' of you in this time of differrence & temptation, and par- 
ticularly for not following the Rules of the Gospel with you respecting 
our greivances ; and earnestly ask God's forgiveness and yours for 
christs sake. 

Sighn'.' by all the Suspended Brethren. 
Easton, July II, 1751. 

The church, however, having read this " over & over," declared 
that they could not look upon this as amounting to Christian 
satisfaction. And as the signers " would neither add too nor 
diminish from what they had subscribed, the chh could not 
and did not restore, but continued their suspension of them. 
And Edward Hayward, Esq., for his obstinancy and unworthy 
& scandalous treatment of our Rev. Pastor at one time, place, 
& another, the chh. Voted should be thrust out from all the 
officies he did sustain or was chosen into in the chh, viz., 
Deacon and Ruleing Elder Elect." 

Despairing of inducing Mr. Prentice to preach in the meeting- 
house at the Centre, the town party voted in town-meeting, July 
15., to raise money for the supply of the pulpit. Some of the 
town party, as we have said, were church members ; but the ma- 
jority of the original members, apparently about two-thirds, be- 
longed to the North and East End party. The church members 
of the town party now formed a separate church organization 
of their own, and voted without reference to the church of the 
Prentice party. Edward Hayward was its clerk; but no records 
of this minority church have been preserved, and it is only by 
inference that we know of its action. But the town records 
prove that prior to July 3 1 this minority church had voted to 
dismiss Mr. Prentice ; for on that date the town voted " to con- 
cur in the church's vote dismissing the Rev. Mr. Solomon Pren- 
tice from his pastoral ofifice in this town." Mr. Prentice and his 
party could venture to laugh at that vote, for it was a vote of 
the minority of the " Church of Christ in Easton," who were in 
fact suspended members, and had no right by ecclesiastical usage 
to vote at all. Their action, therefore, in dismissing Mr. Pren- 
tice was entirely invalid, and none knew it better than he. 

It was, indeed, a novel and embarrassing situation. The par- 
ish had the meeting-house ; the church had the minister. The 
church would not consent to his preaching in the meeting-house; 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 123 

the parish could not shake him off, for he could not be dismissed 
without the concurrent vote of both church and parish, and the 
church stood by him. In April he had asked the town to dis- 
miss him. Now, in July, he held his grip firmly upon the town, 
and would not accept what, shortly before, he had implored them 
to bestow. The town had one consolation : with the sanction of 
the General Court it refused him any salary. Things were thus 
at a dead-lock, and there seemed no prospect of improvement. 
The Prentice party, however, attempted a flank movement. They 
voted that those in the westerly part of the town, who chose to 
do so, might worship with them without expense either for build- 
ing a meeting-house or for supporting the minister. But this 
offer was more politic than successful. The bait was not taken. 
In this perplexing situation the Prentice party thought that 
they in their turn would try the effect of an ecclesiastical council. 
On August 27, therefore, at the pastor's house, they voted to 
call a council to consider the result of the last town party's 
council, " and to see if the scandalous aspersions there in cast 
upon our Rev. Pastor may not be wiped off, and to give us 
advice with Respect to ye conduct of ye suspended Brethren of 
this church in consequence of said Result." Thirteen churches 
were invited to this council. Nine churches responded to the 
summons, and their delegates met on September 24 at Capt. 
Eliphalet Leonard's, — his house being where F. L. Ames's 
farm-house now stands in North Easton Village. This council 
seems to have been thoroughly impartial, as we may judge by 
the following interesting report of their action : — 

'* A Council of Nine Churches Convened at the house of Capt. 
Eliphalet Leonard in Easton, ye 24"' of September, 1751, at the Re- 
quest of the Revi Mr. Solomon Prentice & that Part of the Church 
adhereing to his Ministry. After Seeking to God for Direction in the 
Case Depending, we found that a Principle Cause of their troubles was 
the sd. Mr. Prentice's refusing to attend publick worship in the Towns 
Meeting House Established by the Hon^I^ the great & General Court 
persuant to a vote of y^^ Major part of y^ Chh., and more particularly 
of some misconduct that attended his Refusing to meet for publick 
worship in sd. House ; and the Council first laboured to shew Mr. 
Prentice and the Breth" Adherein to him itt would be Dutifull for 
them to attend there. Proposed, that Suitable Confession of the sins 



124 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

they were guilty of might heal all Breachs that were among them, and 
bring all persons to a Comfortable Reunion ; we Labour*? to Convince 
Each party of their duty with respect of the same with Desirable Suc- 
cess. And brought them to make Such Concesions as were Accepted 
by the ofended, so far as to unite both Chh and Town to meet together 
at the Meeting house Established by Law, and to forgive all former 
offences, and also to Retract all Votes pass'.' by the Jarring parties 
which they took offence att, and to Nullify and make Void the same. 

And the Council finding it Needless to look into any of the Articles 
touching his Moral Character, saveing the fourth, which was That 
he on Publick days, especially on Training days, spends so much of 
his time as we apprehend in Tipling and Vain Conversation ; in this 
we have a more Especial Refference to a Training Day at the house 
of Lieut. Williams, last fall was Twelve month. We particularly En- 
quired into that, and as to the Lnplication in it of His being guilty of 
Intemperance, We find from the persons advancing itt, as well as 
others, that he is clear of guilt therein. And in as much as it is the 
Request of Chh & Town that we should adjourn and not Dissolve, 
that if there should be any Erruption that we may look into itt and 
give farther advice upon the same. We do therfore adjourn Unto the 
3*? Tuesday of April next, to meet at this place if need Require and 
we be desired. 

" And now Breth", Rejoyceing in the happy Restoration of peace and 
unity among you, and Earnestly praying for the Continuance of y" 
Same, We Commend you to God and the Word of his grace, whch is 
able to build you up and give you an Inheritance among them that 
are Sanctified thro' faith, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen." ^ 

In justice to Mr. Prentice it should be distinctly noted here 
that he is cleared of all charges against his character. He had 
spoken rashly and passionately, he had been headstrong, he had 
been rather convivial on training day ; but in neither case w^ere 
his offences such as to deserve that charge of serious misconduct 
which his opponents, also headstrong and passionate, had made 
against him. It should also be noted that this council, called 
by Mr. Prentice's own party, advised the very course which this 
party had opposed and which the town party had demanded ; 
namely, that he should preach at the town meeting-house at 
the Centre. The church voted that "they would accept the 
Result of their Council, and abide by it as God should enable 
^ State Papers, vol. xiii. pp 720, 721. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 1 25 

them ;" and Mr. Prentice began at once to preach in the Centre 
church. Once more, therefore, after about eleven months' sep- 
aration, the two parties came together for common worship, and 
met in the town meeting-house in a service that was, as Mr. 
Prentice records, " lovingly attended." 

And now at last is not the bitter contention over, and will 
not peace come after the storm .-' We shall see. It looks omi- 
nous to find Mr. Prentice, when he writes that this service was 
" lovingly attended," adding thereto, " until the latter end of No- 
vember." But how could it be otherwise than that fire should be 
smouldering beneath the ashes, — fire that any ill-fated breeze 
might kindle anew .-' A two-years' quarrel will not be settled by 
the recommendation of a council ; and we find therefore that 
fresh trouble began at a church meeting, November 15, called 
" that ye chh might converse & Pray together in order to their 
attending the Sact. of the Lord's Supper together, which had 
been long omitted." Do not these words, " which had been long 
omitted," tell the sad story of the decline of religious interest 
consequent upon these obstinate quarrellings ? 

The church members belonging to the town party do not at- 
tend this meeting ; and at another church meeting of November 
22 those of this party who do attend claim that they come as 
members of another church, assuming that their minority church- 
organization is as truly a church as that of the Prentice party. 
They are evidently wrong in this, but they will not yield the 
point, and so there is no real agreement after all. The winter 
drags along in this way, with ill-suppressed bad feelings and 
sour looks, and no real harmony. The town-party people openly 
hinted that Mr. Prentice was not their minister ; they had dis- 
missed him. They would not attend the ordinances when he 
administered them, and seldom went to meeting at all. 

To such a pass have things now come that the East End party 
determine to shake off the dust of their feet against the town 
of Easton. They will try to form a distinct precinct, with a 
view of becoming a separate town. To accomiDlish this, Elipha- 
let Leonard and eleven others request the selectmen, in Febru- 
ary, 1752, to appoint a town-meeting to see if the town will vote 
off "the Easterly half of said Easton from the Centre thereof," 
to join with the westerly part of Bridge water to form a distinct 



126 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



precinct. The selectmen arbitrarily refuse to call such a meet- 
ing, upon which the petitioners appeal to Justice George Leonard, 
of Norton, who not only calls it, but, to the mortification of the 
town party, calls it to be held in the "Easterly meeting house," 
that is, the unfinished building where the Prentice party had the 
summer before been holding services. Both parties scoured the 
town for voters. The vote for moderator foreshadows the re- 
sult. Edward Hayward is chosen, and the town refuses to vote 
off the east part as a precinct. 

What shall be done now ? Almost in despair, the Prentice 
party summon their council to assemble again, which it accord- 
ingly does. This was April 21, 1752. Mr. Prentice's party make 
a statement to this council, reciting their grievances, expressing 
the belief that "the breach is Irrepareable & ye Wound incure- 
able," and therefore praying that a permanent division between 
the two parties might be sought and obtained of the General 
Court, and that henceforth they might separately "enjoy ye 
word of God & ordinances of ye Gospel." 

The council, however, chose to pass this request by, and after 
admonishing both parties made another vigorous attempt to mix 
oil and water, by appointing a day of solemn fasting and prayer. 
It was a lively council, sitting for two days. Mr. Prentice, as 
usual, got excited and used some very vigorous language, for 
which " exasperating language before the church, towards any 
person to ye just greife & offense of his Brethren, he was sorry 
and asked their forgiveness." At the church meeting where he 
thus apologized. Brother James Dean made an acknowledgment 
also, which the church voted satisfactory, heartily forgiving him ; 
whereupon, turning upon them, " Bro. Dean declared he was 
disappointed, for he could not forgive the chh, & accordingly 
withdrew from itt." At a later meeting of the church Esquire 
Hayward made an acknowledgment, which " the chh could not 
look upon to amount in any sort to Christian satisfaction for his 
faults, but as inhaunsing rather than Diminishing his guilts in 
the apprehension of the chh." ^ 

June 12, 1752, is appointed for the day of fasting and prayer, 
but the ministers who come to attend it have some doubts of its 
propriety, and turn the day into a "Lecture." June 17 is then 
1 Old Church Records. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 



127 



appointed for a meeting to precede "a Fast," but the ministers 
invited fail to appear. Mr. Prentice and his church wait at his 
house for them from one until three o'clock, and then go to the 
meeting-house. There he finds "Edward Hay ward and his party," 
some outside, but most of them within. As soon as the minister 
and his church members go into the meeting-house, the other 
party go out. After awhile the moderator calls three times 
for the meeting to come to order. None of the town party, 
except Thomas Drake, come in. As the ministers do not arrive, 
at half-past four " it was at length moved that prayer might be 
attended in the chh, which according was ; when, to our sur- 
prise, Esq. Hayward and his party still refusing to come in, but 
satt in and about the door with their Hats on all prayer time, 
except only bro. Dean came in,"^ — so Mr. Prentice makes record 
in the church book. 

This attempt at a day of fasting and prayer being a failure, 
another is proposed ; but the town party refuse to join in it un- 
less they can choose half the ministers who will officiate, " which 
the chh looked upon as an Invasion of their ecclesiastical privi- 
leges." The church would, however, allow their opponents to 
nominate ministers to take part in the proposed solemn services, 
provided they did not nominate four who were especially ob- 
noxious to the church. But no ministers were willing to come. 
They were disgusted with such continued fractiousness, and had 
no faith in their power to reconcile such obstinate factions. 

Despairing of help from any other quarter, the church, on 
June 29, propose that both parties shall solemnly renew their 
covenant, try and forget their differences, and meet in brotherly 
union about the Lord's table. But it is too late. The town 
party have made up their minds that they will not unite in 
religious communion with any of their brethren who insist upon 
forcing a pastor upon a society, half of which at least are 
bitterly opposed to him. This last attempt at reconciliation 
was made on July 5, 1752. Mr. Prentice records the state- 
ment that the town party " both explicitly and implicitly de- 
clare they will have nothing, further to do with us." Another 
crisis is now reached, and this memorable controversy assumes 
a different phase, which will be considered in the next chapter. 

1 Old Church Records. 



128 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE PRESBYTERIAN SOCIETY. 

Mr. Prentice's Church adopt Presbyterianism. — Their State- 
ment OF Reasons for doing so. — His Wife becomes hereti- 
cal, AND JOINS the Baptists. — He allows the Baptists to have 
a Prayer Meeting at his House. — Alarm of his Church 
at such Latitudinarianism. — The Presbytery summoned to 
Easton, and Mr. Prentice Suspended. — His subsequent Expe- 
rience. — His Children. 

IT began now to be plainly evident to all that the breach be- 
tween the contending parties could not be repaired. All 
attempts at reconciliation had failed. Church and State had 
been appealed to in vain to settle the long-standing difficulties. 
Mr. Prentice continued to hold services at the Centre meeting- 
house until November 5. Two months before this his own 
church, seeing that no union was possible with the other party, 
began to talk of separating themselves and having a church and 
society entirely independent of the rest of the town^ It will be 
remembered that they were a majority of the church members, 
were nearly equal in number to their opponents as voters in 
town-meeting, and had tried in vain to be allowed to become a 
distinct precinct. Had they been permitted to do this they could 
have had a legal parish organization, and been relieved from the 
necessity of paying to support the town church and its minister, 
when one was settled. This would have been the most equita- 
ble method of settlement. If the two parties could thus be sep- 
arated, each supporting a minister and worship of its own, there 
might be peace. When the old Scotch minister remonstrated 
with a parishioner and his wife who were notoriously quarrel- 
some, and said, pointing to the dog and cat dozing peaceably on 
the hearth, " Ye might tak a lesson from the dog and cat, and 
live in peace," the ready answer came, "Ah ! but ye ken they're 
na tied the githery So our two factions might have lived peace- 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 129 

ably as independent churches ; but they were thus far tied to- 
gether, — held by the bonds of State and ecclesiastical regula- 
tions now happily outgrown. Mr. Prentice's party proposed a 
divorce ; but the town, as we have seen, would not grant it, 
claiming that they were not strong enough to support two 
churches, and insisting that the minority party should come 
into the support of the town church. We shall see in the next 
chapter the trouble this legalized injustice leads to. Meantime, 
and notwithstanding the majority's attempts at coercion, the 
minority take steps for permanent separation. They begin to 
revive a question once entertained as to the relative merits of 
the Presbyterian and Congregational systems. Mr. Prentice, in 
September, makes this record : — 

** Now the Chh being tyred out & quit Discouraged from making 
any further attempts for accommodation & Reunion In yf way and 
method of Disapline we are in, Esq. Hayward and his party being 
Deafe to all Reasonable and Scriptural Methods of accommodation 
as it appears to the Chh, the Chh Reasume their former Motions 
Relating to Pressbyterian Disapline." 

October 17, the church adhering to Mr. Prentice votes "to 
Renounce and come off from ye broken Congregational Consti- 
tution, and Declare for and come in with the Disapline and 
order of the Ancient and Renowned chh of Scotland." It is 
also voted to " set apart a Day for solemn Fasting, with Prayer, 
in their own Meeting House," and to invite ministers from the 
Presbytery to assist them. Captain Leonard and Henry How- 
ard are despatched to the Presbytery at Londonderry, New 
Hampshire, meet with a kind reception, and bring back a fa- 
vorable answer. November 2, the Prentice church-party decide 
that since " the chh have Voted a Change of their Ecclesiasti- 
cal Government, and no hope Remains of glorifying God, serv- 
ing Relidgion, or advancing the Weal of this place, but the 
Reverse, by Our attending the Publick worship & Ordinances 
in the Towne Meeting house any Longer, — This Chh look 
upon itt Duty, and accordingly agree that the Next Sabath 
shall be the last Day We will attend the Publick worship in 
said House ; and publick Mention to be made thereof in the 
close y*^ Exercise of s*? Sab^!", and that thence forward we will 

9 



130 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

attend the Publick Worship & Ordinances in the Pressbyterian 
Meeting House in Easton." 

They also voted that a statement of reasons for their action 
should be prepared and read to the congregation on the follow- 
ing Sabbath, November 5, 1752, the last Sabbath on which 
Mr. Prentice would preach at the Centre. This was a deeply 
interesting occasion. The final step was to be taken, fraught, 
as all could see, with very important consequences to all con- 
cerned. The statement was read at the close of the afternoon 
services, and is as follows : — 



" Brethren of y^ Chh, & Inhabitants of the Town of Easton : God 
that Rules in heaven & Earth, & orders Every man's Lott, Bro't about 
the settlement of yf Gospel, Minister, and Ordanances in this place 
about Five Years Since, and Care was taken in & by this Chh that 
Religion, good Order, & government might be promoted and main- 
taini* here ; that the Gospel Basis on which this Chh was then setled 
might be made strong & sound. And the chh had Rest, and we Re- 
joyced in the hapy prospect of y.* Increase of Godliness, peace, & 
truth, with holiness, among us. 

" But the same spirit that Envy^ the hapyness of our first Parents in 
Paradice, Seeing, also Envyed our Comfortable state, and Rallying his 
artillery against us Left not off plying the same 'till he was suffer^ 
awfully to succeed, to the sore disappointing our growing Expecta- 
tions, the sad distruction of peace & truth and Brotherly love, and the 
Blasting the Religious CEconemy, growing happyness, and tranquillity 
of the Place. 

"That We who had even but one heart and one Interest are 
now Necessitated to become Two bands. Things being Reduced 
to such a sad & Lamatable state among us, the Chh here Reas- 
sumed their former inclinations of Compareing & Weighing Con- 
gregational and Presbyterian Ecclessiastical government, and upon 
mature Delibaration & repeated Supplycations to the God of Wis- 
dom for direction in this matter, and much loveing Conversation 
had together there upon, Came into the following Votes & unanimos 
conclusions, viz : — 

" I. To Come off from the broken Congregational Ecclesiastical 
Constitution, and declare for and Come in with the Disapline and 
order of the Ancient & Renown'.' Chh of Scoiiiand. 

" 2. That the next Sabath, which will be the Fifth Day of Novem- 
ber — famous in the annals of time for the Whole Nations Delivery 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 131 



from Ante christian Tyranny & Oppression — Shall be the Last Sab- 
ath we propose to attend the Publick Worship of God in the Tovvne 
Meeting House, But thence forward to att? the Publick Worship and 
Ordanances of the Gospel in the Presbyterian Meeting house in 
Easton, For the Reasons following, Viz." 

Then follow the special reasons, the substance of which has 
already been given. The document thus concludes : — 

"And the beholding the unhappy Jarrs and Contentions in this 
chh and Town, Occasion f Specialy by the stating a place for the at- 
tending Publick Worship, and a part of y? chh & Peoples, together 
with the Conduct of some others (whom we should have Look^ for 
better things from) in Manageing the Unhapy Strife Among us, has 
been a Means of opening our Eyes, and Even of Constraining of us 
to Search ' till we have seen good and sufficient reason to Conclude 
upon the alteration of Our Disapline as in the foregoing account. 

" More over Brethren, we would Now Enform you in the Bowels of 
Jesus Christ that we are not Come into the foregoing Conclusions 
from a Sismatical, Divisive Spirit, but purely from Necessity, and to 
promote truth, peace, good order, and the advancement of the glori- 
ous Kingdom of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ among us 
& Else where. 

" Constantly Wishing & praying there for, and that We all might live 
in Love, that the God of Love & peace might perpetually dwell among 
us all, and that his glorious Kingdom may be advanc? every where, 
that the Whole Earth may be full of his Glory. Amen." ^ 

This statement was read in church, November 5, 1752. Un- 
der the date of the next day the following entry was made in the 
town records by the town-clerk : — 

"Yester Day Being Lords Day, mr prentes preacht the Last or 
fare well sermon in the Towns meeting house, and sayd that we shuld 
se his fase nor hear his voise nomore in that hous as menestor." 

Mr. Prentice, as before stated, had given to his society some 
land for their meeting-house to stand upon. Though the deed 
was executed at a later date, it is desirable to print it here ; it 
is as follows : — 

1 Old Church Records. 



132 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



To all people to whorae These presents shall Come, Greeting : 
Know ye that I, Solomon Printice, of Easton, in ye County of Bristol, 
in his majesties province of ye massachusetts Bay, in New England, 
Clerk, for Divers Good Causes me moving There unto, more Especially 
for ye Love and Good will I Bare too, and ye Desire I have for, ye 
advancement of ye KingDom of Jesus Christ in ye Groath & flourish- 
ing of ye Prispeterian Society which usually meet in Easton afforesd 
for ye worship of God, with which I am fully Satisfied and Contented, 
& thereof and of Every part & parcell Thereof Do Exonerate, acquit, 
& Discharge unto Eliphelet Leonard, Gentleman, Benjamin Kinsely, 
yeoman, James Pratt, Junr., mill Right, all of Easton, in y*"" County 
afforesd, and George Hayward, yeoman, and John Kennedy, Both 
of Bridgewater in y? County of Plymouth in ye province afforesd, 
which five men above named was Chosen & Deputed by ye sd Pris- 
beterian society, usually meeting in Easton afforesd, a Committe, or 
Trustees, for this following purpose, have Given, Grantd, Bargained, 
Sold, aliend, Conveyed, & Confirmed, and by these presents Do freely, 
fully, and absolutely Give, Grant, Bargain, Sell, Aliene, Convey, and 
Confirm unto ye said Eliphelet Leonard, Benjamin Kinsley, James 
Pratt, Junr., George Hayward, and John Kenedy, The said Comitt, 
or trustees, for said Prisbeterian society, and there Constituants, 
and to all that are or hereafter may be members of said Prisbe- 
terian Society, and shall act for & Bare there part in supporting said 
Society and y^ worship of God There in, & to there heirs for Ever 
and to no other, A Certain Tract or parcell of Land Situate, Lying, 
and being in Easton afforesd, on which y^ meeting house in which 
y^ said Prisbeterian Society now meet for ye publick worship of 
God now stands, and adjoyning There unto. Containing about half 
an acre, — 

To have and to hold ye sd Granted & Bargained premises, with 
all ye appurtenances, priviledges, & Commodities to y*" same belong- 
ing or in any wise Appertaining to Them, ye sd Eliphelet Leonard, 
Benj? Kinsley, James Pratt, Junr, George Hayward, and John Kenedy, 
There heirs and assigns, for ye only use & Benefitt of ye Society 
afforesd forEver. 

Fur there more, I ye said Solomon Prentice, for my selfe, my heirs, 
Excer & admr. Do Covenant & Engage ye above Devised premises to 
them, — the said Eliphelet Leonard, Benj!' Kinsley, James Pratt, Jun^, 
George Hayward, & John Kennedy, there heirs and assigns, — as only 
for ye use and Benefitt of the Society afforsd, against ye Lawfull Claims 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 133 

or Demands of any person or persons what so Ever, for Ever here 
after to warrant, Serve, & Defend by there presents. In witnes where- 
unto, I ye sd Solomon Prentice have here-unto Set my hand & Seal, 
This Twenty Second Day of October, annoque Domini, One Thousand 
Seven hundred and fifty Three, And in ye Twenty Seventh year of 
his present majesties Reign. 

Signed, sealed, & Delivered SOLOMON PrentiCE. 

in presence of 

David Dunbar, 

John Turner.^ 

After their public declaration of principles Mr. Prentice's 
church worshipped in their own unfinished meeting-house, sit- 
uated on the Green. Several of the members lived over the 
town line, in Bridgewater. The rules and usages of the church 
are made to conform to the Presbyterian order. Meetings are 
held at private houses, in different parts of the town, for instruc- 
tion in the catechism. Four elders are chosen ; namely, Dea. 
Robert Randall, Nathaniel Perry, Henry Howard, and Samuel 
Hartwell. Mr. Hartwell lived across the Bridgewater line. Mr. 
Perry lived in the extreme westerly part of the town ; but he was 
a pious church-member who was greatly interested in the earnest 
religious spirit of his minister, and notwithstanding that he lived 
so far away he attended the East meeting-house, and cast in his 
lot with the Presbyterians. We find that Mr. Prentice enjoyed 
his new associations under the Presbyterian order of things, that 
he went to other towns and preached to the quickening of their 
congregations, and awakened new religious interest among his 
own people ; but, alas ! the clouds were thickening over his de- 
voted head. March 17, 1753, he records this melancholy obser- 
vation : " There then followed a most distresing & Dying time 
in Easton." It is probable that this refers to the social animosi- 
ties not yet ended, and to the religious decline naturally conse- 
quent upon the three years of discord through which they had 
passed. Mr. Prentice was certainly having a hard time of it. 
The town had just refused to pay his salary for six months, 
from April, 1752, which was really due him, as during that time 
he had preached in the town meeting-house. In addition to 
this, the town chose a committee to begin an action against 

1 Bristol County Deeds, book xli. p. 44. 



134 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

him "for his Breach of covenant or contract," and to recover 
damages for the same. Deprived of his salary, for which he 
was obliged to sue the town, his own people forced by law to 
pay taxes for the town church from which they had separated, 
sued at law for a breach of contract, coldly shunned by some 
and insulted by others, — we can easily understand the sorrow 
and bitterness of his heart as he wrote the words, " There then 
followed a most distresing & Dying time in Easton." Soon 
afterward one of his best friends and supporters died, as we 
see by the record : — 

"July 31. Dear Bror Henry Howard, lately chosen an Elder in 
this chh, Died, to the great Loss of his Famaly, Pastor, and chh. 
Lord Sanctifie itt to us all, and prepare us all for thy Holy Pleasure." 

But other and greater troubles are in store for the unfortunate 
minister. One can bear opposition and ill treatment in the 
world, if he is sure of hearty sympathy at home. But, alas for 
Mr. Prentice ! his wife was wholly at variance with him upon 
the one subject that interested him more than all others, — that 
of religion. She had a mind and will of her own, over both of 
which this strong-willed husband had no control. She had con- 
victions as decided as his, which were formed after careful study ; 
and no domestic considerations, public scandal, or regard for 
her husband's standing and influence could make her swerve 
from following those convictions to their ultimate results. Her 
maiden name was Sarah Sartell. She was daughter of Nathaniel 
and Sarah Sartell, who had come to this country from England 
or Scotland, about 1719. Mr. Sartell was a man of considerable 
wealth, and he determined to give his daughter the best possible 
education. He therefore sent her to England, where she was 
educated in a convent. Besides the ordinary studies then pur- 
sued, she became skilful at embroidery. " Some of her needle- 
work embroidery is still preserved in the hands of her descend- 
ants, the colors as fresh as they ever were."^ She was decidedly 
religious in her nature, took much interest in theological ques- 
tions, and was a careful student of the Bible, being able it is said 
to quote any part of it. What an excellent helpmeet for a min- 
ister, provided that, like a dutiful wife, she has no opinions of her 
1 N. E. Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. vi. p. 274. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 



135 



own and submissively accepts those of her husband ! With no 
misgivings on that score, Mr. Prentice, October 6, 1732, made 
her his wife. What mutual studies, what comparison of ideas, 
what discussions they may have had at home, we cannot say ; 
but we know that in less than a year after he began his ministry 
in Easton, she had declared against the government and doc- 
trines of the Congregational Church, at that time very dear to 
him. This appears in his record in the church book of the 
baptism of his son Solomon. It is as follows : — 

" Solomon Prentice, Son of Solomon & Sarah Prentice. Ipsa Dis- 
sentiente de constitutione & dissaplina Ecclessiarum Nov. Anglarum. 
. . . Aug: 14, 1748."^ 

It must have been particularly trying in those days for the 
minister to have his wife an open dissenter from the church 
order and belief that he was doing his best to uphold. But 
something far more mortifying was in store for Mr. Prentice. 
Various causes were working to create opposition to the estab- 
lished order of things in religious matters. People were tired of 
being compelled to support a form of faith and worship with 
which they had no sympathy. There was also — partly as a re- 
sult of Whitefield's influence — considerable fermenting going on 
in the religious opinions and feelings of the time. There were 
sometimes extravagant and fanatical manifestations of a dissent- 
ing spirit. The phase it took here (to be more particularly 
described in another chapter) was what was then called " Ana- 
baptism." This term simply means rebaptism, — its advocates 
maintaining that infant baptism was unscriptural and of no 
avail. Many other beliefs connected themselves with this, and 
the Anabaptists in Easton affirmed that any converted man, 
though unlicensed and unordained, might preach and baptize, etc. 
Rational as this idea seems to be in itself, it nevertheless opened 
the way for much fanaticism, and was particularly obnoxious to 
the upholders of the New England orthodoxy. What then, but 
the defection of the minister himself, could have caused greater 
excitement than his wife's adoption of Anabaptist opinions and 
her rebaptism by an unordained layman ? The story is told, and 

1 " She is a dissenter from the constitution and doctrine of the New England 
churches." — Baptis7nal records in the Old Church Book, 



136 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

his disgust and intense indignation expressed, in the following 
significant record of his daughter's baptism : — 

Mary Prentice, Daughter of Solomon & Sarah Prentice. Ipsa 

Anna baptista ; Immersa Indignissimo Laico, Viz., , 

Decemb' 5, 1750, absente marito. Aug' 25. 1751.-^ 

It will be observed that he wisely omitted the name of the 
layman who had immersed his wife. He was too angry and dis- 
gusted to be present at the ceremony. Bitter cup indeed for 
the minister to drink ! — his wife deserting his church, and, cul- 
tivated lady as she is, led into the water and immersed " indig- 
nissimo laico," — immersed in midwinter too ! What greater 
tribulation can he have ? We need no evidence to convince us 
that his parish are indignant, and that his wife is talked about in 
angry fashion. She is too much in earnest, however, in her 
religious consecration to be much disturbed by it all. Mr. 
Prentice had his way about the baptism of his daughter, for it 
was done against his wife's newly adopted principles ; but she 
will have influence enough with him to induce him to allow her 
fellow Baptists to hold meetings in his house, — and this will be 
the cause of his ecclesiastical undoing in the town of Easton. 

How long these meetings were held in Mr. Prentice's house 
cannot now be told ; but when it became known that he allowed 
the heretical Baptists to meet for prayer and exhortation beneath 
his roof, and was even known to speak of them with respect as 
" fellow Christians," some of his own friends remonstrated with 
him. But he could see nothing wrong in his course, and regarded 
them as narrow and bigoted. In retaliation for his conduct he 
is forbidden by his church to celebrate the sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper, as we see by this record: "Our Sac' to be 
25 Novr, but it was put By Because I Rec'^ and entain'! some 
Strangers into my house & heart that I am apt to think are 
Sev'f of the Most high God. On which account our peace and 
unity seems to be strangely broken." It is evident from this 
record that Mr. Prentice was liberal in his religious sympathies. 
His elders and some of his people, though dissenters themselves, 

1 " She is an Anabaptist. She was immersed by a most despicable layman, 

namely , December 5, 1750, her husband being absent." — Baptismal 

records of the Old Church Book. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 137 

believed in drawing the line at Presbyterianism. For nearly a 
year he is not allowed to hold the sacrament of Communion, 
In March, 1754, "in hopes," he writes, "of easing things among 
us, that we might go on quietly to ye administra'n and enjoy- 
ment of all Gospel ordinances among us," two new elders are 
chosen. They are Eliphalet Leonard and James Pratt, Jr. But 
as his dear friend Elder Howard had died, so now early in July 
"Elder Pratt Died, at Taunton, to the surprize and Greife of all 
his freinds, especially chh & Pastor." In August a fast is ap- 
pointed " to Intreat of Almighty God to show us why he is thus 
contending with us." 

Evidently Mr. Prentice's troubles continue and thicken about 
him. He is obliged to have recourse to a lawsuit to get his 
just pay of the town, and his winning the case causes much 
bitter feeling among his townsmen. His own people, forced as 
they are by law to pay taxes for the maintenance of the town 
church, can give him but a meagre support, and some of them 
are now lukewarm towards him. Besides, as we shall see in the 
next chapter, the town has voted to call a pastor for the town 
church, and the two factions are violently at war again. To the 
renewed remonstrances of his church-members against his allow- 
ing the dissenting Baptists to hold prayer-meetings at his house, 
he replied that these persons were Christians, and that not only 
would he not forbid them, but he would pray with them as fellow 
Christians. Incensed at this, the church complain to the Pres- 
bytery, and that august body is summoned to Easton, where, 
November 12, 1754, they hold a session, and Mr. Prentice is 
summoned before the elders and ministers. We have seen much 
in him to criticise, but let us honor his courage and his devotion 
to his convictions at this critical time. Knowing the danger of 
his suspension from the ministry by these narrow-minded eccle- 
siastics, he nevertheless defends his position : he will not deny 
his sympathy and fellowship to those he thinks to be Christians, 
merely because their opinions differ from his own. The Pres- 
bytery give him the option of changing his course or being 
suspended. Knowing he has done right, he will make no 
acknowledgment of sorrow, and will promise no change of action. 
He is accordingly suspended. Let us hear his story in his own 
words : — 



138 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

"Novl" 12, 1754. The Presbytery Mett at Easton According to ap- 
point' And on Nov. 13, the Presbytery Clerk, V Order, Read a Vote 
of Presbytery Concerning S. Prentice, Pastor of yf chh in Easton, 
(which they gave him no Copy off), to this purpose, Viz., that Because 
I had Reef a few of my fellow Creatures (and fellow Christians as far 
as I know) into my House, & Suffer'^, them to Pray and talk about the 
Scriptures, & Could not make any Acknowledgement there for to some 
of my Brethren that were offended there att, nor to the Presbytery, 
that he the s"! S. Prentice be Suspended from the Discharge of his 
Publick Ministry Untill the Presbytery meet again, Next April. 

" And because by s"^ Vote I was Deprived of y^ small Subsistance I 
had among my People at Easton, I thot it Neccessary, for the Hon]" of 
God and good of my famaly, to Remove with my famaly to Grafton ; 
which accordingly was Done, April g^^, 1755. 

" N. B. I have never heard a word from the Presbytery, Neither by 
Letter Nor other wise. Nor they from me, from the Day of my Suspen- 
sion to this Day; Viz., Sep'' 5, 1755."^ 

It is interesting to notice that the power which Mr. Prentice 
invoked for aid against the town party proved his ultimate eccle- 
siastical ruin in Easton. He had rebelled against the "broken 
Congregational order," and he fell a victim to the stricter order 
he had chosen as a substitute. Thus ended his troubled and 
exciting career as minister in Easton. 

One of Mr. Prentice's principal trials during the last year of 
his ministry in Easton was the call by the town party of the 
Rev. George Farrar as minister of the town church. The con- 
troversy growing out of this call is reserved for another chapter, 
because Mr. Prentice, being already in trouble with some of his 
own people, does not take an active part in it, making no allu- 
sion to it in his church record, and because also this contest 
forms a distinct topic and extends in time long beyond his stay 
in Easton. He was a man of marked intellectual and executive 
ability. Most of the papers presented to the General Court by 
his party are in his handwriting, are undoubtedly his compo- 
sitions, and are skilfully drawn up. He had a deeply religious 
nature ; and if he was sometimes betrayed into the use of in- 
temperate language, he was nevertheless excellent and pious as a 
man and minister. We cannot but admire his religious liber- 

1 Old Church Records. 



A MEMORABLE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 139 

ality, which welcomed to his sympathy sincere Christians who 
were condemned as heretics by the dominant orthodoxy. It 
must be admitted, however, that his conduct in the great con- 
tention that has been described was not a consistent one. He 
began by favoring the location of the meeting-house at the 
Centre, and ended by refusing to preach in it : his defence was 
that it was his duty to obey the instructions of his church rather 
than the vote of the town. Concerning the real merits of this 
memorable controversy opinions should be cautiously formed, as 
we are not in possession of all the facts. There is no doubt, 
however, that, on the main question of the location of the meet- 
ing-house, the East End and North End party were in the 
wrong : and this was the root of the whole trouble. As to the 
manner of conducting this affair, very little can be said to 
the credit of either party. 

Mr. Prentice made his home in Grafton after leaving Easton ; 
but he preached for a short time in Bellingham and other places, 
and for a longer time at Hull. He went to Hull in the spring of 
1758 and remained four years, having re-established his Congre- 
gational church relations. He went back to his home and his 
farm in Grafton in 1772. May 22, 1773, "he fell asleep in 
expectation of a glorious immortality." Mrs. Prentice died 
August 28, 1792, at her son John's house in Ward, now Auburn, 
and her remains were buried by the side of her husband's grave 
in the old burying-ground at Grafton. 

Mr. Prentice had a family of ten children. Eight of them 
were born in Grafton, and two of them — the second Solomon, and 
Mary — were born in Easton. It is interesting to know that 
one of these children, Nathaniel Prentice, was the grandfather 
of Gen. Nathaniel Prentice Banks. General Banks's grand- 
mother was Martha Howard, a daughter of Joshua Howard, 
who in 1 77 1 made more cider, paid a larger tax, and was more 
of a farmer than any other man in Easton. Joshua Howard 
was of the party opposed to Mr. Prentice, and it was at his 
house — a large house on the site of which Mr. Finley now lives — 
that the councils adverse to the minister met. Nathaniel Pren- 
tice taught school in Easton one term in 1752, at the age of 
seventeen years ; and for this service his father received the sum 
of one pound, six shillings, lawful money, besides his board. 



I40 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Perhaps Martha was one of his scholars. They were both of the 
same age, were not estranged by the quarrel that divided their 
fathers, kept each other in loving remembrance for three years 
after Nathaniel left town, and were married October 13, 1757, 

Henry, the third son of Solomon Prentice, enlisted in the 
French and Indian War. In July, 1760, he was taken sick at 
Crown Point, where he remained an invalid until October 20 ; 
he was then brought home to Grafton with considerable diffi- 
culty and expense, and it was two months after his arrival be- 
fore he was able to dispense with a nurse. He was barely 
eighteen years old then. His father petitioned to the General 
Court for an allowance to be made on account of this trouble 
and expense, and the Court granted him four pounds, fifteen 
shillings. 

Solomon Prentice, Jr., the only son of Mr, Prentice who was 
born in Easton, finally moved to Edenton, N. C, and died 
there ; and Mary, the only daughter born in Easton, married 
Amos Binney, of Hull, May 31, 1770, and became the maternal 
ancestor of a somewhat distinguished family. 

Mr. Prentice's suspension from the ministry in Easton did not 
cause the Presbyterian society to disband. It remained under 
the care of the Presbytery, and soon gathered strength for an- 
other vigorous struggle with the town church. This forms the 
third and closing campaign in that memorable ecclesiastical 
conflict, whose evil results show how much religion sometimes 
suffers in the house of its friends. 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 



141 



CHAPTER X. 

THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR, AND THE CONCLUSION 
OF THE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 

Attempts of the Town to get Preaching "without Money and 
WITHOUT Price." — The New Candidate. — Birth and Ances- 
try. — His Courting. — The Church Conflict deepens. — Pres- 
byterians and Baptists protest against the Ordination. — 
They Appeal to the General Court, but without Avail. — 
They must pay to support a Church and Minister they do 
not believe in. — Death of Mr. Farrar. — The Presbyterians 
give up the Contest. — Religion at a Discount in Easton. 

THE final separation of the East and North End party from 
the town church took place November 5, 1752. For the 
rest of this year and throughout the next, the town raised money 
for the supply of the pulpit. The Rev. Samuel Vesey, of Hull, 
and the Rev. Mr. Vinal supplied for some time. Having got what 
preaching from them it could, the town refused to pay them for 
it. Joshua Howard took pity on Mr. Vesey and advanced him 
his pay, which he afterwards recovered of the town by a law- 
suit. Mr. Vinal, after long waiting in vain for his money, sued 
the town and received his just dues. Such transactions do not 
reflect much honor upon the town ; but an understanding of the 
exact facts of the case will modify our censure, and show to 
whom the blame belongs. The town was nearly evenly divided 
between the contesting parties. It was only by a small majority 
that the town-church party could get a vote to have preaching 
at all in the church at the Centre ; but while they would thus 
vote and thereby gain their way, when it came to voting money 
for this purpose, a few of their number through indifference 
would absent themselves, or decline to vote, and thus lose to the 
town-church party its small majority. The Presbyterians voted 
against such appropriations as a matter of conscience as well as 
personal interest ; most of the town-church party voted for them 



142 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

for the same and other reasons ; and the failure to pay is there- 
fore to be charged upon the indifferent few, who cared Httle or 
nothing for the reHgious interests of the town. 

On the 20th day of January, 1754, a young man, twenty-three 
years of age, preached in Easton as a candidate for settlement. 
His name was George Farrar ; and as he was the next minister 
of Easton, it is well to learn something about his antecedents. 
Two old interleaved almanacs which he kept as note-books 
furnish us with most of the desired information, some of it of a 
curious kind. 

George Farrar the third, the son of George Farrar, Jr., and 
Mary Barrett, his wife, was born in Lincoln (then a part of Con- 
cord), Mass., November 23, 1730. He graduated at Harvard 
University in 175 1. There was no Divinity School then con- 
nected with the College, and young men usually prepared for the 
pulpit by studying divinity with some minister, frequently teach- 
ing school at the same time. For most of the time between his 
graduation and his beginning to preach, Mr. Farrar taught 
school at Dighton, Mass. He does not appear to have lived in 
the minister's family, as he boarded at different places, usually 
about six weeks at each, and his study of divinity may have con- 
sisted almost wholly of the reading of theological books, perhaps 
under the direction of some clergyman. 

One thing is sure, — George Farrar had good ministerial 
blood in his veins, for he was a descendant of Dr. Robert Farrar, 
Bishop of St. David's in England, who on March 30, 1555, in 
the reign of Queen Mary, bore witness to his faith by a bloody 
martyrdom. The first of the family to come to this country was 
Jacob Farrar, who was born in England about 1642, came to 
Lancaster, Mass., about 1658, and was killed by the Indians in 
King Philip's War, August 22, 1675. His son George, grand- 
father of George Farrar, of Easton, was born August 16, 1670, 
was taken to Concord, Mass., when six years old, soon after his 
father's death, and brought up by a farmer, a Mr. Globe. When 
twenty-one years of age he had a quarter of a dollar in his pocket 
as his capital wherewith to start in life. He called his associ- 
ates together and spent this quarter on a " treat," saying that he 
meant "to begin the world square," September 9, 1692, he 
married Mary Howe; he died May 15, 1760. His son, George 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 



143 



Farrar, Jr., was born February 16, 1705, and lived in that part 
of Concord which is now Lincohi. He married Mary Barrett of 
Concord, she being born April 6, 1706. 

March 11, 1753, George Farrar the third joined the church at 
Dighton, and made in his note-book the following record there- 
of : " Martii undecimo publice renunciavi Diabolum & omnia 
opera Iniquitatis, & fui admissus in Ecclesiam Christi in Digh- 
ton." Mr. Farrar, it seems, was very susceptible to the charms 
of the other sex, and his note-book of 1753 contains an account 
of his visits to various young ladies. He appears to have been 
interested in three different ones in rapid succession, but finally 
transferred his attentions to a fourth, of whom he became a most 
constant and faithful lover, visiting her thirty-seven times in the 
space of ten months. He has made a record in Latin of the 
date and number of each visit, and he leaves us no room to 
doubt either the fervor of his affection or the enjoyment of his 
visits. These records present a curious study to the antiquarian, 
for whose interest the first one is given here: "Feb. i. I went 
to Berkly to the marriage of Jonath" Babbett and Eliz'^ Talbut, 
et vexi mecum HI T' sororem nupte, et pernoctavi cum ilia 
magna cum voluptate." The explanation of this record may be 
found by reference to the then customary method of courting, 
which, however opposed to the good judgment and taste of the 
present time, was once considered proper and admissible. That 
courting was not out of order on Fast Day in the olden time, 
appears from this note by Mr. Farrar: "April 19 was a public 
fast thro' the Provence, et nocte visi octavo meam bene am-t-m." 
It is interesting to note the changes of his feeling as time went 
on and courting became an old story. At first his lady is vieam 
procain, " my lady love ; " then meam bene amatain, " my dearly 
beloved," as on Fast Day. But these terms of endearment grad- 
ually drop out of the record, and after awhile he makes a busi- 
ness-like statement like this: November ye 12, visi 37 mo, — 
"Nov. 12, I visited for the 37th time." What happened then 
we do not know, but henceforth he has another "procam meam." 
Her name is Sarah Dean, daughter of Nathan and Elizabeth 
(Nicholson) Dean, of Norton. She became an orphan when 
about three years old, and was then taken into the family of the 
Rev. Joseph Avery, where Mr. Farrar became acquainted with 



144 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



her.^ He married her June 2, 1756 ; and about two months later, 
she not then being of age, he was appointed her guardian, — a 
rather singular relationship to subsist between a man and his wife. 

Having taught school about two years at Dighton, reading 
theology meanwhile, he on December 16, 1753, tried his hand 
for the first time at preaching, — giving a sermon from the text, 
"Love not the world," etc., ist Epistle of John, ii., 15. He 
soon gained confidence enough to preach as a candidate, and 
came to Easton for that purpose January 20, 1754, as already 
stated. Having preached fourteen Sundays on trial, the town 
voted, April 22, 1754, to concur with the church in giving him 
a call. This was of course the " church " of the town party, 
they claiming that the other church members, though a majority, 
had " gone out from " the real historic " Church of Christ in 
Easton." The sum of ^106 13^-. 8d was voted "for his Inco- 
rigement for his seteling ; " and he was also to be allowed the 
" Leberty of his giting his firewood of from the Menesteral 
Land." His salary was to be s£s3 6i". 8d. Mr. Farrar had 
received a little private " Incorigement " prior to this call ; for 
he gratefully records the fact that on April 5 Edward Hayward, 
Esq., presented him with a pair of gloves, and James Dean gave 
him " a pistoreine," a gift of seventeen cents ! 

This call of Mr. Farrar was the occasion of a new and exciting 
conflict between the Presbyterian and the town church. Three 
weeks after the call. May 13, 1754, Eliphalet Leonard and forty- 
seven other men addressed a vigorous and spicy letter to the 
newly called minister, — a letter not at all calculated to flatter 
the young man's vanity, or to promise him peace and quietness 
in his work. " Fearing thro your youth and unacquaintedness 
with men," they sarcastically write, "you might be inveigled by 
flattery & smooth tongues to engage yourself to them through 
inadvertency, we fear there is danger of being committed to your 
watch & care," etc. They entreat of him "by no means to 
think of settling in the work of the ministry in Easton, for the 
following reasons among others which may be mentioned att 
another time if these are not effectual : " — 

" I. Because, from the Little we have known or heard of your publick 
performances and private Conduct, We dont look upon you by any 
1 See Clarke's History of Norton, p. 370. 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 



145 



means Capable off or Qualified for the great & most Solemn work of 
the Gospel ministry in this place. 

" 2. We cant but look upon you to be a man full of a party spirit, or 
you would have taken some oppertunity to have visited some of us 
since you have been in Easton. 

" 3. Because we have a minister already settled among us whom we 
Love & Value, whose ministry we sitt under. 

" 4. Because we hope the Rod of the wicked will not alwaie Rest on 
the Lott of the Righteous ; and if ever Justice should take place, and 
all those that have a right by Law to act in Town affairs & no others 
be allowed, you may depend upon it beforehand you '11 have no sup- 
port granted by the Town ; and in the meantime you must not look to 
have any support from us, or any of us, more than what comes by the 
force of the Law. 

"These things. Dear Sr., we look upon our Duty out of tenderness 
to your selfe, our selves & children, to lay before you to consider of ; 
and if these dont prove available to your Refusing to take the care & 
oversight of our souls and the souls of our children (which we shall 
persist in refusing to committ to your care as a minister), we trust we 
shall have an Oppertunity to show you more to our minds at some 
other time in this important affair. 

" While we Subscribe yours, concern*? for you, ourselves and chil- 
dren." 1 

Forty-eight men signed their names to this paper. 
There is another protest presented to him by seven men who 
are dissenting Baptists. It is as follows : — 

To Mr. George Farrar : 

We, the Subscribers dwellers in Easton, haveing heard the Town 
have given you a call to settle among them in the way and manner as 
they have, — We the Subscribers bear our open & joint publick testi- 
mony against any Ministers being maintained by Rate, which we ap- 
prehend contrary to ye Gospel of the meek and Lowly Jesus, And 
if these reasons herein given are not sufficient to Discourage you from 
settling here, We hope we shall have further oppertunity to give you 
such reasons as Will. 

John Finney. Joseph Jones. 

Eben^ Jones. John Asten. 

Peter Soulard. Josiah Allen. 

Simeon Babbitt." ^ 

^ State Papers, vol. xiii. pp. 72S, 729. 2 ibid., p. 730. 

10 



146 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

In the sarcastic references of the first of these communica- 
tions, and in the peremptory tone of both, one may find a spirit 
quite as "contrary to ye Gospel of the meek and Lowly Jesus" 
as that implied in a minister " being maintained by Rate." 

Just at this stage of the contention things came to a stand- 
still for awhile. Mr. Farrar, young as he was, had sufficient 
discretion to pause and await the issue of the new contest that 
was gathering. Without accepting his call at once, he con- 
tinued to preach in Easton until the middle of August. His 
delay in accepting caused a temporary quiet. The Presby- 
terians began to think their bold tone had intimidated him, 
and nothing further was done in the matter through the year 
1754. Mr. Farrar preached at Winchester, New Hampshire, 
for about three months, and then on November 24 returned to 
Easton. He had carefully deliberated upon the matter of his 
call, and on January 18, 1755, he sent to the town and church 
the following acceptance: — 

To the CJmt'ch of Christ and Congregation in Easton : 

Honored and Beloved, — Having taken under serious considera- 
tion your call given me to settle with you in the sacred ministry among 
you, I hereby manifest my acceptation of your invitation upon the 
terms therein proposed. 

George Farrar. 
Easton, January ye 18th, 1755. 

There is a town-meeting February 20 to make arrangements 
for the ordination. At this meeting the opposing parties are 
quite evenly balanced. A committee is chosen " to provide for 
the Council " that must meet to ordain the new minister. But 
when the question of raising money for the needful expenses 
is broached, the opposition prevails ; the proposal to raise forty 
pounds in money for that purpose is voted down, as also that to 
raise twenty-five pounds. Hoping to do better at another meet- 
ing, the town party procure an adjournment. But the Presby- 
terians are on the alert, and at the adjourned meeting, March 3, 
they drum up their forces and prevent the raising of any money 
for the object named. Notwithstanding this, the town party are 
determined to ordain their minister. Benjamin Williams agrees 
to advance the money to provide for the entertainment of the 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 



147 



council, and to run his risk of collecting it of the town. The 
council accordingly is called, and meets March 26. The Pres- 
byterian party send a committee to it with a long, spirited, and 
well written remonstrance against the ordination of Mr. Farrar. 
They argue that the rest of the church have no right to put a 
minister over them whom they will be called upon to support, — 
"no more right," they say, "to choose our spiritual food than our 
bodily food." They claim to be a majority of the church, and 
insist that the others are the " separatists." " We are of a 
different persuasion," they remonstrate ; "and hence the gross 
injustice of settling over us, & making us pay for, a man we do 
not want and whose doctrines we do not believe." Upon this 
point they argue in quite stirring and eloquent language, for in 
this they had the plainest justice on their side. It was cer- 
tainly unjust to compel them to pay taxes to support a church 
in whose doctrines and polity they did not believe, especially 
when they were already contributing to the support of their 
own church and minister. This was in the days when Church 
and State were practically one in New England ; and in Easton, 
as in other places, there were numerous instances of persons 
who were to some degree victims of this legalized ecclesiastical 
tyranny. Hanging and banishment for religious reasons were 
not practised in Plymouth Colony, but persons were often forced 
to support the established churches to which they were consci- 
entiously opposed or in which they had no interest. This was 
the case with our Easton Presbyterians. They were supporting 
their own church, and yet they were by law forced to help sup- 
port another that was repugnant to them. They confess to the 
council that the civil law will compel them to do this, but they 
beg that the council "will not sanction such flagrant injustice & 
infamous oppression, even if the action would be upheld by the 
civil lavv,"i This paper is headed by Eliphalet Leonard and 
signed by over sixty others, including most of the residents of 
the east and northeast parts of the town. 

But what was the council to do ? There was no minister set- 
tled over either church at this time. Mr. Prentice, though he 
was a resident, was under ecclesiastical suspension, and did not 
officiate as minister even to his own church. The town church 
1 State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 731. 



148 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

had chosen Mr. Farrar, and the town itself had voted concur- 
rence. It was not the fault of the council that the civil law 
might bear hard upon some persons ; and so they voted that the 
objections offered by the Presbyterians "against their Proceed- 
ing in the solemn affair, were not sufficient to hinder them." 
Mr. Farrar being called in gave his profession of faith ; the 
council voted it satisfactory, and proceeded to ordain him.^ 

Even so late as this the meeting-house does not appear to 
be finished. In 1754 the town voted to build and sell some 
pews ; but when the ordination takes place, March 26, 1755, a 
special committee is chosen " to provide seats for the council," 
So that it is evident that five years after work on the meeting- 
house began, there were very few finished pews. What accom- 
modations were provided for seats we can only conjecture ; but 
they were probably chairs, stools, forms, and other things of a 
miscellaneous character, and must have presented a motley ap- 
pearance. Apparently the men and women sat apart. At least, 
there is frequent reference to " the men's seats " and " the wo- 
men's seats." To illustrate this, a deposition of Benjamin and 
Joseph Fobes will be given ; it is copied here more especially to 
illustrate the contentious and party spirit that prevailed in town- 
meetings at this period. The two parties were antagonized not 
only on church matters, but on nearly everything that came be- 
fore them in town-meeting. There was wrangling over the elec- 
tion of officers, there were charges of unfairness against the 
moderator, and of injustice against assessors, etc. On March 
3, 1755, not long before the ordination of Mr. Farrar, when the 
excitement was at its height, the annual town-meeting was held. 
It was a bitterly cold day, so cold that "by reson of the ex- 
tremety of the wether they " adjourned to the house of Joseph 
Drake, which was quite near. The following deposition will 
illustrate what has just been stated concerning the bitterness 
of this strife : — 

We, Benj.' Fobes & Joseph Fobes of Lawful age, testifieth & saith, 
that on march The 3, 1755, &c being at a town meeting in Easton & 
hereing of Edward Hayward, Esq., as moderator, Saying, if it be your 
minds That timothy Williams should be town Clerk for yeare insuing 

^ State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 734. 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 



149 



He Desired that they would manifest it by Holding up there Hands, & 
they did. The vote was Disputed, & the moderator called for ye Conte- 
ry vote; & ye moderator pretended that he Could not Deside ye matter 
without they that ware for Mr. Williams would move into ye mens Scats, 
& they that ware against it into the womans Seats ; & then the moderator 
Pretended that he could not count them, But ordered them to go out a 
doors & to Draw up into two Ranks, & then he would Come and Count 
them ; & then he came out & went to that part that was for Williams 
to be town Clerk & Came not near the tother part, & so went into the 
meeting House & Declared timothy Williams town Clerk. 

Benj'^ Fobes. 
^ Joseph Fobes. ^ 

Earlier in this controversy, matters came to such a pass that 
at an annual town-meeting the Prentice party, headed by Capt. 
Eliphalet Leonard, withdrew to one side of the meeting-house, 
and two town-meetings were in progress at the same time, electing 
two sets of officers ! This was done on a plea that the valuation 
of the town assessors was incorrect, and was so managed as to 
exclude certain of the Prentice party who had the right to vote. 
Think of the confusion and excitement necessarily attending the 
carrying on of two town-meetings at the same time in the same 
room ! This matter, too, goes to the General Court in the shape 
of a petition ^ presented by the minority party ; and this was 
answered by a statement of Joshua Howard and John Williams, 
selectmen. After setting the matter of valuation right, they go 
on thus : " Now when Capt. Leonard see that he could not Regu- 
late the meeting as he Plezed he withdrue ; and the town Clarke 
being one of his associates was about to folio him at his Request, 
but he being conserned to attend his duty (as a Clarke under 
oath) did not folio the said Leonard, but tarried with us and at- 
tended his duty in his office until thare was another chosen and 
sworn in his rume ; and we went on to chuse our town officers in 
a Regular manner, who were sworn as the Law Derects."^ This 
report states that " those which joined with Capt. Leonard in 
his pretended meeting was much ye minor part of ye town ; and 
there was but one selectman to regulate their meeting, and they 
had neither warrand or notification to go by." The whole affair 
was reported upon by a committee appointed by the House of 

^ State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 743. 2 i^j^j p 227. ^ Ibid pp. 231, 232. 



150 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Representatives, and the petition of Captain Leonard and his 
associates was dismissed. 

Occurrences of a similar character with that just noted were 
not uncommon, and they show how intense and deep-seated was 
the animosity which sprang merely from a difference of opinion 
as to the location of the meeting-house. 

The members of the church adhering to Mr. Prentice had 
taken away the communion service. They were entitled to ^o 
this, because they were a majority of the members, and because 
also it had been, in part at least, purchased by a gift of silver 
from Mr. Prentice's father. The town church therefore were at 
this time in need of a service, and we shall see by the extract 
now quoted that they were contented with a modest pewter one : 
" Eph. Randall gave to Mr James Dean three shillings Lawful 
money to purchase Sacrement Puter for the Lords Table, &c., 
in July 27th, 1755. Mr. Geo. Farrar being minister." 

Mr. Farrar was, as we have seen, ordained March 26, I755- 
The Presbyterians having tried in vain to discourage him from 
accepting his call, and to persuade the council not to ordain him, 
settled down sullenly to accept the situation. They remained 
under the care of the Presbytery and had preachers sent out to 
them, Mr. Prentice having moved back to Grafton. But when 
the taxes became due and they were forced to pay for the sup- 
port of Mr. Farrar, it was too much for them to bear without 
another vigorous attempt at relief. Accordingly at the begin- 
ning of the next year, 1756, "more than sixty of the Inhabitants 
of Easton, by their agent Eliphalet Leonard," presented a peti- 
tion to the Governor, specifying their grievances and asking for 
justice. This petition recites the particulars of the controversy, 
which are already familiar to the reader, and then makes a strong 
statement of the injustice of forcing them to help support a 
church and minister to whom they were decidedly opposed. It 
reads : " Yet notwithstanding the proper distinction of the two 
churches in Easton made by sd. council, our restless neighbors, 
deaf to all Intreaties, continue to destrain and unjustly take away 
our substance, which necessitates us to make our humble address 
to your honor, ... to grant us & leave to them the undisturbed 
enjiyment of those religious principles each party is in con- 
science persuaded & obliged to choose ; . . . that you would 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 151 

relieve us by freeing us from the charge of settling and support- 
ing Mr. Farrar, or that we may be made a separate precint,"^ etc. 
No one can read this petition without a feeling of sympathy for 
those who, however blameworthy for being in their present situa- 
tion, were certainly in this one particular victims of real, even if 
legaHzed, injustice. 

This petition was ordered to be served upon the Congrega- 
tional Church of Easton. In their behalf their minister presents 
a long, clear, and well written statement of the whole subject from 
the beginning.^ The only argument it presents to answer the 
charge of injustice in forcing the Presbyterians to assist in sup- 
porting the town church is presented in the following words : 
" The circumstances of both parties are such that neither party 
is able to maintain and support the Publick worship of God sepa- 
rately and by themselves ; " and the town party claim that as 
they are the established Congregational Church, and are a ma- 
jority, their church and minister should be supported. Perhaps 
also they claim that the law is on their side. This statement 
was followed by a rejoinder from the Presbyterians, which how- 
ever presents nothing materially different from what has already 
been noticed. The Governor and Council appointed a committee 
of three men, the House of Representatives adding four more, 
and they considered the petitions and all accompanying papers, 
and reported thereon. This committee was composed of liberal- 
minded men, and after careful consideration they presented a 
report, in which they recommended that the Presbyterians should 
pay their proportion of the "settlement" and salary of Mr. Farrar 
then due ; and they added this excellent recommendation : — 

And that all such in sd. Town who now call themselves Presbyte- 
reans, upon their settling a Learned Pious Protistant Presbyterean 
minister over them, & certifying under their Hands that they are of the 
Presbyterian persuation, and lodging such certificate in the Secretary's 
office, shall be free from paying anything afterwards towards the sup- 
port of the sd. Mr. George Farrar, anything foregoing to the contrary 
notwithstanding. 

Sam. Watts, 

For the Committee.^ 

Feb. 18, 1756. 

1 State Papers, vol. xiii. pp. 697-700. ^ Ibid. pp. 752. 



152 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



The council accepted this report. The recommendation just 
quoted was ingeniously guarded. If all Presbyterians were al- 
lowed exemption from the town ministerial tax, large numbers 
would immediately claim to be Presbyterians, and the town 
church consequently fail of its support ; it was therefore pro- 
vided that they must declare their belief in Presbyterianism and 
be actually supporting a minister, lodging their certificates of the 
fact in the State Secretary's office, before they could claim the 
desired exemption. 

But nothing seems to have been settled until four months 
later. The recommendation of the committee was favored by 
the Council, but no action was taken upon it until June 3. At 
that date we have the following : — 

"In the House of Rep^ June 3, 1756. — Ordered that this Pet" & 
answers accompanying the same be rivived, and that the parties be 
heard by Council on the floor, which was done" accordingly. And 
after a long debate — 

"Ordered that the said petition be dismissed," etc.^ 

Thus we see that a church quarrel in a small town was deemed 
of sufficient importance to employ the time of the Governor and 
his Council and of the State Legislature, to be debated upon the 
floor of the House in an earnest discussion, and that only "after 
a long debate " was it decided ! And yet the affair was not as 
trivial as it seemed to be. Underneath it lay a question of jus- 
tice and equity. Should citizens holding one religious belief be 
required by law to support another, against their will ? This 
was a question of religious liberty, and it is to the credit of the 
Easton Presbyterians that they rebelled against the injustice 
which wronged both their conscience and estate, and that they 
made such a vigorous attempt to secure their natural rights. It 
is with extreme regret that we read that their petition was dis- 
missed. Even the recommendation of the committee, that they 
should be exempted from future taxes to support the town min- 
ister as soon as they settled a minister of their own, does not 
appear to have been adopted. The Legislature would not, by 
any special act, annul the legal requirement obliging all citizens 
of a town to support the town minister. Our fathers had fled to 

- State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 700. 



THE REV. GEORGE FARRAR. 1 53 

this land to secure liberty of worship unmolested _/£?r themselves ; 
but they were not in a hurry to allow it to others who might differ 
from them in opinion and in forms of worship. The record of 
Plymouth Colony was, however, exceptionally honorable in this 
regard. But the State Legislature, even in 1756, was not ready 
to take the ground of perfect religious freedom ; and therefore 
Eliphalet Leonard and his committee returned, and with sorrow 
and indignation reported the result to their fellow-worshippers. 
There was no help for it now. Blamable as they were in the 
beginning, we cannot but sympathize with them when they are 
sent home from this last attempt to have justice done them, and 
are compelled to support a church and a minister they had come 
to regard with distrust and animosity. 

Early in 1756 Mr. Farrar bought land for a homestead ; it 
lay a number of rods west of the place where the almshouse is 
now situated, and about as far south of the street. There he set 
to work to build his house, which was finished in the spring. 
His farm and house were paid for largely with money which he 
borrowed. His principal creditor was Isaac Medberry, to whom, 
by the hand of Timothy Williams, he sent at one time a miscel- 
laneous collection of moneys, as indicated in the following 
curious receipt : — 

Received of the Revf M' George Farrar, of Easton, Two Double 
Loons, one Joanna, Thirteen Dollars, One pistorene, half a pistorene, 
Four English Shillings, Two black Dogs, and Three halves, which I 
promise to pay this day for the s''. Farrar to Isaac Medberry, in Scitu- 
ate, in the Colony of Rhode Island.-^ 

(Signed) Tim';' Williams. 

Easton, August ye 9"^, 1756. 

Mr. Farrar worked hard finishing his house, to which he con- 
ducted his bride, after their marriage, June 2. But his wedded 
life was destined to be of brief duration. He went about the ist 
of September to visit a sister, who was sick with a fever at her 

^ The doubloon was a Spanish gold coin, worth about $16. Those coined in 
1772, sixteen years later than this receipt, were valued at $15.93. The "Joanna" 
was probably the Portuguese Johannes, a gold coin worth about $8. A " pistorene " 
(Spanish pistareen) was a silver coin worth about seventeen cents. What piece of 
money the " black dog " was the writer does not know ; it was probably a colloquial 
term that may now be obsolete. 



154 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

father's house, in that part of Concord which is now Lincoln. 
September 6 he himself was so seriously attacked with the same 
fever that he made his will that day, and eleven days afterwards, 
September 17, 1756, he breathed his last. His remains were 
laid away in the cemetery at Lincoln. 

And now, again, the town of Easton is without a minister, and 
it will be difficult to find any man who will care to face the oppo- 
sition and hatred of one half the town, when, if past experience 
can be trusted, he will also have to encounter the indifference 
and illiberality of many of the other half. Mr. Farrar was be- 
yond the reach of strife and trouble ; not so his widow and his 
heirs. The town refused to make good its promises regarding 
the salary and settlement of their late pastor. Vote after vote in 
regard to these just payments was taken, but always in the same 
monotonous negative. At last the executors of Mr. Farrar's 
estate, following the examples of Mr. Prentice, Mr. Vesey, and 
Mr. Vinal, sued the town. The town voted to let the suit 
for the salary go by default, but to contest the claim for the 
"settlement," which was ^106, 135'. %d. The executors, how- 
ever, won the case ; and not only the settlement, but a large 
bill of costs was wrung from the unwilling town. It was not 
until 1759 that the promise of the town made in 1755 was re- 
deemed. These are not pleasant facts to contemplate ; but the 
writer has undertaken the task of a historian rather than of a 
eulogist, and will therefore try to state facts as they are, and let 
them tell their own story of praise or blame. 

The young widow, Mrs. Farrar, who was under age at the 
time of her husband's death, did not long remain disconsolate ; 
but on February 8, 1759, she married Dr. Gideon Tiffany, of 
Attleborough. 

The death of the minister does not bring peace to the con- 
tending factions. The town records, both on their face and 
between the lines, give evidence of what Mr. Prentice would call 
"a most distressing and dying time in Easton." In January, 1757, 
the town votes to raise no money and appoint no committee for 
the supply of the pulpit. Religion seems to be at its lowest 
ebb. In March there is a curious attempt at an adjustment 
of affairs. It is proposed to try, first, a Congregational, and 
then a Presbyterian minister, and then allow a majority vote to 



END OF THE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 155 

decide which of the two shall become the settled pastor. This 
proposition does not meet with acceptance ; but a vote is passed 
to hire a minister to preach half the time in the town meeting- 
house, and half in the other. This seems like the first real gleam 
of light in the darkness. But as when, on the face of the sky, the 
dark clouds part for a moment and the flash of sunlight gives 
promise that the storm is over, and then suddenly heavier clouds 
gather, bringing deeper darkness and a fiercer tempest, so was 
it here : the attempt at peace was a disastrous failure. The 
nearer the opposing parties were brought together the more in- 
tense was their antagonism. No one, except in irony, would 
venture to apply to the Easton people of that time the old 
words, " See how these Christians love one another ! " There 
are indications that the majority were rather hard with the 
minority. Eliphalet Leonard and others earnestly request the 
selectmen to call a town-meeting, which they unwarrantably 
refuse. Whereupon Captain Leonard and twenty-two of his 
associates petition Justice Godfrey to the same effect, and the 
meeting is summoned by him. But when it convenes, Edward 
Hayward is chosen moderator, and at one sweep all the articles 
of the warrant are dismissed and the meeting adjourns. Another 
meeting is held a few hours later, with Benjamin Harvey moder- 
ator, but with the same fate for the proposed articles of Captain 
Leonard. 

June 19, 1758, further action looking to agreement is proposed. 
A committee is chosen to devise some plan of accommodation. 
Dea. Robert Randall, Dea. James Dean, and Solomon Stone are 
selected. They suggest, first, that all the town shall meet in the 
town meeting-house until next spring ; secondly, that this house 
shall then be taken down and carried half a mile farther north, 
or that the town shall pay to the north part five hundred pounds, 
old tenor, if that will satisfy them ; thirdly, that the Cambridge 
Platform shall be adopted ; fourthly, that a certain number of min- 
isters and churches shall be convened to settle decisively all mat- 
ters in controversy. These propositions met with favor, though 
it is not stated which alternative in the second proposal was 
adopted. It was voted to accept them, and voted also to choose 
a committee to carry them into effect. Here again a gleam 
of light appeared for a moment, but it immediately vanished, 



156 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

leaving thicker darkness behind ; for when they attempted to ap- 
point the committee, " thay could not agrea in the Chois, and 
sum got very [angry], and the town Dismist ye meeting." 

The conviction is now evidently deepening in the minds of 
both the contending parties that all union between them is 
impossible, for in August it is voted that the Presbyterians 
should be set off as a separate precinct : this would have ex- 
empted them from paying for the support of the town church, 
though all in their precinct would be taxed for the church there. 
This vote was, however, rescinded at the same meeting. But 
in September it was voted that the easterly part of the town 
(by a line running from the west side of George Ferguson's 
house to Solomon Hewett's, where Daniel Clark now lives, and 
so on to Raynham) should be set off as a separate township, 
with the singular proviso that if they chose to do so, those living 
on either side of this line might be annexed to the other side, 
and assessed accordingly. Thirteen living on the east side 
immediately recorded their desire to be counted and assessed 
with those on the west side. But the General Court would not, 
of course, sanction such an awkward arrangement, and this plan 
came to nought. 

Evidently this bitter contention over a church matter was pro- 
ductive of scepticism or indifference in regard to religion itself. 
In 1759 two town-meetings refuse to raise money for the supply 
of the pulpit, and no progress toward reconciliation is made for 
two years after this. Another attempt is made in 1761 to move 
the town meeting-house, but without avail. It is then voted to 
employ a committee of out-of-town men to come and appoint the 
place most convenient for a meeting-house ; but the vote is recon- 
sidered before the meeting that passed it is adjourned. There is 
trouble about the disposition of the pews in the meeting-house. 
They are moved ; new ones are built ; the town votes to refund 
to former purchasers the prices they paid for their pews that 
a new sale may be made, with the hope perhaps that this new 
start may secure the co-operation of some of the opposing party ; 
but it is noticeable that nearly all the new purchasers are of the 
town party. 

It is now 1762. The opponents of the town-church party are 
discouraged. They have fought against heavy odds, for the law 



END OF THE CHURCH CONTROVERSY. 157 

has compelled them to pay for the support of the town church 
as well as their own. Though the first contestants may hold out 
for conscience' sake or for stubborn pride, new adherents do not 
care to join them. And so the Presbyterian Church of Easton, 
originating in a dispute about the location of the meeting-house, 
vanishes utterly from history in the year of our Lord seventeen 
hundred and sixty-two. 

Here were tivelve years of earnest, sometimes angry and 
bitter, strife. Its origin was not doctrinal ; it was not a reli- 
gious conflict. It was a question, at first, of local interest, of 
personal convenience, and was rooted therefore in human selfish- 
ness. Let us not blame religion for it. It was not Christianity 
that made these contestants quarrel ; it was the want of it. The 
unhappy effects of this strife and animosity long survived in 
town. As we have said, it was fruitful in scepticism and indiffer- 
ence. It engendered personal strifes that lasted through the 
lives of the actors, and then became family traditions. It gave a 
lower tone to the moral, religious, and social life of the town ; so 
that Easton obtained, and to some extent deserved, an unenvi- 
able reputation as compared with neighboring towns. And 
now, at last, shall we see peace and quietness, or will some new 
contest arise.'' 



158 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XI. 

EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 

Massachusetts Military Archives. — Hostility of the French 
AND English Colonists. — Captain Nathaniel Perry's Com- 
pany. — Sketch of Captain Perry. — Easton Men in Captain 
Ebenezer Dean's Company, — In Captain James Andrew's Com- 
pany. — Miscellaneous Enlistments. — Trying Experiences of 
Easton Volunteers. — The Acadians. 

IN the State Archives at the State House in Boston there are 
ninety-nine large folio volumes of muster-rolls, pay-rolls, 
and various other military papers, in manuscript, which are 
arranged with a care and order that are very creditable to the 
State Secretary and those who have had charge of this impor- 
tant work. These volumes average over five hundred pages 
each, making not less than fifty thousand pages, chiefly lists of 
the names, residences, rank, etc., of the soldiers in King George's 
War (1744 to 1748), the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763), 
and the Revolutionary War. In making up the lists of Easton 
men who served in these wars, and learning facts about them, 
the writer, not trusting to the general index, has carefully exam- 
ined these pages in detail. The lists of Easton soldiers given 
in this chapter, as well as in the chapter on " Easton in the 
Revolutionary War," are therefore full and complete. 

The French and English Colonies in North America regarded 
each other from the start with suspicion and jealousy. Fre- 
quent acts of hostility occurred, in which the Indians often took 
part ; and these hostilities were sometimes of a brutal and fero- 
cious kind. The brutality and ferocity were not, however, all 
on one side. The whites, if not habitually as cruel and savage 
in their warfare as the less enlightened red men, were, in their 
treatment of them, guilty of acts of equal perfidy and cruelty. 
And considering how much more was to be expected of the 
whites, and what provocation the red men had in seeing their 
possessions falling away from them, and in being slowly driven 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 159 

back from their beloved hunting-grounds, we have less reason 
to reproach the so-called savages than to condemn those who, in 
their eyes, were the too often savage invaders of their country. 
For the most part, the Indians were more favorable to the 
French than to the English colonists in the successive hostili- 
ties that occurred between them. Besides the two wars of the 
Colonists already alluded to, there were two others considerably 
earlier, — King William's War (1689 to 1697), and Queen Anne's 
War (1702 to 1 71 3). But the Colonists were seldom at peace, 
and there was constant need of military service. 

The first reference in the State Archives to the military ser- 
vice of our Easton men is found in a petition of Josiah Edson 
in behalf of Josiah Keith, of Easton, for a month's wages as a 
soldier.! The petition was dated April 8, 1748, and was granted. 
This Josiah Keith was son of the first Josiah, of Easton, and 
father of the third Josiah, who became a militia Captain and 
served in the Revolution. May 23, 1748, it was voted in town- 
meeting " that Capt. Eliphalet Leonard shall Have ye Liberty 
to Hier men with ye money yt is paid to him by men that is 
Impresed into his Majesty's service, or paid for that purpose to 
Hier men for what they may be Hiered for." The word " im- 
presed " has the force evidently of drafted, since the impressed 
men were allowed to pay for a substitute or for exemption. 
Ephraim Randall had been thus impressed, June 17, 1746, and 
was out in service until July 26. 

June 6, 1754, Nathaniel Perry, of Easton, received a captain's 
commission, signed by Governor Shirley. He was made a cap- 
tain of the regiment of which Col. John Winslow was colonel. 
He served in the struggle then going on at the eastern frontier. 
On the date of November 8, 1754, he had a company of forty-six 
men, with the following from Easton :^ — 

Nathaniel Perry, Captain. Joseph Jones, sentinel. 

Ebenezer Jones, sergeant. Thomas Babbitt, sentinel. 

Nathaniel Babbitt, clerk. Hezekiah Drake, sentinel. 

The word " sentinel " is equivalent to the word " private." We 
have a later account of this company after it had been recruited 

1 State Archives, Military, vol. Ixxiii. p. 125. 

2 Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xciii. p. 135. 



i6o 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



with further enhstments, for getting which Captain Perry had 
in December, 1754, received a warrant. In his company there 
were, May 29, 1755, ninety-six men ; it was in the "2'^ battahon 
of his Excellency Gov. Shirley's regiment, raised for the remov- 
ing the French incroachments from his Majesty's Government 
of Nova Scotia." Among these ninety-six soldiers the following 
were from Easton : ^ — 



Name. 


Rank. 


Age. 


Birthplace. 


Residence. 


Occupation. 


Lemuel Gilbert . . . 


Sergeant 


38 


Norton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Hezekiah Smith . . . 


Corporal 


30 


Swansea 


Easton 


Blacksmith 


Thomas Dean .... 


Private 


27 


Exeter 


Easton 


Tanner 


James Galliway . . , 


Private 


21 


Westbury 


Easton 


Laborer 


Danl Vokentrugen . 


Private 


21 


London 


Easton 


Tailor 


Daniel Niles, Jr. . . 


Private 


19 


Braintree 


Easton 


Laborer 


Nath! Perry, Jr. . . . 


Private 


17 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Samuel Perry .... 


Private 


16 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Joseph Packard . . . 


Private 


25 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Beriah Randall . . . 


Private 


20 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Hezekiah Drake . . . 


Private 


18 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Thomas Pratt .... 


Private 


23 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Joseph Belcher ^ . . 


Private 


19 


Easton 


Easton 


Laborer 


John Hern 


Private 


25 


Black Valley 


Easton 


Laborer 


Pendleton Britton . . 


Private 


30 


Taunton 


Easton 


Laborer 


Joseph Jones 


Private 


22 


Taunton 


Easton 


Yeoman 


Daniel Finney .... 


Private 


22 


Norton 


Easton 


Laborer 



These men were enlisted about five months " earlier than the 
date of this return. It was made from the Bason of Annapolis 
Royall, Nova Scotia." Captain Perry's company was at the 
siege and surrender of Fort Cumberland, concerning which, un- 
der date of June 24, 1775, he wrote his wife : " By the good hand 
of God, [after] four days' seige to the Fort with our mortars they 
surrendered the fort, after a capitulation. But they had the lib- 
erty of carrying off their effects. And upon their resignation, 
the Bay of Vert surrendered upon the same terms. We went 
and took possession of it two days after the first gave up. I 

^ This muster-roll belongs to N. W. Perry, of South Easton, a descendant of 
Captain Perry. 

2 The Joseph Belcher named above was a son of the Rev. Joseph Belcher. 
After returning from the war, he settled in Stoughton. 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. i6l 

went there in company of five hundred men, where I tarried 
five days. The place was very pleasant, and the land exceed- 
ing good. This place was eighteen miles from the fort we took. 
Where we shall remove to next is very uncertain. The whole of 
our enterprise seems to be very miraculous. We had two very 
smart skirmishes, allowed to be much smarter than any at the 
reduction of Cape Breton. We have lost but one New-England 
man, and not one by sickness since we left Boston ; and it is a 
general time of health now. I with my two sons are brave and 
hearty," etc. About a year afterward, however, he writes his 
wife that he is in poor health, and earnestly desires her to 
obtain leave of absence for himself and his two sons, who are in 
his company. He soon gets the order for his release, but it 
was written by the hand of Death. Far away from home, but 
ministered to tenderly by his sons, he died June 15, 1756, at 
the age of forty-four. 

Capt. Nathaniel Perry was the son of Benjamin and Dinah 
Perry, and grandson of Ezra and Elizabeth (Biirge) Perry, Ezra 
appearing in Sandwich as early as 1644. Nathaniel was born 
in Sandwich, July 2 (O.S.), 1713. Benjamin Perry and three 
sons — Josiah, Benjamin, and Nathaniel — appear in Stoughton 
as early as 1734, as indicated by the tax-lists; and Eliakim and 
Abner are there four and six years later, respectively. December 
2, 1736, Nathaniel married Mrs. Mehitable Willis, daughter of 
Lieut. James Leonard, of Taunton, and widow of John Willis, of 
Easton. Through her Captain Perry became the owner of the 
" Perry place," so called, on Highland Street, west of the Fur- 
nace Village, this having been the gift of Lieutenant Leonard to 
Mehitable, when she married John WiUis. Captain Perry was 
a pious man, one of the stanch supporters of the Rev. Solomon 
Prentice in the trying times of the church history that have 
already been considered. His military experience has just been 
described. 

The Perry family developed considerable military talent. 
Though Edward Perry, a brother of the first Ezra, was a 
Quaker, and a very stubborn one, his descendants have fur- 
nished numerous soldiers. Among them may be mentioned 
Commodores O. H. and M. C. Perry, Captains Raymond H. J., 
James A., and N. H. Perry, all distinguished naval officers. 



l62 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Of Ezra's descendants we have Captain Nathaniel and his son 
Captain James Perry. Two sons of Captain Nathaniel served 
with him in the French and Indian War, as we have already 
seen. And we have noted also among his troops Benjamin 
Tiipper, a son of Captain Nathaniel's sister Remember, who 
had married Thomas Tapper, Jr. Benjamin Tupper and his 
son Anselm both showed their Perry blood by decided military 
talent during the Revolutionary War, the former gaining the 
rank of Brigadier-general. Captain Perry left a widow and five 
children. She died September 20, 1797. 

In 1755, besides the men serving under Captain Perry, Easton 
had at least six other men in the service. These were partici- 
pants in the bloody battle at Lake George, near Crown Point, 
September 8. In Capt. Richard Godfrey's company there were 
Samuel Drake and John Wilson. ^ In Col. Ephraim Leonard's 
regiment 2 were John Owen, Lewis Sweeting, and Benjamin 
Williams, Jr., whose father was then a captain. Henry Partridge 
was there also, having enlisted from Easton, and serving in 
Capt. Samuel Clarke's company.^ Nathan Hewett was also in 
the service, and died at Oswego, October 30, 1755, but we 
have no record of his company. Capt. Benjamin Williams, 
although now sixty years of age, raised a company to join in 
an expedition against Crown Point in 1756. He was in Colonel 
Gridley's regiment, and his company served from February 
18 to December 23. Only the names of persons enlisting in 
Easton are given."* 

Benjamin Williams, Capt. _ John Smith. 

Nathan Bryant, Coi'poral. James Wright. 

Henry Partridge. Ehjah White. 
John Howard Winslow. 

All these enlisted at Easton, but only Elijah White was 
said to be born here. The muster-roll states that Henry 
Partridge was " killed or captivated." ^ Notwithstanding his 
age, Capt. Benjamin Williams remained in the service several 
years. In 1760 he commanded a company in Colonel Thomas's 

1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xciv. p. 32. 

2 Ibid., vol. xciii. p. 245. * Ibid., vol. xciv. p. 193, and vol. xcv. p. 197. 

3 Ibid., vol. xciv. p. 69. ^ ibid., vol. xciv. p. 436. 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 



163 



regiment. In another company in this same expedition was 
a Spaniard, who enlisted in Easton, and who bore the singular 
name of Manuel Delopatogui. He was in a Captain Howard's 
company. May 7, of this year, William Hayward (son of Wilham 
of Easton) died at Fort WilHam Henry. During the next year 
this fort, built by Sir William Johnson in 1755, and situated 
near the head of Lake George, was menaced by an expedition 
of French and Indians under Montcalm. Intelligence of this 
danger caused great excitement in the New England towns, 
and expeditions were planned for the relief of this important 
fortress. There was much interest in Easton about it, and the 
following men enlisted in the company of Capt. Ebenezer Dean, 
of Taunton, in Col. Ephraim Leonard's regiment:^ — 



Jacob Hanks, Sergeant. 
Benjamin Tupper, Corporal. 
Abial Drake. 
Nathan Selee. 
Thomas Manley, Jr. 
Jabez Phillips. 
Samuel Churchill. 
Henry Howard. 
Nathan Fobes. 
Jonathan Hayward. 
Mark Keith. 
Silas Williams, Jr. 
John H. Winslow. 
William Pratt. 



Abiah Randall. 

Seth Manley. 

Joseph Drake, 3'! 

Nehemiah Randall. 

Robert Randall. 

Silas Kinsley. 

Peter Sullard. 

Oliver Gofte. 

John Owen. 

Phillip King, Jr. 

Isaac Dean. 

Meshack Wilbore, Jr. 

Benjamin Dean, Jr., clerk. 

Benjamin Pettengill, clerk. 



They started August 17, 1757, but had marched only forty miles 
when they learned that they were too late. After a brave de- 
fence against overwhelming odds, the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel 
Monroe who commanded the fort was compelled to surrender. 
This was on the 9th of August. As the prisoners filed out of the 
fort they were plundered, and twenty or thirty of them were mas- 
sacred by the savages, before Montcalm and the French officers 
could stop them. The Easton company named above returned 
quietly to their homes, being credited with five days' service. 

The war still dragged on. April 13, 1758, twenty-four Easton 
men enlisted under Capt. James Andrews, in Col. Thomas Doty's 



1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcv. p. 547. 



1 64 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



regiment, for service at Crown Point or Ticonderoga, These 
were as follows : ^ — 

Benjamin Williams, 2* Lieutenant. Isaac Atwood. 

Benjamin Tupper, Corporal. Seth Bryant. 

Seth Twinney. Joseph Drake. 

John Winsiovv. Thomas Drake. 

Silas Williams. Samuel Drake. 

Seth Willis. Thomas Fling. 

Benjamin Keith. Nathan Fobes. 

David Keith. Oliver Goffe. 

John Manley. Edward Hayward. 

Nahum Niles. John Owen. 

Daniel Niles, William Higgins. 

Peter Sullard. Ephraim Hewett. 

These troops had part in a most inglorious campaign. It was 
not their fault, however. Before Fort Carillon, at Ticonderoga, 
they fought with desperate valor. But while Montcalm in the 
thick of danger cheered on his men and directed the defence in 
person, the English Commander Abercrombie skulked out of 
sight ; and after the defeat, though his forces still outnumbered 
Montcalm's fourfold, he beat a disgraceful retreat. We are not 
therefore surprised that several of our Easton soldiers deserted. 
This was not before, nor was it in face of, a battle. They 
deserted at Half-Moon, then a station and now a town at the 
junction of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. Lieut. Benjamin 
Williams was sent after them, who found and brought them 
back. For their punishment, seven shillings were docked from 
their wages and given to Lieutenant Williams. He brought 
back sixty-four deserters, and received for the service twenty- 
two pounds, eight shillings. Why so light a penalty was in- 
flicted for so grave a military offence does not appear ; either 
the discipline was very defective, or what is more probable and 
pleasanter for us to believe, it was not a case of genuine de- 
sertion. Benjamin Keith returned home after the defeat of 
this regiment, and as his name was not replaced upon the 
roll when he returned to his company his father, Josiah Keith, 
petitioned the House of Representatives to rectify the mis- 
take. The House answered the petition favorably, and granted 

1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcvi. pp. 534-537. 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 165 



Benjamin Keith the wages due him, — ten pounds, nineteen 
shilHngs. 

In the campaign just spoken of, in Capt. Aaron Willard's com- 
pany, was John Packard, of Easton, son of Joseph and Hannah 
(Manley) Packard. He died in the army, July 31, 1758, after the 
attack on Ticonderoga.i Dr. Seth Babbitt was in the same 
service as a volunteer.^ During this same year, 1758, there were 
others in Easton who enlisted. Their names are as follows :2 — 

Charles Finney. John Randall. David Randall. 

Nathan Lincoln. Edward Keith. Solomon Smith. 

John Mears. Mark Keith, Jr. Ebenezer Bruce. 

Jonathan Goodspeed. Zachariah Watkins. 

These eleven soldiers were in Capt. Samuel Glover's company 
at the seige of Louisburg, a strong fortress on Cape Breton Island, 
northeast of Nova Scotia. Under Amherst and Wolfe a vigor- 
ous attack was made, and the place was carried July 26. Our 
Easton men saw hard fighting there. Captain Glover's com- 
pany remained on duty at that place, and one of these men, — 
Edward Keith, son of William and Mary (Kingman) Keith, of 
Easton, — was taken very sick. A petition was presented to the 
House of Representatives after his return, which states that he 
was sent to Boston by vessel, but was so sick that he was unable 
to go on shore. He was obliged to remain aboard until two of 
his friends came from Easton, got him out of the vessel, and 
took him homeward "on or in a hors leter 27 miles ; but before 
he came home his father was dead and his mother left a poor 
widoah with a great family, & he just come of age k he nothing 
to help himself, & his mother though willing yet unable to help 
him ; & he continued sick until the next April, & not able to due 
one our work ; and the Dr's bill is £2 2s., and his nursing & 
bord comes to £2 ys. more, besides his bringing home, — which 
just debt he is unable as yet to pay, besides near half a year's 
time which he has lost," etc.* He then petitioned for aid, and 
the House of Representatives allowed him ^3 6s. ^d. John 

^ State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcvi. p. 451. 
2 Ibid., Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 231. 
8 Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xcvii. pp. 165, 167, 168. 
* Ibid., Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 276. 



r66 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Mears named above was an apprentice of Capt. Eliphalet Leon- 
ard, who drew his wages. He was a little fellow, who did not 
boast of being able to fight much, but who was an expert drum- 
mer. We shall hear of him again in the Revolutionary War. 
Benaijah Smith also petitioned to draw the pay due to his son 
Solomon for service at Louisburg.^ 

The re-enlistments in 1758 of those who were discharged 
October 10, or earlier, were — 

Nathan Bryant. John Hearn. John Owen. 

Benjamin Tupper. Abiah Drake. Robert Randall.^ 

Timothy Gilbert. 

In 1759 an expedition was sent to attack the forts at Ticon- 
deroga and Crown Point, and for this service there enlisted from 
Easton, in Capt. Lemuel Bent's company, Colonel Willard's regi- 
ment the following :^ — 

Timothy Manley, Lietit. Elijah Niles. Jonathan Hayward. 

John H. Winslow. Joseph Packard. John Manley. 

John Manley, Jr. Timothy Higgins. Abijah Hill. 
Thomas Drake. 

These men served for an average of about thirty-two weeks 
from May 19, 1759, to January 8, 1760. They were with General 
Amherst, who loitered at Crown Point after its surrender, instead 
of hurrying on to join the gallant Wolfe in his attack and cap- 
ture of Quebec, which capitulated September 17, 1759. 

Two Easton men who enhsted in Captain Bent's company 
died, — John Manley, Jr., and Elijah Niles. The story of the 
latter's death is told in the following petition of his father, which 
he presented to the General Court:* — 

Daniel Niles, your petitioner, humbly sheweth that my son Elijah 
Niles was a soldier in Capt. Lemuel Bent's company in Col. Wil- 
lard's Reg't, and returned his gun into Capt. John Fellows at 
Crown Point on the 2^^ day of Nov. last past, and was taken sick 
in the woods, but got to number four and there Died ; so the Re- 
cate we had for the gun was lost. Your petitioner prays that he 

1 State Archives, Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 229. 

2 Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xcvii. pp. 165, 167, 168. 

8 Ibid., vol. xcvii. p. 387. * Ibid., Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 244. 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 167 

might be allowed the money that was stoped out of his son's wages 

for said gun. As in duty bound shall ever pray. 

Daniel Niles. 
January 16, 1760. 

The " number four " alluded to was one of a line of forts ex- 
tending from Canada southward, and was located at Charlestown, 
New Hampshire. The petition was allowed. 

Jonathan Hayward of the same company had a trying experi- 
ence. In a petition to the General Court, he states that by Cap- 
tain Bent's order he was left at Green Bush, where he had cold 
lodging in a barn and could not live there; that he "maid a 
tempt " to travel, and travelled about six miles, and could go no 
farther ; his friends at Easton sent for him, and when the mes- 
senger came to take him away he paid eleven shillings and seven 
pence for his boarding, and they were nineteen days on the 
road at a cost of two pounds, fourteen shillings ; "your petitioner 
prays that your honors would take his case into your wise con- 
sideration, and grant him such Releaf as your honors in your 
grat wisdom shall think best." ^ It is observable that the 
"grat wisdom" of their honors usually granted about half the 
amount petitioned for. On this application they sent to Elipha- 
let Leonard, for the use of the petitioner, two pounds, nineteen 
shillings. 

During the same year (1759) Dr. Seth Babbitt, who had pre- 
viously served at Louisburg, was a surgeon's mate in Col. 
John Thomas's regiment, stationed at Halifax. He enlisted 
March 31,^ and continued in the service nearly two years and a 
half, but contracted the small-pox while in the army and re- 
turned home, where he died February 13, 1761. It was not 
allowable at that date for the remains of those who died of small- 
pox to be carried past any house, and his were deposited in a 
lonely grave that crowns a small hill northeast of the house 
where he died. His grave may still be traced by means of two 
stones, scarcely raised above the level of the soil. The house 
was one he built in 1756, and was northwest of the old Goward 
place, not far from the Mansfield Hne. In the same regiment 
with Dr. Babbitt served Jonathan Leonard, of Easton, he being 

1 State Archives, Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 553. 

2 Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xcvii. p. 278. 



l68 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

in Capt. Josiah Thacher's company from March 31 to Novem- 
ber I. They landed at Halifax, May 11, 1759.^ 

Seth Manley served in Capt. Philip Watkins's company;''^ and 
John Allen, who lived with Seth Babbitt, served in Capt. Jona- 
than Eddy's company.^ — both being in Col. Thomas Doty's regi- 
ment. But the date of their service is uncertain. Seth Manley 
took his own gun, and was charged three pounds for it when 
he was mustered out. An appeal to the General Court, how- 
ever, rectified the mistake.* 

Gregory Belcher, son of the Rev. Joseph Belcher, enlisted 
in Capt. Stephen Whipple's company, November 2, 1759, 
and served until March 15, 1760.^ His guardian was Peter 
Howard. 

In 1760 ten Easton men enlisted in Capt. Job Williams's 
company, of Taunton.^ Their record is as follows: — 

Name. Enlisted. Discharged. 

Benjamin Williams, ij-/ Z?>«/^;w«^ . . . February 13 December 6 

Nathan Bryant, Sergeant March 6 „ 6 

WilHam Bartlett „ 3 „ 6 

Richard Brumige „ 6 „ 6 

Thomas Fling „ 6 ,, 6 

John Hayward (sick) „ 31 November 10 

William Keith (son of Mary) ^ ,, 6 December 6 

Thomas Keith (son of Ruth) „ 6 ,, i 

Samuel Perry „ 27 November 30 

Beriah Randall . . . ■ April 13 December 6 

In the company of Capt. Josiah Dunbar'^ were — • 

Name. Enlisted. Discharged. 

Thomas Drake (age 31) March 19 December 2 

Timothy Higgins (age 17) „ 19 „ 2 

Edward Kingman ,,26 „ 7 

In another company^ was Benjamin Cole, of Easton, aged 31. 
In Capt. Jonathan Eddy's company ^ there were from Easton 
in 1760 — 

1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcvii. p. 287. 

^ Ibid., vol. xcvi. p. 273. 3 ibid., p. 406. 

* Ibid., Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 272. 

^ Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xcviii. p. 380. 

* Ibid., pp. 244-246. '^ Ibid., p. 317. 
8 Ibid., p. 127. « Ibid., p. 217. 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 169 



Name. Enlisted. 

Abial Drake April 6 

Timothy Gilbert „ 2(1759) 

John Hearn >> 2 



Served. 

32 weeks, 5 days. 
85 ,, 6 „ 
4 » I ,. 



In Capt. Jeremiah Green's company ^ was William Higgins, 
and in another company ^ (captain's name not given) were Heze- 
kiah Drake and William Barclay, — the latter a Scotchman, 
then resident in Easton. 

Thomas Keith, who was in Captain Williams's company, con- 
tracted the small-pox while in the service; and his mother, Ruth 
Keith, being at much expense and trouble about it, petitioned 
the General Court for relief, stating it had cost her nine pounds, 
one shilling, and eight pence. She was allowed five pounds, nine 
shillings.^ 

The following Easton men enlisted in Capt. Samuel Glover's 
company : ^ — 



Name. 

John Staples (son of John) . 

Solomon Smith 

John Holmes 

Silas Williams (deserted) 
Benjamin Tupper (Sergeant) 
John Mears (Drummer) . . 
Ebenezer Bruce 



Enlisted. 






Serv 


ed. 


November i, 


1759 


42 


weeks 


I day 


h 


1759 


64 


J) 


4 days 


August 20, 


1760 


20 


» 


5 „ 


November i, 


1759 


35 


V 




I 


)> 


62 


>» 


4 „ 


I 


>> 


62 


>> 


4 .. 


I 


» 


62 


;> 


4 „ 



The Solomon Smith named above was a minor, and Paul Pack- 
ard was his guardian. 

In 1 761 were the following enlistments or re-enlistments of 
Easton men : Richard Brumfield served twenty-six weeks and 
two days in Capt. Job Williams's company;^ John Mears beat 
his drum for Capt. Lemuel Dunbar's company about thirty 
weeks ;^ Timothy Higgins was with Capt. Lemuel Bent,'' and 
Edward Kingman with Lieut. Francis Miller's company,^ about 
thirty weeks each ; Nathan Bryant served as sergeant under 
Capt. Job Williams for thirty-two weeks ; ^ William Merry and 



1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcviii. p. 409. 

' Il)icl., Military, vol. Ixxix. p. 405. 

* Ibid., Muster Rolls, vol. xcviii. pp. 400,401. 

6 Ibid., p. 126. ■' Ibid., p. 146. ^ ibid., p. 



2 Ibid., p. 8. 

5 Ibid., vol. xcix. p. 15. 
165. 9 Ibid., p. 183. 



170 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

David Smith served twenty-eight weeks and six days each in 
the company of Capt. Edward Blake.^ In 1762, in the company 
of Capt. Timothy Hammant, little John Mears, who is now fond 
of war, turns up again. The record is as follows : — 

Name. Enlisted. Discharged. 

John Mears March 24 November i 

Hopestill Randall ,, 24 ,, i 

John Wood ,, 24 December 23 

John Wood Jr ,,24 ,, 23, 

Hopestill Randall was evidently transferred to another com- 
pany, as his time was made up on another pay-roll. He 
was there named the son of Baraciah Randall, which is a 
mistake. He served thirty-two weeks and three days,^ but 
where he served is uncertain. There was very little active 
service rendered this year ; the French power in America was 
broken. 

In Captain Abel Keen's company were the following from 
Easton : ^ — 

Name. Enlisted. Discharged. 

William Keith March 27 November 20 

Luke Keith ,,27 ,, 20 

Edward Kingman ,,27 ,, i 

Edmund Andrews ,,27 ,, i 

At the same date Thomas Drake enlisted under Capt. Josiah 
Dunbar, and was discharged November 18.* In the company of 
Capt. Timothy Hammant there were in 1762^ — 

Name. Enlisted. Discharged. 

Samuel Drake March 24 November r 

Thomas Fling ,,24 ,, 19 

Ebenezer Hayden ,,24 ,, 19 

And the Easton records of enlistments very appropriately end 
with the notice of the re-enlistment, the next day after being 
mustered out of service, of our diminutive John Mears, who 
served under Captain Hammant until June 3, 1763, being the 

^ State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcix. p. 187. 2 ibid., p. 190. 

8 Ibid., pp. 197, 225. * Ibid., p. 237. ^ ibid., p. 204. 



J 



EASTON IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. 171 

last Easton soldier to leave the service.^ He will be known in 
later years, after serving through the Revolutionary War, as 
" General Mears," though he never aspired to an office higher 
than that of a drummer. 

Easton shared with other towns in New England in taking 
care of the French inhabitants who were so cruelly expatriated 
from Nova Scotia, This painful episode of the French and In- 
dian War is familiar to most of our readers.^ The French pro- 
vince of Acadia in Nova Scotia was occupied by the English in 
1755. The French inhabitants, refusing to take the oath of al- 
legiance to England, were banished from their homes and scat- 
tered through the colonies, — men, women, and children. Their 
houses also were burned and their farms laid waste. Francis 
Parkman, the historian, has recently (1885) endeavored to ex- 
plain this transaction on the ground that it was considered 
a military necessity. He does not, however, distinctly defend 
it as such, but is inclined to think that the same end might 
have been gained by holding some of the principal men as 
hostages. But in whatever light historians may view it, we 
cannot help thinking it a cruel act. By it seven thousand 
peaceable people were torn from the homes they loved, and 
scattered far and wide. Many of them were quartered in New 
England towns, the Government allowing the towns pay for 
their support. Easton had its share, being paid at various 
times considerable sums, — at one time over two hundred and 
fifty pounds, — to keep these unfortunate people from starva- 
tion. Some of them died here, and were buried in now un- 
known graves. The town took pity on the wretched fugitives 
that were quartered here; and in town-meetings voted to pay 
for house-rent, firewood, etc., for those who were then commonly 
called the " Neutral French." 

Those who would read a touching and beautiful account of this 
sad event will find it in Longfellow's " Evangeline," which is 
founded upon it. We must content ourselves here with the 
following extract, where he describes the embarkation : — 

1 State Archives, Muster Rolls, vol. xcix. p. 273. 

2 See Higginson's Young Folks' History of the United States, p. 152. Also Ban- 
croft's United States, vol. iv. pp. 193-206, for a full and interesting account of the 
affair. 



172 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



" Busily plied the freighted boats, and in the confusion 
Wives were torn from their husbands, and mothers, too late, saw their children 
Left on the land, extending their arms, with wildest entreaties. 

On the falling tide the freighted vessels departed, 
Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile, — 
Exile without an end, and without an example in story. 
Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed ; 
Scattered were they like flakes of snow, when the wind from the northeast 
Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the Banks of Newfoundland. 
P'riendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city, 
From the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannas, — 



Friends they sought and homes ; and many despairing, heart-broken, 
Asked of the earth but a grave, and no longer a friend nor a fireside." 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 



^72> 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 

Opposition to the Ministerial Tax. — Growing Dissent from the 
Established Congregationalism. — Liberty and License. — 
Fanaticism thrives, and Immorality puts on the Livery of 
Heaven. — The Baptist Society organized. — The Rev. Eben- 
EZER Stearns. — The Baptists dispute the Town's Right to col- 
lect the Ministerial tax from them, and win their case. — 
The Rev. Eseck Carr, Minister and Cooper. — The Baptist 
Meeting-House. — Decline and Death of the Society. 

WE have seen that compulsory payment of taxes to sup- 
port the church caused discontent in Easton, and was 
met by resistance on the part of some. This practical union of 
Church and State v^^as felt to be repugnant to religious liberty. 
It was especially oppressive to those who had come to believe 
that the doctrines and usages of the established Congregational 
churches were not in harmony with the Gospel, and who ac- 
cepted a different faith and polity. They were compelled to aid 
in supporting two churches, — their own, and another to which 
they were conscientiously opposed. This unjust though legal 
compulsion bred indifference, dissent, scepticism, and infidelity 
much faster than a liberal policy would have done. 

Some time previous to 1750, much dissatisfaction with the 
ministry and churches of New England had been created by 
the new impulse, excitement, and intellectual activity that re- 
sulted from the preaching of Whitefield. He and his followers 
thought that the New England churches were but half alive, that 
many of their ministers were unconverted men, that the " half- 
way covenant" was a concession to the Devil, and that a stricter 
church discipline was needed. Those who adopted these views 
were called by the rather indefinite term of " New Lights." 
Sometimes they remained in the Congregational church. The 



174 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

reader of this history will remember that Mr. Prentice, when he 
first came to Easton, was strongly in sympathy with them. He 
immediately agitated the question in church meetings, whether 
or not the " Infant Seed of real Believers only, or ye Seed of all 
who professed their faith in Christ and were visibly holy," were 
the proper subjects of baptism. Evidently he favored the bap- 
tism only of the children of communicants; but his church did 
not. The " half-way covenant " meant acknowledging belief in 
Christ and being correct in outward life. It did not necessarily 
imply conversion ; it did not admit to the sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper; it was a formal arrangement merely, but was 
necessary in order to secure baptism for children. This was 
one of the things that caused dissent on the part of many earn- 
est Christians. They declared that persons were admitted too 
easily into church membership, and proposed particular exami- 
nation of candidates. Mr. Prentice took this ground, and in- 
duced his church to require a public account, either in writing 
or by word of mouth, of God's dealings with their souls before 
admission. This was the origin of the custom that held good 
for many years in Easton. For awhile Mr. Prentice did not 
carry his dissent any further. Others declared against paying 
the minister a salary : he was not ready to take this ground. 
His wife was an open dissenter before this time, and she found 
plenty of sympathy. In the west part of the town, espe- 
cially, there were persons who had joined a dissenting church 
in Norton. This dissenting church was organized in 1747. It 
was founded upon the principles already indicated, requiring 
particular examination of those wishing to become communi- 
cants, urging strict church discipline, opposing salaried min- 
isters and the half-way covenant. Among the Easton people 
that belonged to it were several Babbitts, Aliens, Finneys, 
Benaijah Smith, Peter Sullard and wife, Silence Hewett, Daniel 
Niles, and a few others. When Seth Babbitt and wife were 
called to account in 1749 for absenting themselves from the 
Easton church, they merely replied that " the Lord had called 
them out, and they could not help going out." Brother Benaijah 
Smith, when examined for the same thing, quoted " some texts 
of Scripture which had been impressed upon his mind." The 
persons above named, with others not named, became a seed of 






THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 



175 



dissent in Easton, and the troubled times beginning in 1750 
proved a fruitful opportunity for their cause. 

No church was organized at once, for it was not yet evident 
into what form of dissent their movement would crystallize. But 
meetings were held at private houses, at which any one might 
exhort and pray and expound the Scriptures. Any converted 
man might even perform the sacrament of baptism. In this free 
range of thought and expression, — in times, too, when ignorance 
was far more general than now, — fanaticism was to be expected. 
Every one ventilated his new-found notion, and always discovered 
plenty of texts to support it. Common-sense was ruled out of 
court. No matter how extravagant an opinion was broached, it 
was a sufficient answer to an objector to reply, " The Bible says 
so " ! In the hands of such persons the Bible became an instru- 
ment that would give forth any tune the performer chose to draw 
out of it. The sublime teachings of Jesus were travestied in the 
absurd conceits of ignorant interpreters. Some of them main- 
tained that they were " already immortal." Could they not quote, 
" He that believeth on me shall never die," and did not they be- 
lieve .-* John Finney and Ebenezer Ward and others, living in 
Easton but belonging still to the Baptist church of Norton, were 
called to account as persons " who were erupt in princabls and 
practes," and "many of their minds appeared greatly intangled." 
They made fanatical claims for themselves as specially inspired. 
Three meetings were held concerning them. They were labored 
with and admonished; and as they continued "more cropt in 
their principles," communion was withdrawn from them.^ The 
records of the early Baptist church at Norton have an amusing 
illustration of the extent to which these follies could go. A 
brother in the church complained of a sister church-member for 
"breaking fellowship with them, and joining with the world," 
because in going to and from meeting she preferred the com- 
pany of her husband who was not a church-member, to that 
of the aforesaid complainant who was ! Will it be believed 
that several church meetings, with delegates summoned even 
from Middleborough, were needed to settle this momentous 
question .'' Such was the fact. The brother aforesaid was 
finally admonished, however, and suspended.^ 

1 See records of the Norton Baptist Church. 



176 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Such things illustrate the crudity and absurdity attending the 
peculiar conditions of that time. This was bad enough. But 
unfortunately these follies sometimes developed into immoralities. 
What was to be expected from those who could answer, when 
called to account for their conduct, that " the truly converted 
man could not sin, but that everything he did was done by the 
will of God"? Such a theory afforded convenient justification 
for any evil actions, and there was occasion to employ it for that 
purpose. The writer of this history had heard long ago a tradi- 
tion concerning social immoralities practised in Easton under the 
cloak of a pretended faith, — a tradition too gross in its details 
to be repeated here. Distrusting this tradition at first, he has 
been obliged in the end to credit it, because it has received 
undoubted corroboration from a historian whose authority on 
this point cannot reasonably be questioned. The Rev. Isaac 
Backus, in his " History of the Baptist Church in America," 
makes the following statement concerning the Baptist church 
in Norton:^ — 

"Some of the members, especially they who lived in Easton, had run 
into the most delusive notions that could be conceived of, — even so 
far as to forsake their lawful wives and husbands, and to take others ; 
and they got so far as to declare themselves perfect and immortal, or 
that the resurrection was past already, — as some did in the Apostolic 
age." 

The Rev. Mr. Backus was a Baptist minister of Middlebor- 
ough, and was contemporary with the facts noticed. He was 
frequently called for services to the Norton church, was present 
at the ordination of the first Baptist minister of Easton in 1762, 
and had therefore abundant means of information relative to the 
facts of the case. Moreover, as they pertained to the religious 
body of which he was a member, he was not likely to overstate 
their evil. His statement confirms, and is confirmed by, the 
tradition referred to ; and it is further supported by various allu- 
sions in the old records of the Dissenting Church at Norton, 
and of its successor, the Baptist Church. 

This episode in the history of Easton is a most unpleasant 
one to record. But let it not be misunderstood. The customs 

1 See Backus's History of the Baptist Church, vol. iii. p. 160. (New Edition.) 



J 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 



177 



and practices here alluded to were not general, but were confined 
to a few fanatical, low-minded persons. If some of them were 
honestly duped, the rest were basely hypocritical. Their mis- 
conduct was not the result of their faith : it was rooted in per- 
verted passions; and the claim of its being sanctioned or allowed 
by religion was the shallowest pretence. But if any one doubts 
that progress in morals and religion has been made in town 
since that time, let him reflect that such a pretence on the part 
of even the smallest number of persons not actually lunatics 
would be impossible to-day. 

We have thus far in this chapter been considering the pecu- 
liar conditions and elements that preceded the formation of the 
Baptist church in Easton. It is but justice to say that that 
church is not responsible for the most objectionable of those 
conditions and elements. And we would again remind the reader 
that the principal cause out of which this dissenting church 
grew, was good and noble. It was a protest against compulsory 
taxation for the support of religion, — a religion sometimes op- 
posed to the honest conviction of the unwilling tax-payer, who 
had many provocations of intolerance and injustice; for even 
in Easton this tax was extorted by imprisonment. Though 
some fanaticism very naturally accompanied the origin of this 
church, there were also much genuine faith and perhaps a 
more earnest piety than the " Standing Order " of churches 
could boast of. 

We have already seen that the Baptist movement then just 
developing was greatly reinforced in 1750 by Mrs. Prentice's 
openly declaring for it, and by her midwinter immersion at the 
hands of an unordained layman. Under date of December 30, 
1750, Mr. Prentice made record concerning Rebecca, the wife 
of Elijah Randall : " She lately turn"^. Anna Baptist, Renoun- 
cing her Infant Bap., & was Dip^ by Peter Sullard, a poor lay- 
man, without any license thereunto." It will be remembered 
that after Mr. Prentice became a Presbyterian, he allowed the 
Baptists to hold meetings in his house. His well-known good 
opinion of them tended to foster the movement. In March, 
1762, Benaijah Smith and Daniel Niles were dismissed from the 
Baptist church in Norton and "recommended to the Baptist 
Bretherin in Easton, in order for the building up of a church 

12 



178 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

there." ^ Between March 20 and July the church was organ- 
ized, and in July they called Ebenezar Starns (Stearns) to settle 
as their pastor, or elder. The account of his ordination was 
copied into the Easton town records, and is as follows : — 

A council of three churches of Christ of the Baptist Denomination, 
— viz., the first in Middleborough, present Isaak Backus, Pastor, Dea- 
con Nathan Shaw and Elezer Snow, Delegats ; the Church in Norton, 
present William Carpenter, Pastor, Deacon Gershom Camble and 
Deacon Jabez Brigs, Delegates ; the second in Middleborough, present 
Ebenezer Hinds, Pastor, Deacon William Smith, delegate, — convened 
at Easton at the caul of the Baptis Church of Christ there, for the or- 
dination of Ebenezer Starns to the office of Pastor over them. The 
councel met at the house of Ebenezer Philips on the 21" of July in- 
stant, 1762, and after solom prayer to God they embodyed together 
and chose Elder Backus Moderator, & Elder Hinds Scribe. And then 
we proceeded to inquire into their coming into a Church state, and 
satisfaction was gained ; Secondly, their calling of Ebenezer Starns 
to be their pastor; 3'^ his answer; 4'^ his quallifications for the work. 
And satisfaction being gained in all points that they in a good measure 
acted agreeable to the ruls of the Gospel, we proceded to the pub- 
blick work ; & Elder Hinds prayed and preached a sermon from 
Coloshons 2^ 5, & then their articles of faith and Church Covenant 
ware pubblickly read, and the Church manifested openly their abid- 
ing in their choice of Mr. Starns for their pastor, and Mr. Starns 
likewise his accepting of that work, and then we went on. Elder 
Bacus prayed while we laid hands on Mr. Starns, and then gave him 
his charge, and Elder Carpenter gave the right hand of fellowship 
and made the last prayer. The whole was transacted with decency 
and divine solemnity. 

Ebenezer Hinds, Scribe. 

A true coppy. Examined by Ebenezer Hinds, Scribe. 

Matthew Hayward, To7vn Clark} 

The ordination as well as the council was held at the house 
of Ebenezer Phillips, who lived nearly on the site of the house 
of John Dickerman. On the old map this is the place marked 
"John Phillips, Jr.," Ebenezer being the son of John. 

The first we hear of this Ebenezer Stearns in Easton is the 
following: — 

1 Norton Baptist Church Records. 2 Town Records, vol. ii. pp. 17, 18. 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 1 79 

Bristol ss. To the Constable or Constables of the Town of Easton 
witlim the said County, or to either of the7n, — Greeting : 

Whereas Ebenez"^ Starns, whose last residence as we are informed 
was at the town of Douglass (before he came to this place), came to 
sojourn and dwell in the said town of Easton on or about the tenth 
day of August, annoque Dominie 1761, not having approbation there- 
fore, — These are therefore in his Majesty's name to will and require 
you forthwith to warn the said Ebenezer Starns to depart & leave the 
town of Easton, and not to intrude himself on the inhabitants of said 
town. Given under our hands & seals this 31" day of May in the 
2^ year of his Majesty's reign, 1762. 

Daniel Williams, \ s,i,,i„,,„ 
Robert Randall, \ of 
James Dean, ) Easton} 

The above was the customary legal form of warning that pre- 
vented a new resident from becoming a town charge. It appears 
that Mr. Stearns took up his residence in Easton, in August, 

1 76 1. In 1750 he was a resident of Douglas, being a surveyor 
of highways in that town. He was the son of Isaac and Elizabeth 
Stearns, of Lexington, where he was born. His father removed 
to Stoughton about 1716, being among the first settlers of that 
town ; was deacon of the Church of Canton (then Stoughton), 
and died about 1740. Ebenezer married, September 19, 1734, 
Thankful Clapp, of Walpole, where he bought real estate, and 
where he appears to have lived for a time. He probably also 
lived several years in Stoughton again before going to Doug- 
las, as he was taxed there in 1739, 1748, and 1749. From 
Douglas he came to Easton, as already stated. He did not 
remain here long. His name does not appear upon the tax- 
list of 1767, the oldest list that has been preserved, and it is 
at this date that his successor in the Baptist ministry ap- 
pears in town. For his second wife he married, August 12, 

1762, Jean, the daughter of Joshua and Mary Phillips, of Eas- 
ton. "About 1770 he moved to Maine and settled on Sheepscot 
River, afterwards of Whitefield." 2 He seems to have had nine 
children. 

^ Records of Bristol County Court of Sessions (at Taunton), vol. for 1 746-1767, 
pp. 271, 272. 

2 See Bond's History of Watertown, p. 460. 



l8o HISTORY OF EASTON. 

The Baptist Society soon began to have trouble in the 
matter of tax-paying. Its expenses were very light, and one 
might belong to it without contributing much to its support. 
If uniting with it would exempt from taxation for the support 
of the Congregational church, there was a temptation to be- 
come a member for that reason alone. As a matter of fact, 
many claimed to be Baptists at a later time for no other 
reason than to escape compulsory taxation for the support 
of worship. In 1728 a law was passed exempting Baptists 
from taxation for the "Standing Order" of churches: but as 
it exempted the persons only, and not the property of Baptists, 
it did not avail much. Other laws were passed subsequently 
for the same purpose ; but they were so clogged with diffi- 
cult conditions that they did not afford much relief, and hard 
legal fighting was needed to prevent the exactions of town 
assessors. 

Fortunately, Easton Baptists had among their number some 
persons who would not easily yield to injustice; and of these a 
committee was formed, consisting of Ebenezer Phillips, Benjamin 
Harvey, Daniel Niles, and Samuel Phillips, Jr., to assist in the 
defence of the resisting tax-payers. They made out a list of the 
taxable members of their society, presented it to the assessors 
July 19, 1764, and demanded exemption, not only as a matter of 
justice, but as a point of law. The demand was refused ; the 
town would not exempt " those who stile themselves Baptis, 
Except those Persons zvJio have been Baptised by Eviertion!' On 
merely nominal Baptists the tax was levied. James Stacey de- 
termined to contest the right, and he refused to pay the tax. 
He was seized, April 8, 1765, by Seth Pratt, constable, and im- 
prisoned for twenty-four hours, "until he paid the tax, and also 
paid two shillings and eight pence to the constable for arresting 
and imprisoning him." Mr. Stacey, backed by his friends, 
brought an action in the court of Common Pleas against Tim- 
othy Randall, Silas Kinsley, and Henry Howard, assessors of 
Easton for 1764, because " they illegally, arbitrarily, & without 
possible cause or reason assessed & rated the plaintiff to said 
ministerial rate, I'^^s. Sd." He claimed that in showing the list of 
Anabaptists to the assessors, the law had been complied with, 
and they were exempted by law ; and that " there never was 



I 



J 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. l8l 

any just cause or legal foundation for assessing the plaintif as 
aforesaid; and that the said Timothy, Silas, and Henery full well 
knew the same ; and that their doings aforesaid were illegal and 
arbitrary, whereby the plaintif suffered greatly in his estate, 
liberty, & peace of mind, to the damage of the said James 
as he saith the sum of Thirty pounds." The town voted to 
have the assessors defend themselves against this " professor of 
antepedo Baptis princabel." But the Court awarded him £4, 
i^s. and costs. The town appealed to the Superior Court. 
But subsequently better counsels prevailed ; a committee was 
appointed, the following report was presented, and a settlement 
made: — 

We the Subscribers, being chosen a commety by The Town of 
Easton to treat with a commety that ware chosen by the annabaptis 
Society in this Town in order to come into an agreement amacably to 
prevent any further proses in law in regard of an action that James 
Stacey of this Town brought against the assesors, &c., and after vari- 
ous reraonstranses on both sides the following agreement was entred 
into, viz. : — 

ily. That the baptis remit to the Town one third of the legal cost 
that has arose on their part on account of sd action. 2ly. The Baptis 
renounce all pretention to any damage brought against the assesors 
at the last inferior Court at Taunton. 3]y. That those persons that 
have been distrest for their rates that ware of the Baptis Society in the 
last assesment shall have their money returned to them again ; and 
foinally, for the futer, that all such persons that obtain a surtifi- 
cate from under the hand of three of the princabel members of the 
anabaptis church in this Town shall not be rated to the menestiral 
tax, &c. It is to be understood that James Stacey's rates is to be 
paid back by the Town. Done at Easton this third day of Octo- 
ber, A. D. 1765. 

P. S. It is to be understood that all those persons that shall here- 
after be exempted from paying the menisteral tax in this Town shall 
actually be in covenant with and under the watch and care of the 
Baptis church. 

Benjamin Williams. 

Matthew Hayward. 

Zepheniah Keith. 

Timothy Randel. 

Henry Ha ward. 



l82 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



I the subscriber, as an atorney, do promis upon the Town's agree- 
ing to the above sd articels to let drop all Proses in behalf of James 
Stacey of Easton against the assesors of sd Easton for the year 
A. D. 1764. 

Edmon Andrews. 
Easton, the third of October, A. D. 1765. 



We the subscribers do agree to the above Ritten articels. 

Ebenezer Phillips, 

BENJ'^ Harvey, 

Daniel Niles, 

Samuel Phillips, Jun% 
Recorded by Matthew Hayward, Town Clerk} 



A cotnmety 

of the 

aimahaptis Church 

in Easton. 



The town voted to James Stacey two thirds of the cost of the 
lawsuit, and refunded to those Baptists whose names were 
handed to the assessors in 1764 the amounts distrained from 
them for the ministerial tax, with damages for the distress to 
which they had been subjected. It was a substantial victory 
for the Baptists, and for justice too ; moreover it marks progress, 
for eight years before this the Presbyterians were denied the 
same rights that were now wrung from the unwilling town. 

It is noticeable that the town makes a condition to exempt 
only those actually in covenant relations with the Baptist church, 
— that is, church members. The reason for this has been al- 
luded to. Some persons joined this new movement merely to 
evade the ministerial tax ; and the town wished to prevent such 
subterfuge. But this condition put a premium upon hypocrisy. 
There were those who would become Baptist church-members 
in order to save money, for, as we have said, the Baptist expen- 
ses were very light. Perhaps the town could enforce this con- 
dition in 1765 ; but at a later date it could not. Those who 
in 1782 and 1791, for instance, claimed to be Baptists merely 
in belief were exempted, being especially named on the tax- 
lists. The valuation for 1782 in three quarters of the town 
had sixty-one tax-payers who claimed to be Baptists ; and the 
same proportion for the other quarter of the town (whose tax- 
list for that year is missing) would give a total of eigJity Baptist 
tax-payers. Among them were some of the prominent people of 



1 Town Records, vol. ii. pp. 45, 46. 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 



■83 



the town, — Capt. James Perry, Abisha Leach, Capt. EHphalet 
Leonard, Isaac Stokes, Lieut. Seth Pratt, Benjamin Harvey, 
Francis Govvard, Ziba Randall, Capt. Macey Williams, and oth- 
ers. In 1791 there was a still larger number, among whom we 
notice Capt. Elisha Harvey, Hopestill Randall, and Lyman 
Wheelock. It is evident that in many cases opposition to com- 
pulsory taxation for the support of worship had more to do in 
increasing the membership of the Baptist Society than any 
sincere acceptance of the faith itself. This opinion is justified 
by three considerations : first, there were no adequate accommo- 
dations for the worship of so many families where the Baptist 
services were held ; second, just as soon as the ministerial tax 
was abolished we hear no more of this society ; third, this 
opinion accords perfectly with human nature in general, and 
with what the writer knows was the particular human nature 
of some of those who made this claim of Baptist belief. 

Opposition of the kind that has been described was not con- 
fined, however, to those claiming to be Baptists. Eleazer Keith 
demanded exemption from being taxed to help pay for building 
the meeting-house, on the ground that he was a member of the 
Church of England. He refused to pay the tax, was seized and 
imprisoned, held out for eight days in his opposition, and then, in 
order to be released from his imprisonment, paid the assessment, 
doing it, however, under protest. In 1762 he sued for damages, 
lost the case, and appealed to the Superior Court. Apparently 
the difficulty was settled without further litigation, and eventu- 
ally he became a member of the Congregational church. 

For awhile the Baptist Society, as already stated, worshipped 
in private houses; but in 1767 they found the arrangement in- 
adequate to their needs. What should they do ? They did not 
feel able to build a meeting-house, and they therefore hit upon a 
novel expedient. Eseck Carr, their second and last minister, 
had just come from Warren, Rhode Island. He was a cooper 
by trade, as his grandfather Eseck was before him. He was an 
earnest Baptist, and though not educated for the ministry, he 
could preach. He was engaged by the Baptists of Easton as 
their minister ; and at once they set about to provide a building 
which should serve the triple purpose of meeting-house, dwell- 
ing-house, and cooper-shop. Thirteen Baptists of Easton and 



1 84 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



five of Stoughton contributed according to their several abili- 
ties, and bought a part of what was once the homestead lot of 
John Whitman, Jr. He had sold it in 1758 to Paul Packard, 
who sold it to Ephraim Burr, from whom, December 22, 1767, 
these eighteen men purchased it for eighty pounds. The con- 
tributors who bought it and became joint-owners were Daniel 
Niles, James Stacey, Ebenezer Phillips, Zachariah Watkins, Ben- 
jamin Harvey, Solomon Smith, Samuel Smith, Abiah Manley, 
Joseph Packard, Jr., Ichabod Manley, Abner Randall, Samuel 
Randall, Stephen Niles, all of Easton ; and Simon Stearns, 
Benaijah Smith, Jonathan Jordan, George Allen, and Terrel 
Allen, of Stoughton. The house was situated on the north side 
of what is now Elm Street, just where the small house owned by 
E. W. Gilmore now stands. On the east end of the house, and 
united with it, they built a large addition about thirty feet square. 
This room was used for Mr. Carr's cooper-shop on week-days, 
and for a meeting-house on Sundays. At one end was a huge 
fireplace ; the Baptists, being dissenters, did not fear the inno- 
vation of warming the meeting-house. Rude slab-seats were 
probably provided, the comfortable side uppermost. There was 
a loft overhead with a sufficiently close floor upon the rafters to 
hold the corn that was sometimes stored there, as well as the 
tools and materials in use during the week ; it might also 
serve as a sleeping chamber. On Saturday afternoon the room 
was carefully swept, the barrels, staves, and hoops piled upon 
one side, or placed in the loft above ; and if the audience was 
larger than usual, in addition to the slab seats, other seats were 
extemporized. With these signs of wood-work about them, 
the imaginations of the worshippers might easily be reminded 
of the carpenter's shop at Nazareth, and thus find these lowly 
surroundings an incentive rather than a hindrance to worship. 
If it was winter, a rousing fire in the great fireplace blazed 
and crackled, and shed a cheerful warmth and glow over all. 
What could be more pleasant and interesting.'* Is it any won- 
der that such a place should seem more homelike and attractive 
than the barn-like plainness and coldness of the average New 
England church } It need shock no one who can enter into the 
real spirit of that time to know that as his fellow-worshippers 
gathered for service, their hospitable pastor was accustomed to 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 1 85 

bring up from the cellar a huge jug of cider for their refresh- 
ment. Thus cooled off in hot weather, or warmed up in winter, 
they are ready for the exercises. A barrel standing on end 
answers for a pulpit, and a Bible lies open upon the top. The 
singing is hearty, if not artistic. The sermon is based upon 
strong Calvinistic doctrine, but is spiced with wise, practical 
suggestions, enforced by homely but telling illustrations. An 
eye-witness and hearer, now dead, used to say that as Mr. Carr 
waxed warm and earnest with his exhortations he gesticulated 
vigorously, his gestures corresponding to the movements of a 
cooper hammering to place the hoops upon a barrel, sometimes 
beginning upon one side and working entirely round to the 
other. The writer has in his possession a manuscript of a ser- 
mon preserved among the papers of one of these Baptists, — a 
sermon that may have been preached either by Mr. Stearns or 
Mr. Carr. Whether by one or the other or by neither, it was 
a product of the time, and well illustrates the substance and 
spirit of the doctrines then in vogue. It is an attempt to answer 
the question, " What hath God decreed concerning angels and 
men.?" The answer is, that "God, by an Eternal decree, out 
of Love for the Praise of his glorious grace to be manifested 
in due time, hath elected some angels to glory, and in Christ 
hath chosen some men to eternal life. He has mercy on whom 
he will, and whom he will he hardneth." The doctrine of Elec- 
tion is thus preached in its baldest form. The following illus- 
trations, or proofs, are adduced : — 

"When a man is extremely hungry, and can't git nothing to assvvage 
his hunger honestly, he will steal to satisffie that painful feeling. Must 
we not think that almighty power could a hendred that if it pleased 
him so to do ? But he will never alter what is decreed. ... It can't be 
thoat by no wise Person but that Adam fell from his purity by any 
other Reason than it being the Decree of god ; for if it had pleased 
god to a held Adam in his state of Innocency, he had power to a don 
it ; but if Adam had never fell, theie never would a ben a Christ born 
to wransome the fallen Race," — 

and much more to the same effect. These extracts will illus- 
trate the character of the spiritual food served in those days by 
the then current Calvinism. 



1 86 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Eseck Carr came to Easton in the year 1766. He had mar- 
ried Mrs. Lydia (Grinnell) Simmons, a widow witli five children. 
A relative of Mr. Carr being asked how he was willing to as- 
sume the heavy responsibility of adopting so large a family, 
replied, " Mrs. Simmons is a very handsome woman." Calculat- 
ing prudence vanished before the charms of the blooming young 
widow. She had also a touch of poetry in her nature. From the 
top of Mount Misery, in North-Easton village, she saw, one night, 
just before the Revolutionary War, a wonderful display of blood- 
red Northern Lights. This was thought to bode some great ca- 
lamity, and so stirred was the soul of Mrs. Carr that she gave 
vent to her feelings in some rhyme, of which one stanza has been 
preserved, and is as follows : — 

" That very night, it was so bright, 
So plainly I did see — 
Both sword and blood looked like a flood 
That much astonished me." 

In the war thus supposed to be foreshadowed, Mr. Carr was 
drafted for a soldier. He refused to serve, claiming no doubt 
the minister's exemption from military service. His claim was 
not at first allowed by the town authorities, as we see by the 
following order : — 

Bristol, ss. To Ephraim Raiidell ye 211 d.^ one of the Constables of the 
town of Easton in the County of Bristol, — Greeting : 
Where as Eseck Carr, of the town of Easton, was By us the sub- 
scribers appointed a sholdier according to the Direction of a late act of 
this government for Providing a Reinforcement to the American army, 
has been duly notified of such appointment, and did not within twenty- 
foure hours after such notification Pay to us the sum of ten Pounds, 
nor make any Reasonable Excuse ; and the said Eseck Carr was on 
the Eightenth Day of December, a.d. 1776, Called out, according to 
Law, to march, But neglected so to do, or to Provide any Person in 
his stead, — you, the said Ephraim Randell ye 2nd., Constabell of the 
town of Easton, are therefore hereby Required forthwith to apprehend 
the said Eseck Carr, and him commit to the common goal in said 
county; and you, the said keeper of the said goal, are alike required to 
Receive the said Eseck Carr into your Custody, there to Remain un- 
tell he pay the fine of twelve Pounds, as ordered in said act, to gather 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 187 

with charges of Committment and imprisonment, or Be Discharged By 
order of Law. Hereof fail not. 

Given under our hands and Seals this Eighth Day of January, a.d. 

1777. 

Joshua Phillips, Matthew Randell, Captain. 

Edward Hayward, Seth Pratt, Lieut. 

Lemuel Willis, Edward Hayward {2nd) Lieut. 

Seth Pratt, Timothy Randell, Selectman. 
Joseph Gilbert," 

Committee of Correspondance. 

Notwithstanding this, Mr. Carr presented a bold front ; and the 
authorities, not being able to intimidate him, and being doubtful 
about their position, sent the following order to the constable, 
through the Captain of the East Company of the militia: — 

To Mr. Ephraim Randall the 2. 

Sir, you are Desired to let mr. Eseck Carr a Lone at present. 

Matthew Randall.^ 
Easton, January the 1777. 

The order to arrest was probably never executed, and Mr. 
Carr was " let a Lone," and without doubt exempted from mili- 
tary service, as other ministers then were. 

He continued to work on week-days and preach on Sundays, 
for many years. He sold pickle-tubs, barrels, etc., and was not 
above assisting in killing pigs and receiving pay for this service. 
He did a little in the way of trade, selling quintals of fish and 
other things. Such items are recorded upon old accounts which 
the writer has seen. Something of this kind was necessary in 
order to eke out the slender support gained from the voluntary 
contributions of his brethren. In common with many others of 
his day he was a snuff-taker, and for convenience' sake, instead 
of a snuff-box he had a small leathern breast-pocket, or pouch, 
on his coat, in which he carried his snuff, which was thus easily 
accessible. 

About 1784 there was a sensible decline of religious interest 
in the Baptist Society. Even as early as 1783 its name disap- 
peared from the Massachusetts Directory. This decline was not 
peculiar to this society alone, but was the natural consequence 
of the war that had just closed, for demoralizing effects nearly 
1 From Papers of Macey Randall. 



1 88 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

always follow war. On the 26th day of August, 1785, a meeting 
of the society was called at Mr. Carr's. At that meeting, Isaac 
Stokes, Deacon Phillips, and Abner Randall were chosen the 
Committee of the Society ; Ephraim Randall, Jr., was chosen 
clerk, and it was " Voted that this Society, which are Baptis, 
should come in to a covenant agreement." This covenant will 
be given here, because, with the exception of the record of the 
meeting just alluded to, and of a call to another meeting in 
1789, it is the only written record of the old Baptist Society 
that has been preserved. It is as follows : — 

"Where as it is a time of Trouble and a declining of Religeon, and 
the Love of many wexes Cold, — 

We the subscribers, who do profes our selves to be Annebaptis, do 
think it our Duty to come in to a Covenant agreement with Each Other, 
and to agree in friendship and Union ; and there fore we declare, Con- 
siancianty [?], that we think that the annabaptis porswaision is more 
agreable to the Rules of the Gospel then Any other Oppinion Which 
we have any knowledge of ; and there fore under this Consideration we 
promas as true Covonant Keepers, as far as we are Inabled, to up hold, 
Support, and maintain that order of worship, and Especially in this 
Society which we belong to in Easton ; and also we do promas to at- 
tend the publick worship on Lords days, and to incourage our familys 
in the Same duty as far as we are In abled Convianantly so to do ; 
and also we do promas to Each other that we will attend Society 
meetings, if they are Leagually warned, for the furtherance of our 
Establishment and good orders, and the Conducting Some measures 
for the Support and Bennefit of our Society as a Body Joyned to- 
gathar ; and also we do agree with Each other that we will do what 
in us Lies to keep peace among us ; and where there is Disagrea- 
ments, Quarils, or discord we will Vse our indeavours to have them 
Settled in friendship again, according to Scripture Rules ; and we do 
promas also that we will be Charitable and helpful to one another in 
Sickness and Destress, as becomes Rational Creatuers that Lives in 
Gospel Light. In testimony where of we set our hands as True Covo- 
nant keepers, from this Second day of September, a.d. 1785."^ 

As this was only the first draft of the covenant the names 
are not appended. This renewed effort probably did some- 
thing to revive the religious interest for awhile. But four years 

1 Papers of Macey Randall. 



THE BAPTIST SOCIETY. 189 

afterward, in 1789, there came a serious crisis, which is referred 
to thus: "There being a dif^culty arisen in the annabaptis 
Society in the Town of Easton, and an Uneasiness in the minds 
of the people of the Society," etc., a meeting is requested by 
Capt. Ebenezer Tisdale, Capt. Nathan Packard, Benjamin Harvey, 
David Manley, Abner Randall, and Deacon Isaac Stokes. Ac- 
cordingly the clerk, Ephraim Randall 2d, calls a meeting for 
August 17. It was " Earnestly desired that all Persons who are 
Ouallified to act in said meeting for to attend without fail ; for 
it is a thing of grate Importance, and may be the means of 
peace and good Order." ^ 

It would be exceedingly interesting to know what this " Un- 
easiness" and "thing of grate Importance" was, but no means 
of information exist. It is certain, however, that the measures 
adopted at the meeting that was called had no permanent effect. 
The society had not within it sufficient life to thrive, and was 
unmistakably on the wane. It continued, however, loyally to 
rally about its minister as infirmities and age undermined his 
vigor. He preached as long as he had strength enough, prob- 
ably until within two or three years of the time of his death, 
which occurred in February, 1794. His remains were buried in 
a little cemetery which was just north of the place now occupied 
by E. W, Gilmore's hinge-factory. They were disinterred when 
the ground was broken for that building, and were deposited by 
his grandson, Caleb Carr, in the cemetery on Washington Street, 
opposite the Methodist church. With him died the Baptist So- 
ciety of Easton, after a varied but not prosperous life of about 
thirty years. The house, and the combined meeting-house and 
cooper-shop attached, were owned by members of the Baptist 
Society. It gradually passed by successive purchases into the 
possession of Caleb Carr, Sr., the son of Eseck. The last pay- 
ment to heirs of original Baptist owners was a payment of about 
twenty dollars, made by his grandson Caleb, now living at the 
advanced age of eighty-nine, and who is universally known as 
" Uncle Caleb.". The meeting-house, or the cooper-shop, was 
torn down in 1822. The house was once surrounded by huge 
apple-trees, most of which were destroyed in the great September 
gale of 1 81 5. 

1 Papers of Macey Randall. 



igo . HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 

The Church of Christ in Easton calls Archibald Campbell. — 
His Parentage, Birth, and Education. — Fair Prospect of a 
Peaceful Ministry. — Gathering Clouds. — Mr. Campbell's Wife 
a Stumbling Block. — The Minister Slandered. — He is Dis- 
missed WITH A Recommendation. — Ministry in Charlton. — 
Domestic Trouble and Disgrace. — Dismissal and Sad Subse- 
quent Experiences. — Extract from one of his Sermons. — His 
Children. — " The Vale of Tears." 

AFTER the death of Mr. Farrar, in September, 1756, the 
Church of Christ in Easton was without a settled pastor 
for nearly seven years. Neither this church nor the Presby- 
terian church felt strong enough to maintain a minister alone, 
and all attempts to unite or to compromise had failed. Both 
societies, and with them the religious interests of the town, 
were in a languishing condition. In 1762, however, the con- 
tention had spent its force. Death became a peacemaker by 
removing some of the leading contestants. The town party 
gained by new arrivals, and they now felt strong enough to 
settle a man. Accordingly, after a day of solemn fasting and 
prayer, Mr. Night Sexton received a call. Arrangements were 
made about salary, and even about ordination. Mr. Sexton, 
however, after looking carefully into the matter, was not willing 
to face the difficulties of the situation, and declined to come. 

Early in 1763 a candidate appears who wins general favor. 
March 25, after another day of fasting and prayer, the church 
gives a call to Archibald Campbell. At a town-meeting, 
April II, the town concurs in the same. He is offered a salary 
of sixty-six pounds, thirteen shillings, and four pence. Why so 
fine a point is given to it as to taper it down to four pence does 
not appear. But it does denote extreme shrewdness that when 
it is voted " that Mr. Campbell should git his firewood on the 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 191 

menesterial land the insewing winter," a committee is appointed 
" to inspect the same to see that good Timber was not cut for 
sd fire wood." Mr. Campbell accepts the call in the following 
terms: — 

To the ChiDxh and Congregation of Easton : 

Dear Friends and Gentlemen, — Having taken under mature 
and deliberate consideration the invitation vv-hich you gave me to settle 
with you in the arduous and laborious work of the Ministry, on the 
eleventh of April last past, I think it duty ; and therefore I do now 
accept of your invitation and the proposals which you then made me, 
depending upon it that you will be ready and willing as your abilities 
increase, to make any further additions to my salary that shall be 
thought reasonable, if my necessities require it. And now brethren, 
I am willing to be ordained to the pastoral charge over you at any 
time that you and I shall mutually agree on, promising that I will seek 
you and not yours, that I will remain among you in the faithful dis- 
charge of my duty, as far and as long as God shall enable me, pro- 
vided you remain, as I flatter myself you will, a ministerial people. 
And now my dear brethren, let brotherly love continue ; let us all be 
of one heart and one mind ; let us strive unitedly to promote the peace- 
ful kingdom of the dear Redeemer among ourselves and on earth ; let 
us strive to forward each other to the Heavenly Zion above, that we 
may be each other's crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus. 
So wishing that the smiles of Heaven may ever rest upon all your 
lawful endeavors, I remain your servant in the faith and fellowship of 
the Gospel of Christ. Anient 

Archibald Campbell. 

Easton, June 5th, 1763. 

Mr, Campbell was ordained August 17, 1763. Rev. Mr. Phipps, 
of Douglas, preached the sermon. Rev. Mr. Perkins, of Bridge- 
water, gave the charge. Rev. Mr. Dunbar, of Stoughton, gave 
the right hand of fellowship. Rev. Messrs. Shaw and Porter, of 
Bridgewater, also had part. " The whole ceremony was carried 
on with great Decency and good Order." ^ 

Archibald Campbell came to Easton at the age of twenty- 
seven years. He was a man whose gifts and antecedents seemed 
to promise a brilliant and happy future ; but could he have fore- 
seen through what experiences he must pass before his aged 

1 MassachuseUs Gazette and Boston News- Letter, August 25, 1763. 



192 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

head, whitened by the cares and sorrows of more than four- 
score years, would he at rest in a plain pine coffin in an un- 
marked grave, he would have prayed for swift release from life ! 
He was forced in his later years to reflect upon the mystery of 
that Providence which ordained that years of trouble and anguish 
should follow a youthful folly, which truth to history forbids us 
to leave wholly unnoticed. 

Archibald Campbell was the ninth and youngest child of the 
Rev. John Campbell, of Oxford, Mass. His father was a man of 
marked character and superior gifts. He was born in the north 
of Scotland in 1691, educated at Edinburgh, having the benefits 
and honors of the University ; was said to have joined the army, 
espousing the cause of the House of Stuart, and was obliged to 
leave the country. He came to New England in 171 7, married 
Miss Esther Fairchild, of Boston, and was ordained pastor at 
O.xford in 1721. He was a great swordsman, was skilled in law 
and medicine, and a man of influence in Oxford and the neigh- 
borhood. He died May 25, 1761. 

Archibald was born in Oxford August 17, 1736, according to his 
daughter's statement, which varies by the eleven days difference 
between Old and New Style from the date given by another au- 
thority. His father was careful to give him a good education. He 
entered Harvard University at the age of twenty-one years, and 
graduated in 1761. He is thus referred to in the funeral sermon 
preached on the death of his father, by the Rev. William Phipps, 
who afterwards preached Archibald's ordination sermon : — 

" And may a double portion of the Spirit of Wisdom and Grace rest 
on that Son who has, by his Father's care and Kindness, been favored 
with the Advantages of a liberal Education, and who may in due time, 
if God will (according to the earnest Desire and Hope of his departed 
Father), devote himself to the Service of God in the Gospel of his 
Son ! And may he be a rich blessing to the Church of God in his Day ! " 

Two of his brothers were not turning out well, and Archibald, 
if we may judge from his father's will, was the favorite; for he 
left him, in addition to one thousand pounds Old Tenor (then 
worth about one hundred and thirty-three pounds, lawful money), 
" my apparel of all sorts, my whole library of books, my watch, 
my gold wrist-buttons, my knee and shoe buckles, and my young 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 



193 



black mare, to be well kept and supported on my said Farm sum- 
mer and winter, cost free, when said Archibald Campbell has no 
occasion to use her." 

November 15, 1762, he married Hannah, daughter of Isaac 
Barnard, of Sutton, Mass. Not to recognize what is implied in 
the fact that this was a compulsory marriage, would be to miss 
the one clew that explains much that otherwise would be unin- 
telligible in the life of Mr. Campbell. But we must pass it by for 
the present, as it was not known in Easton for many years after- 
wards. All that was at first known was, that the Easton church 
had secured the services of a young man of excellent talent and 
education, who came to its ministry after a long period of discord 
and strife had made every one in the parish desirous of peace. 
He was well fitted to promote peace, and tradition has repre- 
sented him as a man of popular gifts and affable manners. 

Mr. Campbell, however, found affairs very much disorganized 
in the Easton church. The church records were not to be found. 
Mr. Prentice had probably carried off the records, which he be- 
gan in 1747. Consequently the covenant was gone, and the 
church must begin anew. A new covenant was accordingly pre- 
pared and signed, — which the reader may find in the Appendix 
to this History. It is noticeable that among the signers are very 
! few of those who were of the Prentice party, and there are less 
! than half the number who signed the covenant of 1747. Dea. 
James Dean is appointed clerk ; Dea. Robert Randall and Joseph 
Crossman, Sr., are chosen elders, and Samuel Phillips is made 
j "tuner." The " Christening bason" is brought from Joshua Phil- 
1 lips's house, and all is ready for active religious work. During 
the first ten years of his ministry Mr. Campbell had one hundred 
and fifty-six baptisms. Sometimes whole families of children, 
whose baptism had been neglected during the times of church 
t strife, were baptized at once. There are interesting cases of 
;; " difficulties " between church members, being cases of misrep- 
f resentation, slander, dishonesty, etc., which are settled by wise 
J action and counsel, in which a truly Christian spirit seems to 
il prevail, — giving evidence that the church is under wise and 
ii considerate leadership. 

; The years roll by bringing no events of special importance. 
[ William Pratt, Jr., and Daniel Littlefield are chosen deacons in 

13 



194 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

1774, and accept and take their seats in the deacon's pew. 
EHjah Copeland and Captain Matthew Randall are chosen 
tuners in 1777. Meantime the Revolutionary War had come 
on. In our chapter upon that subject we shall see that Mr. 
Campbell had a good word for the great cause, though his 
wife was suspected to have Tory proclivities. He had bought 
for his homestead the house built by Mr. Farrar, not many 
rods west of the present location of the Almshouse, with the 
barn and surrounding farm of thirty-five acres, purchasing them 
of David Keith. Here he lived until June, 1777, when he sold 
his place to Isaac Lothrop, of Bridgewater, uncle of Howard 
Lothrop. 

Not long after this the clouds began to gather about him. 
The exact nature of these troubles cannot be ascertained. 
Some things are, however, certain. By some means the story of 
that early act which led to his compulsory marriage had been 
whispered among his people. The secret had rankled in his 
own heart for many years. Such things were not uncommon at 
the time ; and even church-members thus guilty, after repent- 
ance and public confession, were " restored to their usual stand- 
ing" in church and society. But he had made no confession. 
H.e had come to them loaded with a sense of shame, but had 
withheld all knowledge of it, for what no doubt seemed to him 
sufficient reasons. He was repentant : should he blast his pros- 
pects and ruin his chance for usefulness in the world by a revela- 
tion that could benefit no one } Should he not rather, by a 
devoted life, by consecrated effort, and lowly though secret peni- 
tence, seek to atone for the misdeed of his ardent youth .'' So 
he hoped he might do ; so for some years it appeared he would 
succeed in doing. But alas for any man whose peace depends 
upon the protection of secrecy ! He could not hide from his 
own heart the fact that all this time he was, however good his 
reasons for doing it, violating one of the rules of his church, — 
that of public confession and humiliation. And now the story 
was known, and he was required, or perhaps volunteered, to per- 
form the act of repentance. On the nth day of April, 1779, 
before the church and congregation to which for sixteen years 
he had ministered, he made his public confession of an offence 
that had occurred seventeen years before, and of which he had 



I 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 



195 



already bitterly repented ! His acknowledgment was voted satis- 
factory " by the usual signe of lifting up their hands." 

For the time the matter rests. Mr. Campbell continued 
preaching, and there seem to have been the usual number of 
baptisms and admissions to the church. But it was natural that 
what had occurred should gradually undermine the minister's 
popularity and influence. Two things conspired to the same 
result. One was the fact that his wife was a woman who neither 
gained the love nor deserved the respect of any one. She was, 
let the truth be told, the bane of his life. She never joined his 
church, and apparently had little sympathy with it. Not only 
tradition, but direct statements of those who knew them in their 
later days, and who had been much in their company, represent 
her as addicted to intoxicating drinks. She was, withal, proud- 
spirited, and scorned her husband's simple tastes. Such a wife 
must have been not only a burdensome cross to the minister, 
but must have intensified any disaffection that had arisen. The 
second trouble was, if an apparently trustworthy tradition may 
be credited, a case of slander. It is said that some person made 
one of the gravest charges against him that could affect a gentle- 
man's honor. Although this charge appears to have been re- 
tracted upon the dying bed of the slanderer years afterward, the 
retraction did not come soon enough to prevent the slander, 
when once started, from doing its venomous work. November 
21, 1 78 1, a meeting of the church was held "to enquire Into 
some Reports prevailing among the People Detrimental to the 
Rev. Mr. Campbell's character." This matter was debated in 
several meetings. Advice was sought of a convention of minis- 
ters held at Taunton, February 19, 1782. The slander, after all, 
does not seem to have made a very deep impression, and the 
other difificulties do not appear to have been of a very grave 
character, as the church, February 25, agreed that if "the Pastor 
would make Christian satisfaction wherein he had acted out of 
character, they would receive him as their minister." On the 4th 
of March such satisfaction was rendered, and "all the brethren 
voted to Receive him as a Brother, and all excepting two voted 
to Receive him as their pastor." A decided opposition to Mr. 
Campbell, however, had arisen in the midst of all this trouble, 
headed by Capt. Matthew Hay ward, son of Edward Hay ward. 



196 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Esq., — the same who was the leader in the opposition to Mr. 

Prentice. 

One of the humorous anecdotes that have come down to us 
from this period, illustrates the prominence of Captain Hay ward 
in this new trouble of the church with its minister. When 
Ebenezer Ames was an old man, he was accustomed to go about 
putting to every one his stereotyped inquiry, "What's the news.''" 
Meeting another and quite eccentric old man, who was known 
by the not very respectful name of Old Drake, Mr. Ames asked, 
" Well, Mr. Drake, what 's the news ? " " The news," said Mr. 
Drake, " is a dream that I had last night. I dreamed that I 
died and went, — well, you know where I would go if I died. 
When I got there, I rapped upon the door, and some of Satan's 
imps let me in ; and I must say I was never treated more hand- 
somely in my life. By and by Satan himself came in. ' Hello ! ' 
he said to me, ' where did you come from ?' ' I came from 
Easton,' was my answer. 'Why, that is where they are having 
a church quarrel over their minister,' said Satan : * who leads 
the opposition to him } ' I told him it was Capt. Matthew 
Hay ward. 'Good!' said his Satanic Majesty, ' that is exactly 
as well as though I were there myself.'" 

On May 26 Mr. Campbell " refused Preaching with the People 
in Easton on account of a Disaffection and a neglect of support, 
etc.," and on the 4th of July next he asked for a dismission 
from the pastoral charge of the church in Easton. This brought 
matters to a crisis, and the church and town joined in calling a 
small council of neighboring churches for advice. The coun- 
cil met July 31, 1782, and the following is the report of their 
action :^ — 

"July 31, 1782. The Venerable Council met and Imbodied, before 
whom the Pastor Renewed his Request for a Dismission both to the 
Chh. & Congregation ; & then the Council advised the Pastor & 
Chh. to a mutual Conferrence In order to see If they Could not Come 
to some agreement. Accordingly, altho by far the greater Part of the 
Chh. were unwilling to let their Pastor go, yet at length, because he 
Earnestly Requested It, & for Peace sake, & because of a Consider- 
able alienation of affections in the Congregation, they Consented, and 
In the Presence of the Council Unanimously voted to Dismiss & 
1 See second book of Church Records, p. 11. 



■ .M 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 197 

Recommend their Pastor. Further, August 5*.'', 1782, the Council Read 
their Result to the Congregation, in which they agreed that It was 
Best for M^ Campbell to leave this People because of Disaffection & 
alienation that appeared among them, signifying that the Chh. had 
Dismissed him, & advised the Congregation to Concurr with the 
Chhs. vote." 

It is to be especially noted that the council recommended that 
Mr. Campbell and the church should confer together again to 
see if they could not come to some agreement By this it is 
evident that no objections of any really serious character to 
the pastor had been sustained. It is noteworthy also, that " by 
far the greater Part of the Chh. were unwilling to let their Pastor 
go," which confirms the above conclusion. And the good opinion 
of the parish is proved by the fact, that at the town-meeting 
next subsequent to this council, the town actually refused to 
concur with the council in their recommendation to dismiss Mr. 
Campbell. It is also to be considered that the church unani- 
mously voted to recommend as well as to dismiss their pastor. 
All these facts sufificiently prove that the Rev. Archibald Camp- 
bell, whatever may have been the difficulties and alienations re- 
ferred to, left the church and town with a good record. It was 
not until five months after the church's vote to dismiss him that 
the town would consent to this action, and it was done then at 
his earnest solicitation. January i, 1783, the church renewed 
their vote, and recommended their retiring pastor to the Gospel 
ministry in Charlton, and to the confidence of any church where 
his lot might be cast. And so in company with his coarse and 
unamiable wife, and with the children who were to do their part 
towards embittering his lot, he sadly turned his back upon the 
scenes of his first ministry, which had opened with bright prom- 
ise, but closed in disastrous eclipse. The previous dealings of 
the town with its ministers were of such a character that we can 
now feel no surprise in learning that more than seven years 
elapsed from the date of his dismissal, before Mr. Campbell re- 
ceived in full the payment of his just dues. 

He was installed as pastor in Charlton, January 8, 1783. His 
life there was in some respects a repetition of his experience in 
Easton. Beginning with the interest excited by his gifts as a 
preacher, and by his amiable personal qualities, it was not long 



198 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

before the same dark fate overtook him here that had made his 
last years in Easton unhappy. His wife was observed to take no 
interest in his work, preferring, as she now did, the inspiration 
of the bottle to any that religion had to offer her. Nor was it 
long before his children began to add to the bitterness of the 
cup he was forced to drink. It was while Mr. Campbell was in 
Charlton that Stephen Burroughs, of notorious fame, made that 
place his home. He was a man of versatile talent, but a counter- 
feiter, a rake, and a thoroughly unprincipled villain. He taught 
school in Charlton, and was arrested and brought to court 
charged with gross improprieties towards some of his pupils. 
Mr. Campbell was present at the trial, and Judge Robert Treat 
Paine severely reproved the town of Charlton for hiring, and 
Mr. Campbell for countenancing, Mr. Burroughs. Mr. Campbell 
undertook to reply, but was peremptorily silenced by the court. 
The most damaging thing to be said of Mr. Campbell is that 
he received a compliment from Burroughs, who wrote that he 
" was a man of feeling, and had expressed his natural repugnance 
at my imprisonment." How much occasion Mr. Campbell had 
to rue the day that made this bad man an acquaintance in his 
family, may be inferred from the fact that one of his daughters 
named her son, born before marriage, Hiram Burroughs. Mr. 
Campbell's eldest son, Archibald, Jr., brought a similar disgrace 
upon the family name, the victim being his own cousin. It is 
not therefore strange that our sorrow-stricken minister, whose 
influence for good was now destroyed, and whose heart was 
burdened by a triple load of shame, should wish to leave this 
second scene of trouble and sorrow. Accordingly, at his own 
request, he was dismissed from his ministry in Charlton, April 9, 
1793, — a ministry of ten unhappy years. He did not have the 
heart to settle again, though he lived for twenty-five years after- 
wards, preaching occasionally as opportunity offered. 

Mr. Campbell's failure to settle again was from no loss of ability, 
and from no decline of religious interest. There is evidence, as 
we have said, that he was a man of superior gifts as a preacher ; 
and his services, but for his family, would anywhere have been 
eagerly sought. By great good fortune, and through the kind- 
ness of the Rev. T. S. Hubbard, of Stockbridge, Vt., the writer 
has in his possession a manuscript sermon by Mr. Campbell. A 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 199 

portion of it will be given below. It shows exceptional ability 
of composition and much rhetorical power. Its theology is anti- 
quated, for its doctrine of the atonement, which represents Christ 
as actually suffering under the wrath of an incensed God, long 
since gave way to a more rational and merciful theory. But it 
is full of feeling and power. It shows a heart deeply affected by 
love of Christ, and thoroughly permeated and possessed with a 
devout and adoring faith. The first page, with the text, is miss- 
ing. The following selection will be read with interest ; and it 
will prove that the troubles that had poured like a flood upon 
him had not weakened, and may even have intensified, his faith 
and love : — 

" He whose Dignity is unchangeable, undevided, and all his own, 
he vouchsafed to wear a Body of Clay ; he was content to appear as 
a Bloody Eclipse, shorn of his Resplendant Beams, and surrounded 
with a night of horror which knew not one Reviving Ray. Thus he 
has impowered his Church to tread the world under her feet,^ and 
inspired with the hope of Brighter glory, of more enduring Bliss, to 
triumph over all the vain anxieties and vainer amusements of this sub- 
lunary transitory world. He who has the ControU of the Lightnings 
that formerly laid in ashes the Licentious Abodes of Lust and Vio- 
lence, that will ere long set on fire the elements, and Co-operate in the 
Conflagration of the globe ; He Who Directs you when to sally and 
when to strike ; He who Commissions your whirling bolts whom to 
kill and whom to spare, — He Resigned his Sacred Person to the most 
Barbarous indignities. Submitted his Beneficent hands to the Ponder- 
ous hammer and the Piercing nail, yea, withheld not his heart from 
the stab of the executioners spear; and instead of flashing Confusion 
on his outrageous tormenters, instead of striking them Dead to the 
earth, or Plunging them into the Depths of Hell with his power, he 
Cried in his last expiring moments, and with his agonizing lips he 
Cried, ' Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they Do ! ' A 
Pattern of Patience for his saints ! What an object of admiration for 
angels ! Hence it is that we are not trembling under lightnings of 
Mount Sinai ; that we are not blasted by the flames of Divine Vean- 
gence, or Doomed to Dwell with everlasting burnings. He, instead 
of Discharging the furiousness of his wrath upon a guilty world, 
Poured out his Prayers and Sighs, Poured out his veiy soul for 
me and my fellow transgressors, that by Virtue of his_ inestimable 

1 Rev. xii. i. 



200 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Propitiation the overflowings of Divine good-will might be extended to 
sinful men, that the skies might Pour Down righteousness, and peace 
with her Downy wings and balmy Blessings might Descend and dwell 
on the earth. He uttered a infantile cry in the stable, and strong 
expiring groans on the accursed tree, that he might in the gentlest 
accents whisper peace to our souls, and at length tune our Voices to 
the melody of heaven. 

" He, in the unutterable bitterness of his spirit, was without any Com- 
forting sense of his almighty father's Pressence ; he, when his bones 
were burnt up like a fire brand with the flames of avenging wrath, had 
not one Drop of that sacred Consolation which on many of his af- 
flicted servants has been Distilled like the evenings Dew and given 
songs in the night of Distress, that from this unallayed and inconsole- 
able anguish of our all-glorious Master we, as from a well of salva- 
tion, might Derive large Draughts of spiritual Refreshment. He 
through all his life was arrayed in the humble garb of Poverty, and 
at his exit wore the gorgeous garment of Contempt, in-so-much that 
even his own familiar friends, ashamed or afraid to own him, ' hid as 
it were their faces from him ' (Isa. liii. 3), to teach us a becoming 
Disdain for the unsubstantial and transitory glitter of all worldly vani- 
ties, to introduce us in Robes brighter than the tinges of the Resplen- 
dant arch, even in the Robes of his own immaculate righteosness, 
to introduce us before that august and venerable throne which the 
Peacful Rainbow surrounds. As a Pledge of inviolable fidelity and 
infinite mercy he went, all meek and gentle, like a lamb to the slaughter 
for us ; and as a sheep before her shearer is Dumb, so he opened not 
his mouth. Thus are we instructed to bear, with Decent magnanimity, 
the various assaults of adversity, and to Pass with a becoming tran- 
quility of temper through the Ruder blasts of injurious treatment ; 
thus are we Delivered from the unutterably fiercer storms of incensed 
and inexorable justice, from the fire, the Brimstone, and the horrible 
tempest which will be the final Portion of the ungodly. He in his 
holy humanity was arraigned as a Criminal, and though innocence 
itself, yea the very Pattern of Perfection, was Condemned to die like 
a Criminal, like the most execrable Miscreant, as a Nuisance to so- 
ciety, and the very bane of the Public happiness ; he was hurried away 
to execution and hammered to the gibbet, that by his Blood he might 
Prepare a Sovreign Medicine to Cure us of a more fatal Distemper 
than the Pestilence which walketh in Darkness or Destroyeth at noon- 
day, that he might himself say to our last enemy, ' O Death, I will be 
thy Plague ! O grave, I will be thy Destruction ! ' Yes, the King of 
heaven and Controller of universal nature, when Dwelling in a taber- 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 20I 

nacle of Clay, was exposed to Chilling Damps and smitten by sultry 
beams ; the stars in their Midnight watches heard him Pray, and the 
sun in his Meridian fervors saw him toil : Hence are our frozen 
hearts Dissolved into a mingled flow of wonder, love, and joy, being 
Conscious of a Deliverance from those insufferable flames, which 
kindled by Divine indignation burn to the lowest hell. Our allglori- 
ous and everblessed Creator's head was encircled with the thorny 
wreath, his face was Defiled with Contemelous spitting, and his Body 
bathed in a bloody sweat, that we might wear the Crown of glory that 
fadeth not away. All the waves of vengeance and wrath, of tribula- 
tion and anguish passed over his crusified body and his agonizing 
soul, that we might emerge from those Depths of misery, from that 
abyss of guilt into which we were Plunged by Adam's fall and more 
erritreavbly sunk by our own transgressions ; that at last we might be 
restored to that happy world which is Represented in the vision of 
god as having 'no sea' to Denote its perpetual stability and undis- 
turbed serenity. He who Blesses the labors of the husbandman, and 
enriches your well-tilled plains with waving harvests, and Calls forth 
the staff of life from your furrows. He was no stranger to Corroding 
hunger and parching thirst. He, alas ! ate the Bitter Bread of wo, 
and had plenteous of tears to Drink ; yes, he who supplies all the 
fountains and currents of water from his own overflowing and inex- 
haustible liberality, — he, when his nerves were racked with exquisite 
pain and his Blood inflamed by a Raging fever, Cried, ' I thirst,' and 
was Denied the poor refreshment of a single Drop of water in his 
great and last extremity, that we having all-sufficiency in all things 
might abound unto evry good word and work ; that we might partake 
of Richer Daintes than those produced by the fountains or the Dew 
of heaven, or that proceed from the fatness of the earth ; that we 
might feed on the hidden manna and eat the Bread which giveth life, 
eternal life to the world, and be filled with the fulness of spiritual 
Blessings here and hereafter, be satisfied with the fulness of joy 
which is at god's Right hand forevermore. 

" Our Allglorious and everblessed Creator's head was incircled 
with a thorny wreath, his face Defiled with spitting, and his Body 
bathed in a Bloody sweat. He sunk beneath a load of woes, — woes 
insupportable, but not his own, when he took our inequities upon 
himself and heaved the more than mountaneous burden from a 
guilty world. He when sojourning on earth had no Riches but the 
Riches of Disinterested Benevolence ; had no ornament but the or- 
nament of unspotted purity. Poor he was in his Circumstances 
and mean in all his accommodations, that we might be Rich in 



202 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

grace and obtain salvation with eternal glory ; that we might in- 
habit the new Jerusalem, — that splendid City whose streets are 
paved with gold." 

That this sermon was written in his old age is apparent from 
this sentence : " For me the author of all blessings became a 
curse ; for me he hung with streaming veins upon the cross ; 
for me his bones were dislocated and his flesh was torn. O, 
may I in my little sphere, and amidst the scanty circle of my ac- 
quaintance, at least whisper these glad, transporting tidings, — 
whisper them from my old hearth If at this time he could write 
with such feeling and power, it is obvious that in his prime he 
must have been a preacher of uncommon rhetorical ability and 
fervent religious spirit. The latter half of the sermon is a 
touching appeal to rouse in his hearers a devout and ardent 
gratitude to the Redeemer, whose sufferings for their sakes he 
so vividly portrays. He makes a feeling allusion to the " chil- 
dren of poverty," which must have been wrung from his own 
hard experience. And in the light of his special sorrows, it is 
truly pathetic to read these words : " If God pleases to with- 
hold or take away the affection of children, never presume that 
thy happiness is blasted because of such disappointment." 

Mr. Campbell was fifty-seven years old when he was dismissed 
from his pastoral charge at Charlton. Few ministers find a new 
settlement after that age ; in these days, at least, their ripe ex- 
perience and wisdom count little against the desire for younger, 
fresher, perhaps brighter men. But Mr. Campbell was too dis- 
couraged and heart-broken to seek another parish. We hear of 
him for a little while at Cornish, New Hampshire, and it is said he 
preached a year at Alstead, New Hampshire. He made his home 
for some time with his brother, Capt. William Campbell, of Put- 
ney, Vermont. There he might be seen walking on the street, 
dressed in his small clothes, with silver knee and shoe buckles, 
and wearing a cocked hat, — the same kind of costume he had 
worn in Easton. He finally made his home in Stockbridge, 
Vermont, preaching when he had opportunity. He was there 
as early as 1802, for at that time he deeded a piece of land in 
that place to his daughter Sophia. 

One day a Mr. Littlefield, of Easton, was travelling on horse- 
back in Vermont, and coming to a pond he stopped his horse 






THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 



203 



to let him drink. A short distance away he saw an old man 
sitting upon a rock, fishing. He entered into conversation with 
him, and when he told him that he lived in Easton, Mass., the 
old man looked up with sudden interest, and with much feeling 
said : " Easton was once my home. My name is Campbell ; I 
used to preach there ; but they were cruel and drove me away, 
and ruined me." Poor old man ! In the bitterness of his soul 
it was a relief to ascribe to others the ruin that had been brought 
upon him by his own family. 

His cup was nearly full. His wife and one son and daughter 
had disgraced him ; another son was feeble-minded. And now 
to the darkness of his soul was added the darkness of bodily 
sight ; he became blind ! What could be more deplorable } He 
was once the pride of his father's heart, carefully educated, of 
excellent gifts, with the prospect of a brilliant and happy future ; 
and here he was at last, feeble, penniless, and blind, — failure 
behind him, unhappy remembrances tormenting him. So he 
dragged out his weary days to the end. Occasionally he 
preached even after he was blind, being led into the pulpit by 
some one, and having his hymns and Scripture lesson com- 
mitted to memory. During these latter days he lived with and 
was mainly supported by a grandson, Mr. William Demmond, in 
Stockbridge, who had married Martha, daughter of Archibald 
Campbell, Jr. The Rev. Archibald Campbell's wife died May 
24, 18 14, and his lot must have thenceforth been a little easier. 
Kindly death came at last to give rest to his troubled spirit, and, 
let us hope, to open his blind eyes to the light of everlasting 
day. He breathed his last July 15, 18 18, eighty-two years old. 
His remains were placed by the side of those of his wife, on 
Stockbridge Common. There are these two graves unmarked 
as yet, still possibly able to be identified, but soon destined, we 
fear, to be forgotten. 

Of Mr. Campbell's family little further need be said. Of his 
first child, Susanna, little is positively known, except that on 
August 24, 1763, she was baptized by her father. The writer 
of this history has corresponded with a person in Stockbridge 
who knew the daughter Sophia, and who says the other daughter 
"married a shoemaker and went west." This other daughter 
must have been Susanna. The son Barnard was deficient in 



204 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



intellect ; he knew enough to steal a horse, but not enough 
to escape being hung for the theft. Two children, John and 
Hannah, had the good fortune to die young, — John dying at five 
years of age, and Hannah at three. Their remains, doubtless, 
have mingled with the dust in unmarked graves in the old ceme- 
tery in Easton. The son Archibald, before he was sixteen 
years old, served for two short campaigns in the Revolution- 
ary War in Rhode Island. He was guilty of gross immorality 
at Charlton ; married, however, and had two children, — Bar- 
nard, born August 17, 1788, and Martha, born March 22, 1792. 
His wife then dying, he deserted his children, who were brought 
up by the Rev. Mr. Campbell their grandfather ; and afterward 
he enlisted in the army, serving under General Wayne. Accord- 
ing to records at Washington, he is credited with such service, 
but nothing shows that he received any pay. He is said to have 
been last heard of in 1803. There was, however, in the Massa- 
chusetts service from 181 1 to 1813, inclusive, an Archibald Camp- 
bell, who occupied the position and secured the pay of Brigade 
Quartermaster. The name is so uncommon that it seems quite 
probable that this may have been the Archibald Campbell, Jr., 
of whom we are now writing. He disappears from the list of 
paid officers in 181 3. The only other child was Sophia. We 
are glad to be able to record, that, notwithstanding the eccen- 
tricities and misdeeds of earlier days, she finally settled down 
and married, and lived a penitent and Christian life. She mar- 
ried Walter Pollard, who was in some military service, probably 
that of 1812-1814. He died at Stockbridge, July 27, 1857, aged 
83 years, the same age as Sophia. She outlived him and re- 
ceived a small pension, and was also helped by the town. One 
who was acquainted with her, and with whom the writer has 
corresponded, says of her, " She was one of the nicest old ladies 
I ever knew." By lowly repentance, and by a life of fruits meet 
for repentance, she atoned for the past, and at last, with faith 
in redeeming love, she joined the forgiven and the blest. 

Thus closes the strange and sad story of the Rev. Archibald 
Campbell and his 'wayward and eccentric family. While his 
troubles began with his own misconduct, he was a man " more 
sinned against than sinning." With the one exception named, 
the writer, after the most diligent and patient search, has found 



i 



THE REV. ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL. 205 

no stain upon his record, and no act that could cause him to 
blush with shame. But his experience illustrates the inexo- 
rable truth, so often and vividly developed in the writings of 
George Eliot, that some early departure from the strict line of 
rectitude may involve evil consequences that seem immensely 
out of proportion to the error or guilt incurred, or to the 
punishment originally deserved, 

VVe cannot do better than to close this chapter with a poem 
written by Mr. Campbell, and copied by him upon the last page 
of the sermon from which selections have already been made. 
It shows considerable poetic talent, and seems a fitting epitome 
of his own sad experience. 

"THE VALE OF TEARS." 

In visions which are not of night, a shadowy vale I see. 

The Path of Pilgrim tribes who are, who have been, or shall be. 

At either end are lowering clouds impervious to the sight, 

And frequent shadows veil through out each gleam of Passing light. 

A Path it is of joys and griefs, of many hopes and fears, 

Gladdened at times by sunny smiles, but oftener Dimmed by tears. 

Green leaves are there, — they quickly fade ; bright flowers, but soon they Die ; 

Its Banks are laved by pleasant streams. But soon their Bed is dry. 

And some that Roll on the last with undiminished force 

Have lost that limpid purity which graced their early source ; 

They seem to Borrow in their flow the tinge of Darkening years, 

And ev'n their mournful murmuring sound befits the vale of tears. 

Pleasant that valley's opening scenes appear to Childhood's view, — 

The flowers are Bright, the turf is green, the sky above is blew; 

A Blast may Blight, a beam may scorch, a Cloud may intervene, 

But lightly marked & soon forgot, they mar not such a scene ; 

Fancy still paints the future Bright, and hope the present cheers, 

Nor can we Deem the path we tread leads through a vale of tears. 

But soon, too soon, the flowers that Decked our earthly pathway side 

Have Drooped and withered on their stalks, and one by one have Died ; 

The turf by noontide's heat is seared, the sky is overcast, 

There 's thunder in the torrent's tone, and tempest in the Blast. 

Fancy is but a phantom found, and hope a Dream appears, 

And more and more our hearts confess this life 's a vale of tears. 

Darker and Darker seems the path, how sad to journey on 

When hands and hearts which gladdened ours appear forever gone ! 

Some Cold in Death, and some, alas ! we fancied could not Chill, 

Living to self and to the world to us seem colder still. 

With mournful Retrospective glance we look for brighter years. 

But tread with solitary steps the thorny vale of tears. 



2o6 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 

Difficulties with the Mother Country. — Eastox Discourages 

THE USE of "FORRIN SUPERFLUITIES." — EASTON "DAUGHTERS OF 

Liberty."— The "Lexington Alarm." — Enlistments in 1775.— 
Enlistments in 1776. — Rhode Island "Alarms." — Enlistments 
IN 1777 and 1778. — Easton Men at Valley Forge. — Later 
Enlistments. — Continental Currency and its Depreciation. — 
Tories. — Biographies of Easton Military Officers: Captains 
Elisha Harvey and James Keith ; Colonel Ariel Mitchell ; Cap- 
tains James Perry, Matthew Randall, Josiah Keith, Macey 
Williams, Seth Pratt, and Ephraim Burr. — Brigadier-General 
Benjamin Tupper and Major Anselm Tupper. 

THE difficulties with the Mother Country which finally cul- 
minated in the Revolutionary War date back eleven 
years before that memorable struggle began. In 1763 the 
colonies were fervently attached to England and the English 
Constitution. In 1764, however, contrary to the judgment of 
William Pitt and some of the liberal minds of England, it was 
decided to levy taxes on the colonies in order to defray the ex- 
penses of the long war which had just closed. This policy roused 
the opposition of this country, our people taking the just ground 
that taxation without representation was a dangerous form of 
oppression. The colonists were not allowed to export their pro- 
ducts to any country except England. Sheep-raising and weav- 
ing woollen cloth were discouraged by an Act of Parliament 
which forbade the exportation of wool, or even its transportation 
across the line of one province into another. They were not 
allowed to print a Bible, and none was printed here until after 
the land became free. In this land of the beaver, no one could 
be a hatter who had not served an apprenticeship of seven years. 
The duties on imports were largely increased. What brought 
the matter closely home to the people of Easton was the fact that 
slitting-mills and forges, of which there were several here, were 
pronounced by this same Act to be " nuisances." 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 207 

And now, most odious of all, the Stamp Act, which had re- 
ceived the royal sanction March 22, 1765, was on the ist of 
November to go into effect.^ The act was not of itself espe- 
cially severe. It merely provided that deeds, notes, marriage 
certificates, and other legal documents should be written on 
stamped paper, — the money for the sale of this paper going to 
the Government. What caused the intense excitement about it 
in the colonies was that it involved the unjust principle of taxa- 
tion without representation. The excitement of course extended 
to Easton. One curious indication of this — an indication also 
that our townsmen were not entirely unanimous on the subject- 
may be seen in the "Boston Gazette " of December 23, 1765. 
It is as follows : — 

"We hear from Easton, in the county of Bristol, that a certain justice 
of the peace in said town in conversation said that he would not give 
the price of his black dog to prevent the Stamp Act's taking pltce. 
Accordingly he had the mortification to find his black dog shot the 
next morning." 

The Stamp Act could not be enforced in the colonies, and on 
the nineteenth day of March, 1766, its repeal was reluctantly 
signed by the king. 

In 1767 new and severe taxes were levied. They were not to 
be collected until the 20th of November. On the 28th of Octo- 
ber the people of Boston, in town-meeting assembled, voted to 
avoid the importation and use of a great number of articles of 
British manufacture. They appointed a committee to secure 
the co-operation of the other towns of the Province and of the 
other colonies. Easton was appealed to, and made a quick 
response by summoning its voters to town-meeting on the six- 
teenth day of November, " to act their minds relating to the 
Defeculty the Province labours under," etc. At this meeting a 
committee was appointed to consider the best plan of action. 
This committee, which consisted of Daniel Williams, Esq., Capt. 
Benjamin Williams, Lieut. Matthew Hayward, Benjamin Pettin- 
gill, and Henry Howard, made their report at an adjourned 
meeting, which was held on the 7th of December. The follow- 
ing business was enacted : — 

1 See Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. v. p. 265 et seq. 



2o8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



" Whareas this Province labours under a heavey Debt in curd in the 
course of the late Ware, and the inhabitance by that means must be 
subjected to very Burdensum taxes, and our medeum very scarce, 
chiefly Ocationd by the excessive Use of forrin Superfluities and the 
Neglect of cultivating and improving the Natural advantages of our 
own Country, — therefore Voted that the Town will take all Prudant & 
legal measurs to Promote industry, Oeconeme, and manufactors, and 
to lessen the Use of forrin Superfluities by industreously cultivating 
and improving the Natural advantages of our own Country. The 
above Was Voted Unanimusly." ^ 

The importation of British goods was thus greatly discouraged. 
People determined to forego their use as much as possible. 
Threadbare clothes became fashionable. The noise of spin- 
ning-wheels and shuttles was heard in our homes. "Every day 
the humor spread for being clad in homespun." One great sav- 
ing was that made at funerals. A singular custom had prevailed 
of giving away great numbers of mourning gloves, handkerchiefs, 
ribbons, etc, to those who attended funerals. The following 
from the " Boston Gazette" of December 14, 1767, will show how 
Boston started a reform in this particular : — 

"The practice of the Town relative to Funerals is to give Gloves 
only to Bearers and Ministers ; to make Use of no other Mourning for 
the nearest Relations than a Weed in the Hat for Men, and a black 
Bonnet, Gloves, Ribbons, and Handkerchiefs for Women. Fifteen 
Hundred or Two Thousand Pair of British-made Gloves have been 
given or rather thrown away at one Funeral before the new practice 
took Place ; and such Families in Boston as then expended ;^ioo 
Sterling or ^150 Sterling on those occasions, now expend scarcely ^8. 
What a Saving will there be to the Province in this grand particular ! " 

In order to make up for the deficiency of imported goods, 
associations of patriotic ladies were formed in many towns to 
spin and knit and weave. These associations called themselves 
" Daughters of Liberty." Sometimes they met at the house of 
the minister, working the entire day, and leaving the results of 
their labor as a gift to the minister's wife. In the Boston papers 
of that period there were many accounts of such gatherings. 

^ Old Town Records, vol. ii. p. 58. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



209 



One can easily imagine how animated must have been the 
scene, where the busy hum of spinning-wheels and the lively 
sound of many voices made music the whole day long. At 
Bridgewater the Daughters of Liberty adopted the plan of 
doing the work at home, and carrying the results of their labor 
to the minister's house afterwards. Easton had its associa- 
tion of these Daughters, and they adopted the same plan as 
that of their sisters of Bridgewater. In the " Boston Gazette '.' 
of October 24, 1774, was published the following interesting 
account : — 

" We hear from Easton that on Thursday the 13th Instant 53 of 
the amiable Daughters of Liberty met at the House of the Rev. Mr. 
Campbell, about One O'clock in the Afternoon, and presented Mrs. 
Campbell with Two Hundred and Eighty Skeins of Cotton, Linnen, 
Worsted, Woolen, and Tow Yarn, likewise some pieces of Cloth, Stock- 
ings, 8zc. ; then they all Walked in Orderly Procession to the Meeting- 
House, where a sermon was Preached suitable to the Occasion by 
their Rev. Pastor ; and after Divine Service they return'd in the same 
orderly Procession to the Rev. Mr. Campbell's House, where they 
pleasantly regail'd themselves with Cakes, Cheese, and Wine, and then 
they seasonably retir'd to their respective Families. The whole was 
Conducted with the greatest Decency and good order ; every Counte- 
nance indicated a Noble Spirit for Liberty and the promotion of our 
own Manufactures." 

The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts directed the 
people of the Province to perfect themselves in military skill, 
and each town to provide a stock of arms and ammunition. 
Accordingly Easton at once called a town-meeting, and voted 
the sum of twenty-four pounds sterling " to purchase a stock of 
powder, bullets, and flints for the town." This was Novem- 
ber 15, 1774. The two military companies of the town were 
equipped, and there was constant practice in military drill. 
Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., had begun the manufacture of firearms 
at what is now called the Marshall place, and the need of the 
two Easton companies in this particular was therefore readily 
supplied. The conviction was daily growing stronger that war 
was inevitable, and the winter was spent in making ready for 
the emergency. 

14 



2IO HISTORY OF EASTON. 



A.D. 1775. 

The towns of the Province were urged by the Provincial 
Congress to have men ready to take the field at a moment's 
notice. In response to this appeal of the Boston Committee of 
Correspondence, Easton took the following formal action : — 

" At a Town meating of the inhabitants of the Town of Easton on 
Munday the 3d day of April, a.d. 1775, the Town made choice of Mr. 
Joseph Gilbert moderator for sd meating; then the Town voted to 
Rais fifty minute [men], twenty-five out of each Military Company in 
sd. Easton; then the town voted that the said minit men should be Paid 
for the time they should be cauld fourth to action against an Enemie ; 
then the meating Was Dismist." 

No one foresaw how soon these men would be called into 
active service. On the night of the i8th of April, 1775, eight 
hundred British troops crossed in boats from the foot of Bos- 
ton Common to East Cambridge, and about midnight began 
their march to Concord to destroy the military stores which 
had been collected there. Secret as the movement was, it 
did not escape the vigilance of the watchful patriots. Signal 
lights were hung from the tower of the North Church, and 
Paul Revere and others hastened to spread the alarm to the 
neighboring towns. The memorable fight at Lexington and 
Concord, and the disastrous retreat of the British on the 
19th are well-known incidents in our glorious Revolutionary 
struggle. 

It was just past midday when a galloping horseman came 
dashing through the town of Easton, bringing to our people 
the starthng intelligence that the Middlesex farmers had fired 
the first shot for Independence ! Messengers hurried imme- 
diately to every part of the town calling the minute men to 
arms, and before nightfall two companies, numbering respec- 
tively forty-seven and fifty men, were on their way to the 
scene of action. Late in the day the company commanded 
by Captain Abiel Mitchell was seen marching, to the stirring 
music of fife and drum, along the old Stoughton turnpike. It 
is fitting that the names of our ancestors of Easton who took 
part in the memorable struggle that made our country free. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



211 



should be handed down to posterity. The following is the 
" Muster Roll of Capt. Abial Mitchell who was down at the 
Alarm " : ^ — 



Abiel Mitchell, Captain. 

Jacob Leonard, Lieutenant. 

Silas Kinsley, Ensign (died May 19). 

Matthew Randall, Sergeatit. 

Daniel Niles, Sergeatit. 

Dominicus 'Record, Sergeant. 

Seth Manley, Corporal. 

Jonah Fobes, Corporal. 

Benjamin Kinsley, Corporal. 

Samuel Stone, Jr., Corporal. 

John Mears, Drtcinmer. 

Seth Watkins, Fifer. 

Parmenas Ames. 

William Adams. 

William Lawson. 

Jacob Phillips. 

Silas Phillips. 

Amasa Phillips. 

Henry Howard. 

Hezekiah Drake. 

David Dunbar. 

Noah Drake. 

Nathaniel Packard. 

Thomas Fling. 



Joseph Hayward. 
Isaac Lincoln. 
Roger Conant. 
Jonah Drake. 
Zachariah Drake. 
John Holmes. 
Alexander Keith. 
William Lindsey. 
Nehemiah Randall. 
James Randall. 
John Randall. 
Hopestill Randall. 
Jonathan Harris. 
Simeon Keith.- 
Joseph Drake, y"^ 3d. 
John Stone. 
William Pratt. 
James Packard. 
Daniel Fobes. 
John Woodcock. 
Nathan Woodcock. 
Oliver Phillips. 
Ephraim Randall. 



This company was mainly from the east part of the town. 
Another, commanded by Capt. Macey Williams, immediately fol- 
lowed, and going by the old Bay road took up their night march 
for the scene of action. Their names are as follows :^ — 



Macey Williams, Captain. 
Josiah Keith, Lietitenant. 
Elijah Howard, Ensign. 
David Keith, Sergeant. 
Jonathan Pratt, Setgeant. 
William Randall, Setgeant. 
Ebenezer Woods, Sergeant. 
Clement Drake, Corporal. 
Isaac Fuller, Corporal. 
Seth Littlefield, Corporal. 



Samuel Gilbert, Corporal. 
Jonathan Keith, Drummer. 
John Dunbar. 
Francis Goward. 
Marlborough Williams. 
Seth Williams. 
Jacob Allen. 
Joseph Hanks. 
John Woods. 
Francis Woods. 



^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xiii. p. 16. 



- Ibid., p. 160. 



2J2 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Daniel Woods. John Williams. 

William Bonney. David Clarke. 

Joshua Stearns. Edward Williams. 

Edward Kingman. Ammiruhami Kimball. 

Benjamin Kingman. Paul Lincoln. 

Lewis Gilbert. Amariah Wood. 

Amasa Record. Anthony Hayward.^ 

Ebenezer Bruce. Nathan Gibbs. 

Nathaniel Gilbert. Seth Keith. 

Phineas Allen. Stephen Thayer. 

Lemuel Andrews. Thomas Drake. 

Ebenezer Bisbee. Stoughton Willis. 

Edward Keith. Zephaniah Lothrop. 

Matthew Keith. Benjamin Merrifield. 

Elijah Williams. John Dailey. 

The battles of Lexington and Concord were over, and the 
British soldiers had retreated to Boston before our two Eas- 
ton companies arrived upon the scene. They remained in the 
field from seven to eleven days, when it appeared that the 
immediate emergency was over, and they returned home. It 
was now the 28th of April. On the 4th of May a town- 
meeting was held. It was voted that the committee of inspec- 
tion should be a committee of correspondence also. These 
" committees of correspondence and safety " were appointed 
at the suggestion of that sturdy patriot Samuel Adams, and 
they rendered efficient service in keeping the several towns 
informed of the state of affairs, and in pointing out to them 
the manner in which they could best aid the great cause of 
liberty. The soldiers who responded to the Lexington alarm 
having returned, enlistments of men for three and six months' 
service were encouraged. The town voted at this meeting 
to supply with blankets those who enlisted. The Easton men 
who enlisted at this time were mainly in the companies of 
Capt. Francis Luscomb, of Taunton, and Capt. Macey Wil- 
liams, of this town. Some, whose names are given below, 
were, however, in other companies. Captain Luscomb formed a 
company, upon the muster-roll of which appear the following 
Easton names :^ — 

^ This Anthony Hayward was a slave, the property of Matthew Hayward. 
'^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xv. p. 57; Military Papers, vol. Ivi. 
p. 141 ; Coat Rolls, vol. i. p. 141. 



f 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



21 



Matthew Randall, Lietitenant. 
Seth Pratt, Ensign. 
Daniel Niles, Sergeant. 
Dominicus Record, Sergeant. 
Seth Manley, Corporal. 
Jonah Fobes, Corporal. 
Samuel Stone, Corporal. 
John Mears, Drjim 6r» Fife. 
William Adams. 
Simeon Burr. 
Joseph Drake, y'= 3d. 
David Dunbar. 
Noah Drake. 
Simeon Keitly. t 
Isaac Lincoln, 
William Lawson. 
Oliver Lincoln. 
Abiah Manley. 
Samuel Manley. 

John Woodcock. 



Silas Phillips. 
Amasa Phillips. 
William Pratt, y^ 3d. 
James Packard. 
Ebenezer Phillips. 
Hezekiah Drake. 
Ebenezer Dickerman, 
Daniel Fobes. 
Henry Hovi^ard. 
Bartimeus Hevvett. 
Joseph Hanks. 
John Holmes. 
Jonathan Harris. 
Solomon Randall. 
Nehemiah Randall. 
John Stone. 
James Stone. 
John Turner. 
David Taylor. 



Of this company, John Turner died July 30, Joseph Hanks 
September 2d, John Woodcock the nth, and Jonathan Harris 
the 19th of the same month ; and Daniel Niles, November 2. 
Captain Luscomb's company served for six months, beginning 
May 3, in the vicinity of Boston, which was then held by the 
British. 

Capt. Macey Williams's company was enlisted about the same 
time and for the same service. The names of the Easton men 
in this company are as follows : ^ — 



Macey Williams, Captain, 

Lemuel Gilbert, Sergeant. 

Marlborough Williams, Corporal. 

Unite Keith, Fifer. 

Lewis Gilbert. 

Elijah Williams. 

Matthew Keith. 

Clement Drake. 

Jacob Thayer. 

Stephen Thayer. 

Ebenezer Gibbs. 

Moses Downe. 



Daniel Wood. 
Thomas Willis. 
Ebenezer Vining. 
Jonathan Knapp. 
Joshua Stearns. 
Ruel Keith. 
Nathan Gibbs. 
Seth Williams. 
Zephaniah Lothrop. 
Timothy Gilbert. 
Japheth Keith. 



^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xvi. p. 80 ; Military Papers, vol. Ivi. 
p. 137 ; Coat Rolls, vol. i. p. 37. 



214 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Of this company Matthew Keith died September 21, 1775. 
It will be observed that most of the men in these two companies 
were among those who went out on the Lexington alarm. Their 
names are given here because they served at this time from three 
to six months. They were in the twenty-second regiment, com- 
manded by Col. Timothy Walker. Easton furnished four other 
captains during this year ; two of them were in Col. Paul D. 
Sargent's regiment. They had in their companies but few 
Easton men, whose names are given below : ^ — 

James Keith, Captain. David Keith. Nehemiah Keith. 

Another company^ contained — 

James Perry, Captain. David Mehurin. 

John Woods, Corporal. Nathan Gibbs. 

Cornelius Gibbs. William Hayward. 

In the same regiment, and in a company of which Frederic 
Pope was captain, were the following Easton men :^ — 

Elijah Turner, Sergeant. Hugh Washburn. 

Robert Hill, Corporal. Jonah Drake. 

Nathaniel Packard. Seth Drake. 
Nathaniel Stone. 

One of these men, Nathaniel Packard, died September 10. 
In another company, commanded by Capt. John Porter, were 
the following :^ — 

Isaac Fuller, Lieutenant. Benjamin Hanks. 

Oliver Mann, Corporal. Abraham Howard. 

John Freelove. James Manley. 
Oliver Phillips. 

James Manley died November 22. In Captain Badlam's com- 
pany, of Colonel Gridley's regiment, was Seth Watkins.^ In 
Captain Curtis's company, of Col. Ephraim Leonard's regiment, 
was Anthony Hayward.*^ Moses Hayward enlisted in Capt. 
Daniel Lothrop's company, of Col. John Bailey's regiment.^ 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xv. p. 49. 2 Jbid., p. 87. 

8 Ibid., vol. xvi. p. 5. « Ibid., p. 16. ^ Ibid., vol. Ivi. p. 267. 

6 Ibid., p. 18. T Ibid., p. 53. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 21 5 

The names of the Easton volunteers already noted comprise all 
who served from this town during the year 1775- 

Those enlisting after the Lexington alarm, and those for the 
eight months' service, were entitled to a coat as bounty. After 
their return they sent in their orders for the coats. The follow- 
ing are copies of orders of that kind: — 

Mr. Richard Devins, Paymaster : 

Sir, — I desire you to let Hopestill Randall the bearer hereof have 
the coat [for uniform], or cash or both, that is due to my late husband 
Sergt. Daniel Niles, who deceased Nov. 2nd, 1775 i ^"<i ^^ ^^^ belong 
to Capt. Luscomb's company under Colonel Walker. 

,' administratrix 
Elizabeth x Niles > of 

mark ) ^^^ estate.^ 

Easton, December y<= 26, a. d. 1775. 

Accompanying this paper was the following : — 
To the Committee of Cloathifig at Watertown : 

This may Certify that Elizabeth Niles hath taken out letters of 

administration on the estate of her late husband Daniel Niles, who 

deceased on the 2d day of last Nov. ; and we look upon it that she has 

a right to draw the coat money. 

Timothy Randall ) Selectmen of 

Ephraim Randall ) Easton? 
Easton, January y^ 13th, 1776. 

"Solomon Randall, Amasa Phillips, Bartimeus Hewett, William 
Adams, inhabitants of the town of Easton in Capt. Luscomb's Co., 
& acknowledged the receipt of a coat each from David Manley, of 
Easton." 

£ s. d. 
Two coats : three yards & half at seven eights wide ... 2 5 4 
Two coats : three yards & quarter at seven eights wide ..228 

Francis Luscomb, Capt. 
Matthew Randall, Lieut ^^ 
RoxKURY Camp, Nov. ye 14, 1775. 

Concerning the fate of Daniel Niles, alluded to above, there 
is something very interesting stated in the N. E. Historical and 

1 State Archives, Military Papers, vol. Ivii. p. 14. ^ Ibid., p. 14. 

"* Ibid., p. 14. 



2i6 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Genealogical Register for 1856. At this date there was stand- 
ing at the intersection of Austin and South streets, in Jamaica 
Plain, a house known as the Commodore Loring Mansion. It 
was built in 1760, and was confiscated and used as a hospital 
during the Revolutionary War. Daniel Niles was sick in this 
hospital, with some of his companions. Those who died were 
buried about a quarter of a mile behind the hospital. In 1856 
there were about thirty graves still to be seen ; but among all 
the head-stones at the place there was only one that showed 
the mark of the graver's tool, and in this the carving was well 
executed, and read as follows: — 

" Here lies y'^ Body of serg* Dan! Niles, of Easton, 
who died Nov? y*" a""* a. d., 1775. Aged 41 years." ^ 

In the same company with Sergeant Niles were four compan- 
ions from Easton, who died about the same time, — John Turner, 
Joseph Hanks, John Woodcock, and Jonathan Harris. It is 
probable that their remains lie beside those of their comrade, 
but in unmarked graves. 

Throughout this eventful year of 1775, the design of separat- 
ing from the Mother Country had not developed except in the 
minds of some of the boldest and most far-seeing of the patriots, 
like Samuel Adams. Our town-meetings continued to be called 
"in his Majesty's name." It was not until May, 1776, that this 
phrase was dropped, and our people, knowing that the die was 
cast, issued their warrants for town-meetings " in the name of 
the government and people of Massachusetts' Bay." During 
1775 Eliphalet Leonard and Benjamin Pettingill represented the 
town in " Congress," — by which is meant the " Provincial Con- 
gress" of Massachusetts, as the General Court was several times 
called. 

A. D. 1776. 

It is now the year 1776. Boston is in the hands of the 
British, and is closely beleaguered by the American forces 
commanded by Washington. Little is being done during the 
winter months in the way of active operations, and most of the 
Easton militia return to their homes. At a town-meeting of 

^ N. E. Historical and Genealogical Register, 1856, p. 23. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 21 7 

February 21, a committee is appointed to take charge of such of 
the " Poor of Boston " as were in this town. The passage of the 
Boston Port Bill in March 1774, preventing that town from being 
a port of entry, had paralyzed business and caused great distress. 
Many of the country towns, including our own, received numbers 
of those thus impoverished, or of refugees who left Boston on 
its occupation by the British, and kindly supplied their needs. 
The Committee of Correspondence and Safety at this time are 
Maj. Abial Mitchell, Benjamin Pettingill, Jacob Leonard, Joshua 
Phillips, Samuel Guild, and George Ferguson. 

In the next March meeting the Committee of Correspondence 
and Safety who are chosen are Joshua Phillips, Seth Pratt, Lem- 
uel Willis, Joseph Gilbert, Thomas Manley, Jr., Abisha Leach, 
and Edward Hayward. One of the greatest difficulties encoun- 
tered by General Washington was that of securing ammunition. 
In order to assist in its supply, Easton votes that this committee 
shall ' Incorage the manufacturin of Sault Peter in this town." 
March, 17, owing to the skilful occupation and fortification of 
Dorchester Heights by Washington, the British were forced to 
evacuate Boston in haste. In the following June, on the first 
anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, a notable town-meeting 
was held in Easton. It was voted that "If the Honerable Con- 
tinantal Congress for the safety of the United Colonies Declare 
them indepandent of Great Breton, we ingage, Even at the 
Resque of life and fortin, to do Whatever is in our Power to 
Soport them in sd. measure." And before the citizens met 
again, the famous Declaration of Independence was adopted. 
July 17 it was ordered in Council that a copy of the same be 
sent to every minister of each denomination in the Province, to 
be read to the various congregations on the first Sunday after 
its reception, as soon as divine service was ended in the after- 
noon. It was a most interesting occasion when, on the following 
Sunday, the Rev. Archibald Campbell, the minister of Easton at 
that time, read that heart-stirring document to an eagerly listen- 
ing audience, many of whom heard it then for the first time. 
Every one saw that a long and desperate struggle of the feeble 
colonies with a powerful nation was inevitable. It was also 
ordered by the Council that after the reading of this document 
each minister should hand it to the town-clerk, who should copy 



2i8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

it in full into the town records. This was done here, the town- 
clerk who proudly performed that office being Matthew Hayward. 

Great exertions were made to prepare our militia for active ser- 
vice. Benjamin Pettingill was sent to Providence, and Colonel 
Mitchell elsewhere, for powder. Ephraim Randall, one of the 
selectmen, made two journeys to Watertown to procure blankets. 
Capt. Zephaniah Keith was delegate to the General Court at 
Cambridge. 

At the beginning of 1776, Capt. James Perry raised a com- 
pany of men for active service. Among them were the following 
Easton men : ^ — 

James Perry, Captain. Edward Kingman. 

Nathaniel Perry, Sergeant. Cornelius Gibbs. 

Francis Woods. Robert Owen. 

Timothy Gilbert. Seth Macomber. 

Ebenezer Gibbs. John Dailey. 

Thomas Gibbs. Jacob Thayer. 
Japheth Keith. 

These men enlisted for three months, and afterwards re- 
enlisted. Edward Kingman was killed near Stillwater, Septem- 
ber 19, 1777. 

In Capt. Daniel Lothrop's company, of Colonel Craft's regi- 
ment of artillery ,2 there were Seth Watkins, corporal^ and William 
Adams, gunner. 

In Capt. Isaac Thayer's company, of Col. Thomas Marshall's 
regiment, William Randall was lieutenant.^ 

Three drafted men were in the company of Capt. Joshua Wil- 
bore, in Col. Ebenezer Francis's regiment.* Their names were 
Daniel Keith, Joab Willis, and Henry Farr. 

In Capt. Simeon Leach's company, in Colonel Gill's regiment 
" that marched to the assistance of the Continental troops when 
they fortified the Heights of Dorchester," there were, March 24, 
1776, Joseph Belcher and Benjamin Crosswell.^ This Belcher 
was a son of the Rev. Joseph Belcher. The son Joseph was 
living at Stoughton. Benjamin Crosswell was afterward known 
as "Priest" Crosswell. He lived near the Stoughton line, east 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xlvii. p. 236. 

2 Ibid., vol. x.xxviii. p. 90. 3 ibid., vol. xxv. pp. 91, 113. 
* Ibid., vol. xxiv. p. 8. 6 ibid__ yoj. xx. p. 186. 



il 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 219 

of Washington Street. He enlisted again April 18, in Capt. 
Robert Swan's company, of Stoughton, for twenty-four days' 
service in Rhode Island.^ 

Although the British had evacuated Boston in March, troops 
were kept on duty in and about the place during the war. 
In June and July Matthew Randall, who had risen from the 
rank of ensign to that of captain, had a company encamped 
at Hull, and afterward at Castle Island. The Easton men 
in it were^ — 

Matthew Randall, Captain. Elijah Pratt. 

John Holmes, Sergeant. Solomon Randall. 

John Mears, Driiimner. John Simons. 

John Allen. Shion Turner. 

Seth Burr. David Taylor. 

William Grossman. Jacob Williams. 

Daniel Dailey. Fortune Conking. ^ 

Josiah Jordan. William Hayward. 

Jacob Keith. William Turner. 

Isaac Lincoln. Nathan Finney. 

Abiah Manley. Rufus Smith. 

Daniel Macomber. William Lawson. 

On the 8th of December, 1776, the customary congregation 
had gathered in the Easton meeting-house. There were moist 
eyes when the minister, Mr. Campbell, prayed for the country, 
and especially for those who had gone from this place to fight its 
battles. He had begun his sermon, when in the distance was 
heard the hurried clatter of horse's hoofs. It came nearer and 
nearer. The minister paused, and the congregation waited 
breathless for what they felt must be evil tidings, and might be 
news of immediate danger. The horseman drove to the door, 
jumped from his saddle, and alarmed the people assembled by 
saying that the British had landed at Newport, and that every 
one must march immediately to oppose their progress. With 
a few words of earnest exhortation the minister dismissed the 
congregation, nearly all the able-bodied of whom hurried home 
to make ready for the march. Before the day was over the two 
companies of militia, commanded respectively by Capt. Matthew 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 156. 

2 Ibid., vol. xxii. p. 185; vol. x.xiii. p. 72; vol. xxv. p. 43. 

3 Probably a Slave. 



2 20 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Randall and Capt. Josiah Keith, were hurrying toward the scene 
of action. 

It seems that two English and two Hessian brigades, under 
the command of General Clinton, had come from New York, 
and on the 7th of December had taken possession of Newport.^ 
Rhode Island could offer no adequate resistance, and therefore 
the militia was summoned from the other New England colonies 
in order to prevent an invasion of the country, should that be 
attempted. It was said that the enemy intended to march to 
Boston by way of Providence. From this time for three years, 
as we shall see, there were continual alarms, and a good deal of 
what is called " Rhode Island service " for the militia of the 
vicinity. The British were closely watched all the time, and 
there were occasional skirmishes of an unimportant character. 
The two companies that went from here served until the end of 
the month. The following is the list of names that were on the 
pay-roll of Captain Randall's company, in Col. George Williams's 
resriment :^ — 



Matthew Randall, Captai7i. 

Seth Pratt, Lieutenant. 

Edward Hayward, 2d, zd Lieutenant. 

Dominicus Record, Clerk. 

Benjamin Kinsley, Sergeant. 

Thomas Drake, Sergeant. 

Lemuel Willis, Sergeant. 

Samuel Manley, Sergeant. 

Robert Drake, Corporal. 

Abner Randall, Corporal. 

John Stone, Corporal. 

Abner Phillips, Cot'poral. 

John Mears, Drummer. 

Parmenas Ames. 

Jarvis Randall. 

David Dailey. 

Henry Farr. 

Jonathan Randall. 

William Pratt. 

Elijah Pratt. 

Shion Turner. 

Reuben Manley- 



Samuel Stone. 
John Randall. 
Joseph Drake, ye 3d. 
Benjamin Fobes. 
Thomas Fling. 
Daniel Fobes. 
Edward Hayward. 
David Dunbar. 
Benjamin Drake, y'' 3d. 
Ebenezer Hayward. 
Ebenezer Hanks. 
John Lothrop. 
James Packard. 
Rufus Smith. 
Hugh Washburn. 
John Cameron. 
Alexander Burt. 
Samuel Mears. 
Thomas Randall. 
Hopestill Randall. 
Samuel Packard. 
Joseph Hayward. 



1 Bancroft's United States, vol. ix. p. 200. 

2 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 114. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 221 

William Lindsey. Isaac Lincoln. 

Nathan Woodcock. David Taylor. 

William Lawson. Zachariah Drake. 

Francis Drake. Fortune Conking. 

The second company which marched the same day was Cap- 
tain Keith's, in Col. John Daggett's regiment, as follows :^ — 

Josiah Keith, Captain. William Howard. 

David Keith, Lieu/enant. Isaac Lothrop. 

Lemuel Andrews, Sergeant. Nathan Lothrop. 

Phineas Allen, Sergeant. Edmund Macomber. 

William Bonney, Sergeant. Ichabod Randall. 

Alexander Keith, Sergeant. Job Randall. 

Edward Williams, Corporal. Jesse Randall. 

George Ferguson, Corporal. • John Williams. 

Daniel Macomber, Corporal. Macey Williams. 

Benjamin Pettingill, Jr., Corporal. Abijah Felch. 

Zebediah Kinsley, Fifer. Pendleton Britton. 

Elijah Copeland, Driunmer. Samuel Keith. 

Benjamin Pettingill. John Britton. 

Philip l>ritton. Jacob Williams. 

Elisha Dean. Francis Woods. 

Nathan Finney. ' Joseph Woods. 

A mar i ah Woods. 

In addition to those already named as in the Rhode Island 
service for this occasion were John Keith and Freeman Keith, 
who were drafted into Capt. Isaac Hodges's company, in Colonel 
Francis's regiment.^ Benjamin Pettingill, Jr., also served in 
this company, as well as in that last named. 

In the company of Capt. Eliakim Howard, in Col. Edward 
Mitchell's regiment that marched to Braintree, March 4 of this 
year, there were from Easton^ David Wade, William Hanks, 
Joshua Howard, and Simeon Keith. 

In a list of death-records kept by Timothy Randall a century 
ago is the following record: " Ebenezer Smith, Deceased with 
Sickness Sepr. 23, 1776, at Ticonderoga, in the army." On the 
State muster-rolls Ebenezer Smith is named as ensign in Jan- 
uary, 1776, at Ticonderoga; he was in Captain Marshall's com- 
pany, of Col. Asa Whitcomb's regiment. In October he was 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. ii. p. 135. 

•^ Ibid., vol. ii. p. 86. ^ ibid., vol. xi.\. p. 216. 



222 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



promoted to be second lieutenant, and before December fol- 
lowing he was made first lieutenant in Capt. Noah Allen's 
company. This does not agree with the Randall death-record 
just quoted, which is evidently an error as to date. 

A. D. 1777. 

On the 28th day of February the selectmen and the Com- 
mittee of Correspondence and Inspection held a meeting in 
order to fix the prices of labor and of all articles of merchan- 
dise. This action was authorized by an act of the General 
Court, and seemed justified by the fluctuation of prices at the 
time, and by the advantage which was taken of this fluctua- 
tion by covetous persons. According to the schedule of prices 
then adopted, farm labor might vary from, but could not ex- 
ceed, two or three shillings a day, according to the season of 
the year. Wheat was set at seven shillings and six pence, 
corn at four shillings, rye at five, and oats at two shillings a 
bushel. "Good grass-fed beef" was six pence a pound, cheese 
six, and butter ten pence ; pork four pence half-penny, milk 
two pence a quart, veal three pence a pound, mutton and lamb 
three pence half-penny. Beans were six shillings a bushel, 
turnips one shilling six pence; "good Spanish Petatoes" were 
one shilling and four pence in the fall, and one and eight 
pence in the spring. " Good Marchantable Westindia Rum 
at seven shillings ten pence half-penny per galon, and so in 
proportion according to the usual custom for any smaller quan- 
tity ; " New England rum was four shillings, eight pence, and 
two farthings. " Shewing a hors, well stealed heel and too, 
five shillings and four pence ; and shewing a pare of Oxen ten 
shillings." Good meadow hay was two shillings a hundred ; 
good English hay, three shillings a hundred. For making a 
pair of men's shoes, two shillings and six pence might be 
charged ; for men's neats leather shoes, seven shillings and 
four pence a pair ; for women's shoes six shillings. Women's 
work by the week was set at three shillings and four pence. 
Many other prices were designated, but a sufficient number 
have been quoted here. 

The Committee of Correspondence and Inspection for this 
year were Capt. Matthew Randall, Jacob Packard, Dominicus 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 223 

Record, Joseph Gilbert, and Abijah Felch. Fifty pounds ster- 
ling were appropriated " to purchase firearms for a town stock, 
to supply the poor of the town therewith." Powder was brought 
from Watertown and Stoughton. At a town-meeting of Sep- 
tember 15 it was "Voted that those Parsons who have Received 
Powder, haul, or flints out of the town Stock, and dont return 
the same before the next assessment, shall be assesed for the 
same over and above their Proportion of the other expense 
of the town at the following rate : Powder at five shillings 
Pr Pound, flints at one shilling Pr Doson, lead at two shil- 
lings Pr. Pound." 

Twenty pairs of shoes, stockings, and mittens were purchased 
for the soldiers. A committee was appointed to provide for sol- 
diers' families, some of whom were quite destitute. 

In March of this year the following men were enlisted by 
Ephrain Burr, enlisting officer:^ — 

Eliphalet Beebe. Jonah Drake. Abiah Manley. 

Ezra Gustin [Justin ?] Amasa Phillips. Daniel Wood. 

John Stock. 

In September men were enlisted for what is called " a 
secret expedition." This expedition probably refers to an at- 
tempt which was made in October to dislodge the British in 
Rhode Island. Nine thousand men were gathered from vari- 
ous quarters in the most secret and expeditious manner pos- 
sible, to join in the attack. The attempt was delayed by 
storms and by the inefficiency of General Spencer, who was 
in command. These delays disaffected the troops, and many 
withdrew ; nearly half of them had left before the night as- 
signed for the attempt. A council of officers then decided that 
it was inexpedient to make the attack, and the expedition was 
abandoned.^ Thirty-two Easton men enlisted for this " secret 
expedition." 

On the muster-roll of Capt. Jonathan Shaw's company, in 
Col. George Williams's regiment, for September, 1777, are the 
following Easton names of men who were in this service :^ — 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xlii. pp. 313, 319. 
^ See Arnold's History of Rhode Island, vol. ii. p. 408. 
3 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 129. 



m 



224 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Edward Hayward, 2d Lieutenant. 

Abiel Williams, -^d Lieutenant. 

Thomas Randall, Sei'geant. 

Abiel Kinsley, Corporal. 

William Hayward. 

Joseph Hayward. 

Reuben Manley. 

Nathan Randall. 

Ephraim Randall. 

Isaiah Randall. 

Samuel Ripley. 

Benjamin Hanks. 

Nathan Woodcock. 

David Taylor. 



Samuel Stone. 
Nehemiah Washburn. 
Richard Mayberry. 
Daniel Dailey. 
Samuel Packard. 
Daniel Keith. 
Ephraim Niles. 
Simeon Keith. 
Thomas Lincoln. 
William Makepeace. 
Seth Makepeace. 
Joseph Drake. 
Nathaniel Britten. 



On the muster-roll of Capt. Edward Blake's company " which 
marched from Taunton on a secret expedition, September 29, 
1777," and which was discharged October 29, the following are 
from Easton : ^ — 



Jonathan Pratt, 2d Lieutenant. 
Phineas Allen, Sergeant. 
William Britton. 
Pendleton Britton. 
Clement Drake. 
Abijah Felch. 
Ruel Keith. 
Isaac Lathrop. 
Jonathan Mehurin. 



James Packard. 
Job Randall. 
Amasa Record. 
Nathan Record. 
Isaac Randall. 
John Williams. 
Joseph Woods. 
Joseph Gilbert. 
Edmund Andrews. 



On this same expedition there were in Capt. Thomas New- 
comb's company, in Col. Theophilus Eaton's regiment, the 
followinof Easton men :^ — 



Zachariah Watkins, Lieutenant. 
Jonathan Burr. 
Jonah Fobes. 
Isaiah Hayward. 



Alexander Keith. 
Noah Drake. 
William Hanks. 
Thomas Mears. 



On the muster-roll of Capt. Abiel Clapp's company, in Colonel 
Carpenter's regiment, were the following Easton men who 
marched to Rhode Island, July 24, 1777, and were in service 
one month and four days :^ — 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xlvii. p. 257. 

2 Ibid., vol. iii. p. 22. ^ Ibjd.^ vol. xviii. p. 127. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



225 



David Keith, zd Lieitienant. Samuel Guild. 

Thomas French. Bethuel Hack. 

Ichabod Fuller. Unite Keith. 

Thomas Gibbs. Nathan Record. 

Cornelius Gibbs. Jacob Williams. 
Edward White. 

Capt. Ebenezer Dean had a company in Col. Thomas Car- 
penter's regiment, who served for a while at Bristol and Provi- 
dence during this year. There were in this company nine men 
from Easton : ^ — 



Seth Pratt, Lietiteiiant. 
John Holmes, Sergeant. 
Azel Kinsley, Flfer. 



Seth Burr. 
Lot Drake. 
William Hayward. 



Simeon Keith. 
Josiah Manley. 
Ziba Randall. 



In Capt. Robert Swan's company, of Stoughton, in Col. Ben- 
jamin Gill's regiment, Benjamin Croswell served for twenty-four 
days in the Rhode Island campaign for this year. He had 
marched to Dorchester Heights in another Stoughton company 
in March, 1776. 

A. D. 1778. 

The Committee of Correspondence and Inspection for 1778 
was Abijah Felch, Elijah Howard, Jacob Macomber, Nehemiah 
Howard, Abiel Mitchell, Dominicus Record, and William Lind- 
sey. Mindful of the destitution of our Easton soldiers in re- 
gard to clothing at Valley Forge during the previous winter, 
the town chose a committee to provide shirts, shoes, and stock- 
ings "for the use of the soldiers in the Contenantal armey that 
went from and for the Town of Easton." Several town-meet- 
ings were held in order to settle a difficulty that had arisen 
between the captains of the two militia companies in town, — 
Capt. Matthew Randall, and Capt. Josiah Keith. It was found 
that there were four men whose names appeared on both muster- 
rolls, so that the quota required of the town lacked four of being 
full. The selectmen and the Committee of Correspondence pe- 
titioned the General Court to appoint a committee to consider the 
matter, which was done. The appointment of Brig.-Gen. George 
Godfrey as one of this committee was unsatisfactory to the west 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. .wiii. p. 18S. 
15 



226 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



company, whose officers petitioned for the appointment of a new 
committee. In answer to this petition, Col. Benjamin Gill, of 
Stoughton, and Capt. Barnabas Howard, of Bridgewater, were 
added to the committee, and it was voted that the decision of this 
committee be final. The result of their decision was the assign- 
ment of two of these men to each company. The following is the 

" Memorandum of Agreemejit between Capt. MattJieiu Randall and Capt. 
Josiah Keith, the Captens of the two military Companies in Easton. 

" Where as there has been a Dispute between the two Captens with 
regard to foure Continantal Soldiers that have been returned by both 
of the said Captens, — namely, Henry Hewett, Lemuel Turner, Asa 
Phillips, and Charles Ranney, — it is Mutually agread by the Parties 
that Captain Randall shall hold Henry Hewett and Lemuel Turner, 
and Captain Keith is to hold Asa Phillips and Charles Ranney ; and 
it is further agread that if any fines or forfitures shall accrew to the 
town in Consequence of the neglect of either of the sd Captens with 
regard to raising their Cota of soldiers for the armey when cauled on 
for the same, sd expence shall be borne by that part of the Town 
where the Neglect shall bee." 

Many causes conspired to make it more and more difficult to 
raise soldiers. Great exertions were put forth and large boun- 
ties offered for men to enlist in the army. In consequence 
of these efforts, and because of the need of troops so near 
home as Rhode Island, there were many enlistments during the 
year, as will be seen by what follows. 

It was during this winter of 1 777-1 778 that our devoted army 
underwent those terrible privations and hardships at Valley Forge 
which make the history of that season so heart-rending. Insuffi- 
ciently supplied with food, half clothed, many of them without 
shoes, so that their steps on the snow made bloody footmarks, it is 
truly amazing that the army did not disband. Nothing prevented 
this but their devoted attachment to Washington, and their ar- 
dent love of liberty. Easton had not many soldiers at Valley 
Forge, but there were at least twenty-three. They were in " Capt. 
Ephraim Burr's company in the ist regiment, Col. John Bailey of 
Mass. Bay troops in the Continental service, in camp near Valley 
Forge, January 24, 1778. " ^ Their names are as follows : — 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. x. p. 85. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



227 



Ephraim Burr, Captain. 
Silas Phillips, Sergeant. 
Japheth Keith, Corporal. 
Eliphalet Beebe. 
Benjamin Brazier. 
John Colwell. 
Nathan Conant. 
William Desilvia. 
Jonah Drake. 
Joseph Green. 
Ezra Gustan [Justin ?] 



Henry Howard. 
Abiah Manley. 
John Parker [Packard .?] 
Amasa Phillips. 
Asa Phillips. 
Charles Ranney. 
John Sheperd. 
Ephraim Smith. 
John Stock. 
Lemuel Turner. 
James Woods. 



Of these the following deserted : Benjamhi Brazier, John Col- 
well, John Sheperd, James Woods, — none of them, however, 
natives of Easton. The terrible sufferings to which they were 
exposed are some extenuation for this act. Amasa Phillips 
died June 18, 1778, at or near Philadelphia. Joseph Green was 
a mulatto. Nathan Conant was from Concord, Mass., but 
served for Easton. Charles Ranney was one of several British 
prisoners of war who were quartered upon the town of Easton. 
Rather than live a prisoner he preferred to enlist in the Ameri- 
can army. The prisoners alluded to evidently belonged to a 
Highland regiment ; their names were Donald Grant, Philip 
Chambers, James Simms, Duncan Stewart, Alexander McKey- 
sey, James Anderson, and Charles Ranney. Philip Chambers 
enlisted afterwards, and died in the Continental service. 

The occupation of Rhode Island by the British still con- 
tinued. There being danger of an invasion from that quarter, 
Congress earnestly recommended the New England States to 
keep up the force in Rhode Island. The town of Easton made 
a noble response to this appeal. The east company of militia, 
Matthew Randall, captain, served in Col. John Daggett's regi- 
ment for three months, beginning January i, 1778. The fol- 
lowing names appear on the pay-roll of said company : 1 — 



Matlhew Randall, Captain. 
Nathan Hack, \st Lieutenant. 
John Godfrey, zd Lieutenant. 
Lemuel Willis, Sergeant. 
Simeon Smith, Sergeant. 
Nathaniel Pratt, Sers^eant. 



Nathaniel Leonard, Sergeant. 
Robert Drake, Corporal. 
Ephraim Richmond, Corporal. 
Ebenezer Woodward, Corporal. 
John Presbury, Corporal. 
Azel Kinsley, Fifer. 



^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 117. 



228 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



John Mears, Drummer. 
James Andrews. 
James Ball. 
Samuel Burt. 
Rufus Cobb. 
Jolin Cochran. 
Adam Drake. 
Benjamin Drake. 
Hezekiah Drake. 
David Dunbar. 
Rufus Godfrey. 
Ebenezer Hanks. 
Joel Harvey. 
Rufus Harvey. 
Samuel Hayward. 
Samuel Hoskins. 
Aaron Knapp. 
Daniel Lincoln. 
Levi Lincoln. 
Thomas Mitchell. 
Jabez Nevvland. 
Seth Pitts. 



Daniel Pratt. 
John Pratt. 
William Pratt. 
Ephraim Randall. 
Hopestiil Randall. 
Isaiah Randall. 
Isaiah Reed. 
John Simons. 
Alexander Smith. 
Job Smith. 
Josiah (?) Smith. 
Laban Smith. 
Amos Stacy. 
James Stacy. 
Job Stacy. 
Elijah Tiiayer. 
Jonathan Thayer. 
Elijah Turner. 
Hugh Washburn. 
Timothy White. 
John Willis. 
Ephraim Wood. 



The following persons served for three months at Providence, 
beginning December 30, 1777 :^ — 



William Bonney. 
Elijah Copeland. 
Francis Goward. 



Zebediah Kinsley. 
Paul Lincoln. 
Edmund Lothrop. 



Ichabod Randall. 
Stephen Tiiayer. 
Thomas Williams. 



The following Easton men enlisted for six weeks' service in 
Rhode Island, in Capt Ichabod Leonard's company of Col. 
Thomas Carpenter's regiment.^ The enlistment was made in 
July. 



Seth Pratt, Lieutenant. 
William Cole, Sergeant. 
John Lothrop, Corporal. 
Azel Kinsley, Fifer. 
Ebenezer Dickerman. 
Adam Drake. 
Hezekiah Drake. 
Lot Drake. 



Bartimeus Hewett. 
Bethuel Kinsley. 
Solomon Lothrop. 
Josiah Manley. 
John Nichols. 
John Phillips. 
Ziba Randall. 
Simon Record. 



1 Easton Town Treasurer's First Book, p. 9S. 

2 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. ii. p. 1S3. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 229 

Of these men, Bethuel Kinsley, after serving for twenty-nine 
days, died. 

Those who are named above as having enhsted during this 
year did not see very much hard service. Before the year was 
over, however, there was some desperate fighting done, es- 
pecially at the battle of Rhode Island. Some of the men who 
belonged in the following companies engaged in this bloody 
contest. Of those called out for one year's service in Rhode 
Island, there were in Capt. Joseph Cole's company, of Col. John 
Jacobs's regiment,^ — 

Nathan Finney. Jabez Newland. Joseph Ward. 

Abial Lapham. Oliver Randall. Macey Williams. 

In Capt. Calvin Curtis's company of the same regiment there 
were David Taylor, Gamaliel Cook, and Elijah Pratt.^ In Capt. 
Jacob Fuller's company of the same regiment were^ — 

Thomas Fling. Amasa Record. Philip Thayer. 

Nathan Randall. Nathan Record. Silas Williams. 

Capt. Samuel Robinson, of Col. Wade's regiment, had the 
following Easton men in his company : ^ — 

William Britton. Daniel Macomber. Jacob Williams. 

Caleb Dunham. John Martin. Seth Williams. 

Nathan Finney. Eleazer Walker. Palmer Wood. 
Abiel Lapham. 

Of these men, Nathan Finney had served six months already 
and now re-enlisted, while Abial Lapham served part of the 
time in another company. Captain Robinson had another en- 
listment after the above were discharged, and among them 
Nathaniel Gilbert, Samuel Ripley, Josiah White, and Palmer 
Wood were from Easton.^ These four men, and some in Cap- 
tain Cole's company, probably took part in the battle of Rhode 
Island, which took place August 29. 

The following nine months men from Easton reported at 
Fishkill in June, 1778, some and perhaps all of whom were in 
Col. John Daggett's regiment:^ — 

^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. i. p. 109. 2 ibid., vol. i. p. 147. 
^ Ibid., vol. ii. p. 49. * Ibid., vol. iii. p. 106. 

* Ibid., vol. iii. p. 107. 6 ibid., vol. xlii. pp. 222, 230, 231. 



230 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Joshua Cary. Oliver Lincoln. Solomon Randall. 

Joshua Felt. John Mears. Hugh Washburn. 

Daniel Howard. 

Henry Hewett, of Easton, enlisted in Capt. Job Sumner's com- 
pany, of Col. John Greaton's regiment, in the second battalion.^ 

In August, Captain Keith led a company of Easton and Nor- 
ton men into service for a few days in Rhode Island. Only 
the names of the men from Easton are given here:^ — 

Josiah Keith, Captain. Nehemiah Keith. 

Ebenezer Woods, Sergeant. Abisha Leach. 

Abijah Wetherell, Sergeant. Nehemiah Leonard. 

Lemuel Andrews. Seth Littlefield. 

Jabez Briggs. Nathan Perry. 

Thomas Buck. William Randall. 

Clement Drake. Macey Williams. 

George Ferguson. Noah Woodward. 

Of the casualties that occurred to our Easton troops during 
this year, the only one to be mentioned now is that of Simeon 
Keith, who was shot in the arm in the desperate battle of Rhode 
Island. Not until 1792 was he allowed pay for time lost on 
account of his wound, and for the expense of medical attend- 
ance. The General Court then, in answer to his petition, 
allowed him twelve pounds, thirteen shillings, and sixpence. 
He served for three months in the company of Capt. Nathan 
Packard, in Col. Thomas Carpenter's regiment. Benjamin 
Kingman, of Easton, enlisted for and at Stougtonhara (Sharon) 
during this year. 

A. D. 1779. 

There is not much of interest to report for the year 1779. 
The active campaign was transferred from the North to the South, 
some of the Southern states suffering severely. The British still 
held possession of Rhode Island, but they had drawn off many 
of their troops for service in the South, so that they con- 
tented themselves here with forays and with expeditions for plun- 
der and destruction. These forays were most cruelly managed, 
being usually led by Tories. In October the Island was evacu- 

^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. x. p. 98. 2 ibid., vol. ii. p. 146. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 23 1 

ated by the British, in order to enable them to concentrate their 
forces for the Southern campaign. 

The Committee of Correspondence and Safety for this year was 
Abial Kinsley, Isaac Fuller, and Seth Bailey. Capt. James Perry 
represented the town at the constitutional convention held at 
Cambridge. The soldiers' families were cared for as usual. 
The town voted to adopt measures that had been recommended 
by a convention held at Concord, to regulate prices. A commit- 
tee was chosen to fix prices, and another committee was chosen 
" to see that No parson in this town bought or sold at a higher 
price than what was Prefixed by the committee." 

Easton had a number of troops in the regular Continental 
service. The following enlisted in September for the entire 
war:^ Japheth Keith, Ephraim Smith, Lemuel Turner, Elijah 
Pratt. 

In Capt. Joseph Franklin's company, of Col. Nathan Taylor's 
regiment, stationed in Rhode Island, the following Easton men 
.served four months i^ Thomas Fling, Nathan Randall, Jedediah 
Packard, Elijah Turner. 

In March and April of this year the following Easton men 
were in Capt. Isaac Hodges's company, in Colonel Hathaway's 
regiment, for service for twenty-six days in Rhode Island:^ — 

Nehemiah Leonard, Sergeant, Ebenezer Hanks. 

Amasa Record, Corporal. Daniel Howard. 

Azel Kinsley, Fifer. Oliver Lincoln. 

Lot Drake. Solomon Lothrop. 

Simeon Eaton. William Makepeace. 

Jesse Fobes. Jabez Newland. 

Thomas French. Asa Smith. 

Benjamin Hanks. Stephen Thayer. 

A.D. 1780. 
On the loth of July, 1780, the French Admiral de Ternay, 
with ten ships of war and thirty-six transports, came into the 
harbor of Newport with a detachment of about six thousand 
French troops, who were under the command of Count de 
Rochambeau. The arrival of these troops was hailed with joy 
throughout the country. The British fleet at New York em- 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. x. p. 88. 

2 Ibid., vol. ii. pp. 51, 53, 54; vol. xlii. p. 234. ^ Ibid., vol. xix. p. 198. 



232 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



barked about eight thousand men, intending to attack and drive 
away the newly arrived allies in Rhode Island. This fleet ap- 
peared off Newport, July 21. The militia of the surrounding 
region were quickly summoned to the aid of the French.^ On 
the 27th the following Easton men, of Capt. John Allen's com- 
pany, of Colonel Carpenter's regiment, were on the march :^ 



David Keith, LieKtenant. 
Daniel Macomber, Corporal. 
Lemuel Andrews. 
Archibald Campbell. 
Stephen Clapp. 
Edward Drake. 
Thomas Drake. 
George Ferguson. 
Joseph Godfrey. 
Ephraim Hewett. 

Palmer Wood. 



Jonathan Mehurin. 
Eliphalet Pierce. 
Phillip Pratt. 
Nathan Record. 
Jacob Thayer. 
Samuel Thayer. 
Isaac Thomas. 
Ebenezer Williams. 
Macey Williams. 
Silas Williams. 



The Archibald Campbell mentioned above was not the minis- 
ter, but his son, who was then fifteen years and six months old. 

This company arrived on the scene only to find that the Brit- 
ish had sailed away. The militia were dismissed to their homes, 
but were called back immediately on the reappearance of the 
enemy. This time the alarm was greater than before. The two 
militia companies of Easton, under the command respectively 
of Capt. Josiah Keith and Capt. Seth Pratt, were soon on the 
move. This expedition forms what became known as the "Tiv- 
erton Alarm." The east company enlisted August 2, and be- 
longed to Col. James Williams's regiment. Their names are as 
follows :^ — 



Seth Pratt, Captain. 
Edward Hayward, Lieutenant. 
Lemuel Willis, Sergeant. 
Samuel Manley, Sergeant. 
John Randall, Sergeant. 
Abner Randall, Corporal. 
Robert Drake, Jr., Corporal. 
David Taylor, Corporal. 
Parmenas Ames. 



Roland Bailey. 
Seth Bailey. 
David Clark. 
Benjamin Grossman. 
Daniel Grossman. 
Ebenezer Dickerman. 
Ephraim Drake, Jr. 
Hezekiah Drake. 
Jonah Drake. 



^ Arnold's History of Rhode Island, vol. ii. p. 462. 
2 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. i. pp. 7, 8. 
^ Ibid., vol. iii. pp. 79, 80. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



233 



Joseph Drake, ye 2d. 
Noah Drake. 
Zachariah Drake. 
David Dunbar. 
Thomas Fling. 
Jesse Fobes. 
Joseph Fobes, Jr. 
Simeon Fobes. 
Nehemiah Hayward. 
William Hayward. 
John Holmes. 
Ebenezer Howard. 
Joseph Howard. 
Simeon Keith. 
Abial Kinsley. 
Adam Kinsley. 
Joseph Knapp. 
Joseph Knapp, Jr. 
Oliver Lincoln. 
James Lindsey, ye 2d. 



William Lindse}'. 
Jonathan Lothrop, 
Nathan Lothrop. 
Josiah Manley. 
Reuben Manley. 
James Packard. 
Jacob Phillips. 
John Phillips. 
Silas Phillips. 
Beriah Randall. 
Ephraim Randall, ye 2d. 
Isaiah Randall. 
Jonathan Randall. 
Ziba Randall. 
Simon Record. 
John Simons. 
James Stone. 
Samuel Stone. 
Jacob Thayer. 
Levi Tuttle. 



Nathan Woodcock. 



The west company started two days later, August the 4th 
Their muster-roll is as follows :^ — 



Josiah Keith, Captain. 
David Keith, \st Lieutenant. 
Jonathan Pratt, 2ci Lieutenant. 
Abijah Witherell, Sergeant. 
William Bonney, Sergeant. 
Alexander Keith, Sergeant. 
Seth Littlefield, Sergeant. 
Daniel Macomber, CorporaL 
Thomas Williams, Corporal. 
Jonathan Bosworth. 
Ebenezer Brett. 
John Britton. 
Thomas Buck. 
Archibald Campbell. 
Stephen Clapp. 
Elijah Copeland. 
Clement Drake. 
Thomas Drake. 
William Drake. 
Jonathan French. 



Cornelius Gibbs. 
Nathan Gibbs. 
Nathaniel Gilbert. 
Joseph Godfrey, Jr. 
Francis Goward. 
Ephraim Hewett. 
Oliver Howard. 
Nehemiah Keith. 
Scotland Keith. 
Isaac King. 
Zebadiah Kinsley. 
Abisha Leach. 
Edmund Macomber. 
David Mehurin. 
Jonathan Mehurin. 
Philip Pratt. 
Nathan Record. 
Joshua Stearns. 
Jacob Thayer. 
Lemuel Thayer. 



1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. ii. p. 140; vol. i. p. 160. 



234 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Isaac Thomas. Jairus Williams. 

Jolin Tuckerman. Macey Williams. 

Josiah White. Josiah Willis. 

Ebenezer Williams. Stoughton Willis. 

Jacob Williams. Joseph Woods. 

These two companies were not destined to win any laurels in 
the field at this time. They had hardly reached Tiverton, where 
they were to co-operate with the French troops in case of attack, 
when it began to be evident that no attack was to be made ; and 
after six or eight days they marched home, covered with dust 
but not with glory. It was an easy way to win the fame of being 
Revolutionary soldiers. But it was not their fault that they did 
not fight. The courage and valor of the American militia at 
Bunker Hill and elsewhere give good assurance that our Easton 
fathers would have well deserved this fame if the British had 
given them the opportunity. Some of them had already seen, 
and others were destined to see, hard and dangerous service, — 
were even to sacrifice their lives to secure the liberty of their 
country. 

Another company, mainly composed of out-of-town militia, and 
under the command of Captain Randall, were oat for a while 
apparently on this same Rhode Island service. Among them 
appear the following names of Easton men :^ — 

Matthew Randall, Captain. Simeon Dutibar. 

Dominicus Record, 1st Lieutenant. Andrew Gilmore. 

Thomas Drake, Sergeant. John Keith. 

Jonah Fobes, Sergeant. William Lawson. 

Benjamin Babbitt, Sergeant. Samuel Leonard. 

Adam Drake, Drianmer. Jedediah Packard. 

Abijah Woodward, Fifer. Job Packard. 

Isaac Babbitt. Asa Phillips. 

Seth Grossman. Solomon Randall. 

Lot Drake. Thomas Randall. 

Thomas Drake. Samuel Ripley. 

On this muster-roll there are possibly a few other Easton 
names, but as the residence is not given, only those have been 
copied above who are known to have been living here. 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xxii. p. i69. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



235 



On the 17th of July nineteen men were enlisted for six 
months' service in the regular or Continental army. These saw 
difficult service. Their names are as follows : ^ — 

Nehemiah Randall, Sergeant. Joshua Felt. 

Thomas French, Se7'gea7it. David Keith. 

John Mears, DrtDiuner. Solomon Lothrop. 

Azel Kinsley, Fifer. Seth Manley. 

Abijah Allen. Thomas Mitchell. 

John Cameron. Enoch Pratt. 

Daniel Dailey, Jr. Oliver Randall. 

Nezer Dailey. Stephen Thayer. 

Nathaniel Dunbar. Elijah Turner. 
Joseph Ward. 

The list below is especially interesting, because it contains the 
names of men who enlisted from Easton for three years, or for 
the war. Most of them served from the beginning of 1777 to 
the end of 1780, and some for a longer time. They were with 
General Washington, and took part in many of the hardest-fought 
battles of the war. Some of their names have already been men- 
tioned as having passed through the terrible sufferings of the 
winter at Valley Forge. They deserve to be held in special re- 
membrance. Most of them were in the Second Regiment, com- 
manded by Col. John Bailey, and in the fourth company of the 
same, of which the captain was Abner Hayward. Their time 
of service is appended to their nanes.^ 

Name 

Simeon Burr . . . 
Philip Chambers . 
Nathan Conant . . 
William Desilvia 
Jonah Drake . . 
Joseph Green . . . 
Simeon Hayward, Seri 
Henry Howard . . 
Japhet Keith, Corp. . 
Benjamin Kingman . 
Daniel Packard . 
John Packard . . 

^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. xxv. p. 242 ; vol. iv. p. no. 

2 For all but the first name on this list, see in State Archives the Regimental 
Book of the Second Regiment, Col. John Bailey. Simeon Burr's name is on the 
Book of the Fifth Regiment. 



mos. ( 


lays. 


Name 


36 


DO 


Amasa Phillips 


8 


IS 


Asa Phillips . 


34 


16 


Silas Phillips . 


48 


00 


Elijah Pratt . 


36 


00 


Charles Ranney 


47 


00 


Ephraim Smith 


33 


16 


Henry Smith . 


36 


00 


John Stock 


46 


16 


George Taylor 


45 


ID 


Lemuel Turner 


12 


CO 


Daniel Wood . 


43 


00 





mns. 


lays. 


17 


3 


36 


00 


36 


00 


II 


II 


47 


00 


46 


16 


12 


13 


48 


00 


6 


12 


36 


00 


37 


18 



236 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



The Committee of Correspondence and Inspection for this year, 
1780, were John Williams, Dominicus Record, and Ensign Seth 
Lothrop. Committees were appointed to hire soldiers, and a 
good deal of money was raised to pay them. It is to be noted 
that at this time the currency of the country had very greatly 
depreciated. The price of a good pair of boots was about six 
hundred dollars, and at the old rate of wages it took nearly a 
month's pay of a soldier to purchase a dinner. The distress was 
universal in town and throughout the country ; and yet new and 
extraordinary exertions were needful to carry on the war. The 
successive depreciations of the currency may be seen by the fol- 
lowing interesting table, the original of which is in the posses- 
sion of N. W. Perry of Easton. The data for 1780 have been 
somewhat condensed from those in the original table. 



1777 



January 
February 
March . 
April 
May . . 
June . . 
July . . 
August . 
September 
October 
November 
December 



January 
February 
March . 
April . . 
May . . 



June . . , 
July . . 
August . 
September 
October . 
November 
December 



1778 



1779. 



/loois /105 

„ n 107 

„ „ 109 

„ „ 112 

,. „ 115 

„ „ 120 

„ „ 175 

V „ 275, 

„ „ 310 



^100 is ^325 
.» „ 350 
„ „ 375 
„ ,, 400 
„ ,, 400 
400 
425 
450 

475 
500 

545 
634 






'> 5) 



January . 
February 
March . 
April 
May . . 
June . . 
July . . 
August . 
September 
October 
November . 
December . 



January . 
February . 
March . . 
April . . 
May . . 
June . . 
July . . 
August 
September 
October . 
November 
December 



1780 



^100 is 


£7^^- 






868. 






1000. 






1 100. 






1215. 

1342. 






1477- 






1630. 






1800. 
2030. 
2308. 






2593- 


^ioois;^2934. 


)) 


,, 


3322. 


! 
) 




3736. 
4000. 






4600. 
6200. 


5 
) 

) 

J 


)) 
5 )) 


6900. 
7000. 
7100. 
7200. 
7300. 


, 


) )> 


7400. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 237 

The amounts paid the soldiers for a brief service seem quite 
ludicrous. For a few days' " soldiering " Dominicus Record is 
paid ;£'i200, and for a little longer service John Cameron gets 
;^2i90. Capt. James Perry is voted £1062 for his time and ex- 
pense for a few days at a convention. In the town-meeting of 
next March it was — 

"Voted to Rais a sum of money soficiant to Pay twenty Dollars, in 
adition to the fifty Dollars allready Raised, for each Bushel of Corn 
Due to the soldiers for their service in the arme last season, that ware 
in the six and three months' service. Then the town Voted that those 
Parsons that went to Roadisland last Sumer should have ten Dollars 
Pr. Day in adition to the money aulready Voted to them. It is to be 
noted that the Monies abuv menshoned is ment to be of the Old 
Emitian." 

This appears to be the first time that the word "dollar" is 
mentioned in the town records. In March, 1780, Congress en- 
deavored to arrest the rapid depreciation of the currency by 
" cancelling the old bills as fast as they were retui-ned b}'' a 
monthly State taxation of fifteen millions, and issuing new bills 
to one-twentieth of the amount ; these new bills to be based 
on the credit of the separate States in fair proportion, to draw 
interest at five per cent, and to be redeemed by the States in six 
years." ^ One dollar of this new emission was equal to forty of 
the old. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware were the 
only States that promptly met these heavy demands. When 
the war was over, Capt. James Perry and others in town could 
measure their Continental money by the peck, and it soon be- 
came good for nothing but to serve as a relic of those hard 
times. This was the time 

" When paper money became so cheap, 
Folks would n't count it, but said ' a heap.' " 

In November of this year Col. Abiel Mitchell presented a pe- 
tition to the General Court, stating that he took the command 
of a regiment of militia that was raised to serve for three months 
"at forty shillings per month, to be paid in Gold or Silver or 
Continental Bills equivalent thereto ; and your petitioner finds 

1 Arnold's History of Rhode Island, vol. ii. p. 453. 



238 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



an uneasiness among the Soldiers by being apprehensive of their 
being paid in the Emission of paper money." Colonel Mitchell 
therefore asked for directions to be given to him in order that he 
might instruct the captains of his regiment as to the manner in 
which they should make up their muster-rolls. In answer to 
this petition the General Court voted " That each private soldier 
in said three months' service be paid at the rate of one hundred 
and forty pounds per month, in Continental Bills of credit, or 
equivalent in the new emission." 

A.D. 1781. 

A year of discouragement and disaster had passed away, and 
a brighter era was about to dawn. The new year began with 
mutiny in the army, which was put down by force, two of the 
ring-leaders being shot by sentence of a court-martial. The 
mutiny grew out of the fact that the new recruits received large 
bounties, while the older troops could not get even the small 
wages that belonged to them. Washington recommended that 
bounties be given to the troops that had been long in the service, 
and great exertions were made to obtain money and supplies. 
Our illustrious Commander-in-chief came to Rhode Island in 
March, to arrange with Rochambeau for an active campaign. 
On the fourteenth a grand and joyful reception was given him 
at Providence, at which a company commanded by our Captain 
Keith, then in Rhode Island, was probably present. This com- 
pany seems to have been composed mainly of Norton men. 
The residence of its members is not given, but the following 
were from Easton : ^ — 

Josiah Keith, Captain. Elijah Copeland. 

Ebenezer Williams, Sergeant. Ephraim Hewitt. 

Edmund Macomber, Co?-poral. Isaac Stearns. 

Amasa Lincoln, Dntviiner. John Tuckerman. 

John Andrews. Joseph Ward. 

Joshua Burr. Jairus Williams. 
Bethuel Turner. 

This company was on guard-duty for about thirteen days. It 
was in Col. Isaac Dean's regiment of militia. 

1 State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. ii. p. 142. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



239 



At the same time Capt. John Sha\^^had a company in the reg- 
iment commanded by Col. Abiel Mitchell, and they were out on 
the same service, being gone, however, for forty days. In this 
company were the following Easton men :^ — 

Daniel Dailey, Seroeant. Joseph Drake. 

Samuel Ripley, Corporal. Lot Drake. 

^ William Hack, Corporal. Timothy Drake. 

Oliver Drake, Corporal. David Dunbar. 

Rufus Burr. Andrew Gilmore. 

Sylvanus Burr. Job Packard. 
Joseph Packard. 

Early in the war the General Court of Massachusetts ordered 
that every seventh man in the State should serve for three years, 
or for the war. In order to systematize the matter, the town of 
Easton divided all its male citizens who were upwards of sixteen 
years of age into parties of seven each. These were called 
"classes," and were numbered first, second, etc. Each class 
was to send one of its men to serve in the army, or was to find 
some one who would serve for the class. In order to do this it 
soon became necessary to pay considerable money to the volun- 
teer. In one of the old town books is this record : — 

"These may certify, that as the General Court of this State has or- 
dered that every seventh man of this State, from sixteen years & up- 
ward, shall serve in the armey for three years, or during the war 
between Great Breton and America, We the six men — Samuel Guild, 
Edward Hayward the first, John Howard, Jacob Leonard, Nehemiah 
Howard, and Abiel Kinsley — have agreed with and hired Ephraim 
Smith, which makes the seventh man, to serve as aforesd for the sum 
of Eight Pounds, & Sd. Smith has inlisted with me, as Witness my 
hand. Abner Hayward, Lieutenant. 

Easton, February 20, 1777. 

Early in 1781 there were fourteen men due from Easton for 
the three years' service, and they were enlisted according to the 
arrangement just alluded to. A full copy of the names of these 
men and of various particulars concerning them is here given :^ 

' State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. iii. p. 128. 
2 Ibid., vol. xxxiv. pp. 418, 419. 



240 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Name. 


'Age. 


Stature. 


Occupation. 


E 


ilisted. 


Thomas Clapp 


22 


5 ft. 6in. 


Laborer 


June 


26, I7S1. 


Baron DeBeauez 










16 


5 ft. 41 n. 


Laborer 


Jtily 


16, I7S1. 


Jonali Drake 










39 


5 ft. 6in. 


Laborer 


April 


II, I781. 


Benjamin Eddy 










44 


5ft. loin. 


Laborer 


April 


17, I7SI. 


Benjamin Eddy, Jr 










12 


4 ft. g\n. 




April 


16, I7S1. 


Oliver Eddy . . 










14 


5 ft. lin. 




April 


16, I781. 


John Hall . . 










22 


5 ft 5in. 


Seaman 


Aug. 


II, I781. 


Oliver Lincoln . 










39 


5 ft. 1 1 in. 


Laborer 




T 7,Q J 




I / I . 


Joseph Packard 










50 


5 ft. 8in. 


Laborer 


July 


6, 1781. 


Cyrus Randall . 










16 


5 ft. 4in. 


Laborer 


June 


I, 1781. 


Daniel Taylor . 










17 


5 ft. 7in. 


Laborer 


March 


28, 1781. 


Stephen Thayer 










26 


5 ft. Sin. 


Laborer 


July 


16, 1781. 


Isaac Thomas . 










18 


5 ft. Bin. 


Laborer 


July 


23, 17S1. 


Christian F. Wille 








30 


5 ft. Sin. 


Weaver 


June 


29, 1 78 1. 



The last man on the list was what has in later times been 
called a " I3ounty-jumper ; " he was claimed by " the town of 
Boston," where he had previously enlisted under tlie name of 
Arthur Hardcastle. The Benjamin Eddy of this list is the sin- 
gular character who was known as " Old Bunn," whom some of 
our old people remember, and about whom more may be found 
on another page. Those next on this list are his boys, one of 
whom is a mere stripling. There must have been sore need in- 
deed of troops when so young and small a boy could be accepted. 

These fourteen men were enlisted for three years, and were 
allowed the large bounty of about three hundred dollars in silver. 
This was paid by the town, and afterward, in part at least, re- 
funded to the town by the State. Following are specimens of 
the receipts given, which indicate that the different " classes " 
attended to the business of enlistment : ^ — 

Easton, May 22, 1781. Then Received of Saml. Guild, as head 
of the first Class of said Easton, the sum of ninety Pounds in hard 
Money Sz securities, for my serving as soldier in the Continental x'\.rmy 
for three years. 

Received by me. Oliver Linkon. 

July ye 16, 1781. The subscriber Being engaged in the Continental 
Service for three years for the town of Easton, has Received of Cap. 

1 State Archives, Military Papers, vol. xxxiv. pp. 505, 517. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 24I 

Macey Williams (he Being the head of a Classe in sd. Easton) three 
Hundred and thurty Spanish milled Dollars, as a Bounty for going 
into sd. Service. 

Reed, by me. Christian Friederick Wille. 

The Committee of Correspondence and Inspection for the 
year 1781 was Col. Abiel Mitchell, David Manley, and Thomas 
Drake, the 2d. As required by law, Easton continued to do its 
part in furnishing beef for the army, and also sent clothing to 
the soldiers who were absent in service, besides looking after 
the welfare of their families. After this date, almost the only 
business relating to the war that is transacted in the town-meet- 
ings is what concerns the pay of the soldiers whose wages are 
in arrears. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown was the 
virtual end of the war, although there was some fighting after- 
wards, and the articles of peace were not signed until about two 
years subsequent to that surrender. 

The town of Easton did its fulL part in the great struggle 
for Independence. The muster-rolls and pay-rolls which have 
been copied here show how large a number of our citizens 
participated in that contest. But there are others who de- 
serve to share the credit of being the defenders of our country's 
liberties, who did not go into the field. Edward Williams, for 
instance, when too feeble to enlist in the active service, har- 
nessed his team and took into the camp near Boston food, 
blankets, and many means of comfort, to procure which he 
stripped his house and received the most generous contribu- 
tions from neighbors. Meantime the Daughters of Liberty 
were busy with their needles, and forwarded many things which 
they provided at a sacrifice to themselves. They were real 
even though unrecorded sufferers, often enduring privation, 
and always full of anxiety concerning the fate of those who 
were far away in camp and field, and whom they might never 
see again. 

A careful comparison of the muster-rolls above copied with 
the tax-lists of Easton shows that nearly every able-bodied 
citizen of the town, and even many of the boys, served their 
country in the Revolutionary War. This is a matter for honest 
town pride. Quite a number died in service ; but the military 

16 



L 



242 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

experience of many was limited to frequent trainings and an 
occasional march to Rhode Island on an " alarm." Some of 
them never even saw a Red-coat. A study of the military rolls 
in this chapter will show who served in posts of danger, who 
enlisted for long periods, who suffered at Valley Forge, or died 
in battle or of disease consequent upon exposure, privation, and 
hard service. 

On the subject of Tories there is not much to be said. Some- 
thing indeed might be repeated from the traditions that have 
come down to us ; but this is a very uncertain means of in- 
formation, and does not deserve to be recorded unless it can 
be confirmed by documentary evidence, especially where it 
affects the reputation of any one. The most diligent search 
which the writer has been able to make, has revealed only 
one case of an unmistakable Tory among the inhabitants of 
Easton during the Revolution. It is as well that his name 
should not be mentioned. We naturally regard such persons 
with odium ; and yet it is no doubt true that many of them 
were conscientious in their devotion to the Crown, and looked 
upon a separation from the Mother Country as a great calamity. 
The Tory in question was obliged to leave the town, and on 
the 8th of September, 1777, Abijah Felch, of Easton, was 
appointed agent " to act on the estate of said absentee ; and 
on the second day of October, 1780, sd. agent settled his 
accounts." 

The town of Easton had several commissioned officers both 
in the Continental and Militia service. It is fitting that some 
notice should be taken of them in the chapter that treats of the 
war in which they bore a part. 

First among these officers to be named is Capt. Elisha 
Harvey. He came to Easton from Taunton before 1767, and 
served throughout the war, being present at the battle of 
Brooklyn Heights, the execution of Major Andre, the siege of 
Yorktown, and at many of the most important battles. He wa3 
sergeant in Captain Drury's company of Knox's Artillery as 
early as May, 1776, and held that position during the year, when 
he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, continuing to serve 
in that capacity until 1780. From January, 1777, until January, 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 243 

1780, and probably afterward, he was in Colonel Lamb's artil- 
lery regiment. He was probably commissioned a captain about 
the close of the war, being after that time always known by 
this title. He had the reputation of being a brave officer. 
At the battle of Brooklyn Heights, the company to which he 
belonged was severely cut up and retreated before a spirited 
charge of the enemy. Harvey, then only a sergeant, alone 
stood by the guns. Two of them were loaded and ready to 
be discharged. Touching off first one and then the other, he 
turned the gun-carriages about, dragged them hastily to the 
brow of the bluff, and sent them rolling down the steep height, 
out of the reach of the enemy. This done, with shot flying 
about him on every side, he rushed down the cliff, entered a 
boat, and gained the opposite shore. After the close of the 
war he lived at Taunton, but returned to Easton in 1790 and 
spent his days here, — dying February 11, 1821. During his 
later years he was in receipt of a pension of thirty dollars a 
month. Our older citizens well remember him in his suit of 
homespun, and call to mind the interest with which he used 
to narrate his war experiences. He was a member of the 
celebrated Society of the Cincinnati, — an organization com- 
posed of the officers of the Continental Army. 

Capt. James Keith was another officer in the regular army. 
He was in the eighth regiment, a captain as early as July, 1775. 
This regiment was commanded by Col. Michael Jackson, and 
saw a good deal of hard service. March 8, 1780, General Heath 
and Lieutenant-Colonel Fernald wrote letters in which they 
stated, that, both for meritorious conduct and by regular pro- 
motion, Capt. James Keith was entitled to the rank of major in 
Michael Jackson's regiment ; and he was accordingly appointed 
to fill that position, and served in that capacity to the end of 
the war. After the battle of Bunker Hill a letter was found in 
the pocket of a British soldier who was killed there ; he was a 
sergeant, and in this letter was a list of "rebel" officers, and 
among other names was that of "Adjt.-Gen. Jas. Keith, of 
Easton." It was however a mistake to apply this title to him. 
Major Keith was the son of Josiah Keith, the second of that 
name in Easton, and was born in 1751. 



244 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Col. Abiel Mitchell was a prominent figure in the Revolu- 
tionary matters in Easton, serving on various committees, in the 
General Court, as a delegate for the town at several conventions, 
and in other ways. We are concerned here only with his part 
in the war. We have seen that he led the first company out of 
the town on the memorable 19th of April, the day of the battle 
of Lexington. At this time he was captain. Just one month 
from that day he was appointed major of the third regiment of 
militia in Bristol County. In February, 1776, he received the 
appointment of colonel of the same regiment, a position that he 
continued to hold throughout the war. He was seldom in active 
service in the field, his militia being called out only upon occa- 
sions of especial emergency. He served at least a few days in 
1775, three months in 1780, for forty days in 1781, and perhaps 
for one or two other brief periods. The principal assistance 
that he rendered, however, was in organizing the militia, in fur- 
nishing supplies, and in other such measures as were needed to 
make the town an efficient helper in the great cause of Indepen- 
dence. He was especially active in stamping out any Tory 
sentiment that dared to manifest itself, — there being some man- 
ifestations of it among a few of his neighbors. Even when an 
old man, the mention of the name of one of these Tory neighbors 
would kindle his passion, make his lips tremble and his eyes 
flash fire. Two or three incidents of his military experience 
may be briefly narrated here. 

At one time in battle, when the bullets flew thick and fast, a 
captain in his regiment, terrified at the fearful buzz and hum of 
those death-dealing missiles, crouched low to the ground. Col- 
onel Mitchell's eye caught sight of him, and finding that he was 
not wounded, but only thoroughly scared, he told him that if he 
did not immediately get up and attend to his duty he would 
himself shoot him and save the British the trouble of doing it. 
The poor captain, fearing a hundred random shots less than one 
from Colonel Mitchell's unerring hand, wisely complied with the 
Colonel's order. 

During one expedition he had sent out a guard of fifteen men 
on three different occasions. Twice the guard caifle in minus 
one or two men. No clew could be gained as to the cause of 
their disappearance. At the third service they had orders to 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



245 



shoot at any moving thing, no matter what it might seem to be. 
Far into the night a hog was seen moving about. Obedient to 
orders, one of the soldiers aimed and fired at the animal, when, 
instead of the squeal of a pig, was heard the loud yell of a savage, 
who leaped mortally wounded into the air and fell dead. The 
Indian in this disguise had tomahawked several soldiers. 

At one place where the Colonel was stationed, the ardent 
spirits, then regarded as one of the necessaries of war if not of 
life, were stored in a building under lock and key, and a sentinel 
placed on guard to prevent any one from getting in. But a 
French officer well known to the soldiers used to come at night, 
and when refused admittance would draw his sword, and being 
a very skilful swordsman would unfix the soldier's bayonet, walk 
in' and help himself. This was several times repeated, much to 
the discomfiture of the guard and the amusement of those who 
happened to hear of it. Colonel Mitchell begged that his son 
Tom might be put on guard for once. This was done. The 
officer came as usual, and the usual scene occurred, except that 
when the officer had unfixed the bayonet, the stout sentinel 
picked him up and carried him off. This was done repeatedly, 
until the Frenchman was tired out and gave up the attempt. 
Ever afterward Tom Mitchell was a favorite with that officer, 
and when he returned to France he endeavored to persuade the 
faithful sentinel to return with him, but in vain. Col. Abiel 
Mitchell was the son of Timothy, of Bridgewater, and a direct 
descendant from Experience Mitchell, one of the forefathers' 
who came to Plymouth in the third ship, the "Ann." He lived 
long, enjoying the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens ; 
was once candidate for State senator, and served for twenty-one 
successive years as representative at the General Court. His 
grave in the South-Easton cemetery is annually decorated with 
flowers and with the flag which he so gallantly defended. 

Another prominent Revolutionary officer of Easton was Capt. 
James Perry. He was the son of Capt. Nathaniel Perry, 
already spoken of as having died in the service of his country in 
the French and Indian War. In 1775 he raised a company of 
troops for the eight months service. Only five members of this 
company were from Easton, as this town had sent nearly all its 



246 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

available men to the front. He served in the army about two 
years altogether, being present at the battles of Trenton and 
Princeton. While in camp in New Jersey he was robbed of 
money that he had received for the payment of his troops, it 
being taken from under his pillow. Suspecting the offenders, 
he got the following permission to search their quarters: — ■ 

Capt. James Perry having lost a considerable sum of money, and 
expressing a desire to search the Houses of David Coree and L. Sland, 
is impowered to do it. 

By order of Major-General Sullivan, 

Lewis Morris, A. D. C. 
Springfield, January 27, 1777. 

In 1779 he returned home to superintend the manufacture of 
cannon and cannon-balls, his return being hastened by the fol- 
lowing order of one Paul Allen, and by similar applications : — 

*' Sir, — I am in immediate want of 400 Pound six-pound Shott and 
4000 Grape, suitable to make up for six-pound Cannon. Your Clark 
nor workmen dare not engage them in your absence, but think they 
could make them all next week." 

Captain Perry was at this time the owner of the furnace at 
the Furnace Village, and he turned this to account in the service 
of his country. There is evidence that he parried on a brisk 
business in this line. The above order was in June, 1777; and 
in 1782 in the Taunton Court Records is an account of the case 
of James Perry of Easton vs. Adam Babcock on a contract for 
" guns ; also for converting to the defendant's use two iron 
cannon of the plaintiff's." If the word " guns " here means 
muskets, it would appear that Captain Perry manufactured those 
also, as Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., was doing in the northeast part 
of the town. 

After the war was over Captain Perry had a painful experi- 
ence, which may as well be narrated here as elsewhere. It will 
be remembered that in 1786 there was an insurrectionary move- 
ment, mainly in Western Massachusetts, which ultimately became 
known as Shays's Rebellion. It was a revolt against the pressure 
of taxation and other grievances, and the chief remedy proposed 
was the issue of paper money, — a proposition with which our 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 247 

own generation is sufficiently familiar. Captain Perry was ac- 
cused of complicity in this rebellion, and appears to have been 
the victim of great injustice, and to have been much injured in 
his business by the inconveniences to which he was subjected. 
By whom or for what purpose this accusation was made against 
him is not known. But February 10, 1787, a warrant was issued 
for his arrest by the governor, and March 8 the office of jus- 
tice of the peace was taken from him.^ Going into Berkshire 
County on business, he was, February 21, arrested and impris- 
oned in the Northampton jail. The following interesting peti- 
tion written by him in jail will tell the whole story : — 

To his Excellency ya7nes Bowdoin, Esq., and the Honorable the 
Council of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts : 

The petition of James Perry of Easton, County of Bristol, Humbly 
shews, That your petitioner went from his home in Easton in the 
fourth of February last past, in order to settle some of his private 
business in the County of Berkshire, and to bring back some patterns 
belonging to Easton Furnace ; and having finished his business, as he 
was setting out for home was on the 21st day of February taken up 
by the Lighlhorsemen by order of the Honble Major-Gen. Lincoln, 
which he conceives was from some misrepresentation to the General, 
and sent to Northampton Goal, where he is now confined by a State 
warrant, being obliged to leave both slay & horses and Furnace 
Patterns & other articles, at Lenox, — which disappointment, together 
with his confinement, will entirely prevent his making a blast in Easton 
Furnace unless soon released, which will render him forever unable to 
discharge his just debts. Besides, your petitioner has a very large 
family to support, & is in low circumstances ; that he hath ventured his 
life & fortune in the late war against Britain, and spared no pains to 
protect and support the government and constitution of this common- 
wealth through the war ; that he hath not knowingly, wittingly, or will- 
ingly said or done any thing to hurt or destroy the constitution and form 
of Government of the commonwealth ; that he hath not been with, aided 
or assisted the Insurgents in the late tumults in the western Parts of the 
State ; that he had a long fit of sickness the last summer, & hath con- 
stantly been at home except on a journey to Boston ever since he was 
sick, which he could not consistant with his buisness avoid ; that he 
conceives there have been many misrepresentations which have oper- 

1 State Archives, vol. cl.xxxix. pp. 127, 128, 185, 186. 



248 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

ated to his injury. He therefore prays that he may be released from 
his confinement, he procuring a sufficient bond for his appearance at 
the time of trial ; that he is willing to have an impartial trial by his 
Peers, or the Laws of the Land, agreeable to the constitution and form 
of government ; that if he may be permitted to return home to his busi- 
ness he conceives that he shall be able to discharge some of his honest 
debts by making a blast in his furnace this Spring, and thereby do 
justice to himself and do no injury to government. He therefore prays 
that his case may be taken into your wise consideration, and release 
him as you in your wisdom shall see meet. As in duty bound shall 

ever pray 

James Perry. ^ 
Northampton, March 13, 1787. 

After nearly a month's tedious waiting in vain, the selectmen 
of Easton, — Abiel Mitchell, Seth Pratt, and Jacob Leonard, — 
presented another petition, in which they represented that the 
present blast must fail in Captain Perry's furnace because of his 
absence, and prayed for his release. To their petition they 
added the following: — 

N. B. We further certify that we never new James Perry, Esq., ever 
heded any body of People against government, or ever spoke against 
the same. 

Easton, April 2, 17S7.2 

Similar statements and requests were made by Samuel Guild, 
and by Matthew Hayward the town clerk. Another month 
went by without his release; and on the third of May he ad- 
dressed a pathetic appeal to the Governor and Council, reciting 
his services in the war, speaking of his large losses by the de- 
preciation of the currency, by the destruction of his furnace by 
fire, and by other unfortunate circumstances, and pleading that 
he might be brought to a speedy trial, or at least be removed to 
the jail in Bristol County, where he would be nearer his friends.^ 
Already, however, relief was on the way. On the day before 
this petition was written, being the second day of May, the 
Council had voted to release him if sufficient bail were given. 
Bail was imraedietely secured, and Captain Perry came home. 

1 State Archives, vol. clxxxix. p. 294. 

2 Ibid., p. 296. 3 Ibid., p. 293. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIOxN ARY WAR. 249 

The case does not appear ever to have been brought to trial. No 
report of any trial appears in the records of the Superior Court, 
to which the case was referred, nor is there any further allusion to 
it in the meetings of the Council. The conclusion is irresistible 
that he was the victim of a false accusation, and was wrongfully 
imprisoned ; but he never received any satisfaction for the losses 
that he had thereby sustained. His honor was not even vindi- 
cated by the trial that he asked for, and it is quite probable 
that this may account for the fact that 'he never received a 
pension on account of his military services. So powerful is 
slander to work irreparable mischief ! Further particulars con- 
cerning Captain Perry may be found in the Genealogical His- 
tory of Easton. 

Another Easton officer who spent considerable time in the 
war was Capt. Matthew Randall. He was son of Deacon 
Robert Randall. He first appears as a sergeant in Captain 
Mitchell's company, which marched to Lexington on the 19th of 
April, 1775. Returning soon afterward, he was made lieutenant 
in Capt. Francis Luscomb's company, in May, and served through 
the year in the siege of Boston. In March, 1776, he became 
captain of the fifth company of the third regiment of Bristol 
County Militia, — Abiel Mitchell having just been made the 
colonel of the same. During a large part of this year he was on 
duty in and about Boston, being in camp at Hull in June and 
July, and on Castle Island afterwards. In December he took his 
company into service, in the campaign in Rhode Island. He 
was in a three months campaign there in 1778, and for a time 
also in 1780. About the period of the close of the war he moved 
to Freetown, of which place he became a resident, and where he 
died about 1790. 

Another captain who belonged in Easton was Capt. Josiah 
Keith. He was the third of that name, and a direct descend- 
ant of the Rev. James Keith, one of the early settlers of Bridge- 
water. He began his Revolutionary experience as a lieutenant 
in Capt. Macey Williams's company. Not long afterwards he 
was made captain of the ninth company of the fourth regiment 
of the Bristol County Militia, commanded by Col. John Daggett. 



250 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



This company was enlisted mainly from the west part of the 
town, and was known as the West Company, Capt. Matthew 
Randall commanding the East Company. Captain Keith served 
with his company, as has already been narrated in this chapter, 
in several of the Rhode Island campaigns. He lived on the 
spot where the house of Joel S. Drake now stands, and died by 
suicide, April 9, 1803, aged 72 years. 

Capt. Macey Williams was another officer whom Easton 
gave to the Revolutionary service. He was a resident but not a 
native of Easton. His father was Josiah Williams, of Taunton, 
who settled in West Bridge water, where Macey was born in 
1736. He was captain of one of the companies of minute men 
that marched to Lexington on the evening of April 19, 1775. 
In October of that year he commanded a company in Col. Timo- 
thy Walker's regiment, and was in service for at least three 
months from that time. After that his name disappears from 
the muster-rolls, and for some reason not now ascertainable he 
probably left the army. He died in Easton, August 7, 1786. 

In 1780 Seth Pratt, who had served some time as lieuten- 
ant, took the command towards the close of the war of the East 
Company. He served as ensign in Captain Luscomb's company 
in 1775. He subsequently became a lieutenant of the company 
which he afterwards commanded. He was in service in several 
of the Rhode Island expeditions. He was the father of Dr. 
Seth Pratt and of Seaver Pratt. He was born November 21, 
1738, and died August 27, 1802. 

We will close this account of the Easton Revolutionary cap- 
tains with a notice of Capt. Ephraim Burr. He was son of 
John Burr, of West Bridgewater, where he was born in 1737, 
but became a resident of Easton as early as 1765. At that 
date he received the following license: — 

" Ephraim Burr of Easton is licensed by the Court to sell Tea, 
Coffy, and China ware, who became bound as principal in the sum of 
Ten pounds with Daniel Williams, Esq., his suret}', to pay to the Farmer 
on sd excise the duty as the law requires." ^ 

1 See Bristol County Court of Sessions, 1746-1777, p. 360. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 25 1 

He was a lieutenant in 1776. In 1777 he was made a cap- 
tain, and in March of that year enlisted a company with which 
he saw some of the hardest service of the war. He wintered 
with this company at Valley Forge, losing some of his men by 
death and some by desertion. He was captain in Col. John 
Bailey's regiment from January i, 1777, to September 10, 1779, 
and was very active in the enlistment of troops. His house 
was on Short Street, near the burying-ground. He died by his 
own hand, September i, 1786. 

It thus appears that the town of Easton furnished nine 
captains for the Revolutionary service. Of these, one, Abiel 
Mitchell, became a major and soon after a colonel of militia ; 
another, James Keith, became a major in the regular army. 
Most of these captains had previously been lieutenants ; but 
besides them the following also were lieutenants at some period 
of the war: Jacob Leonard, Isaac Fuller, Edward Hayward, 
David Keith, Abiel Williams, Jonathan Pratt, Zachariah Wat- 
kins, Nathan Hack, John Godfrey, and Dominicus Record. 
Silas Kinsley and Elijah Howard were ensigns. Capt. Zeph- 
aniah Keith was made a major in 1778, but does not appear 
to have seen active service. 

In addition to the brief biographies already given, there are 
two others that deserve to be added. The first is that of Brig.- 
Gen. Benjamin Tupper ; and the second, of his son Major Anselm 
Tupper, Neither was a resident of Easton when the war broke 
out ; but the former had been a resident for about ten years, and 
the latter was a native of the town. 

Brig. -Gen. Benjamin Tupper ^ was a citizen of Easton for 
about ten years, — for several years a schoolmaster here, and by 
marriage closely connected with several Easton families. He 
was born in Stoughton, in that part now Sharon, March 11, 
1738. His father was Thomas Tupper, Jr., of Sandwich. His 
mother was Remember (Perry) Tupper, also of Sandwich, and 

^ This sketch of Brigadier-General Tupper is, with the exception of such items 
as relate to Easton, extracted by permission from the excellent series of articles pub- 
lished in 1S83 in the " Sharon Advocate," and written by Solomon Talbot, of Sharon, 
Mass. These articles deserve to be republished in a more permanent form. 



2^2 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



sister of Capt. Nathaniel Perry, of Easton. They had moved to 
Stoughton before the birth of their son. For her second hus- 
band she married, October 4, 1742, Jeremiah Willis, the ancestor 
of the Philip Willis families. Benjamin lived with his parents 
until he went to learn the tanner's trade with Mr. Withington, 
of Dorchester. This was in his boyhood, for he was appren- 
ticed very early. While at Dorchester he was much on the 
water, shooting being his favorite pastime ; and he there gained 
that familiarity with the islands of Boston Harbor which was 
of such advantage in his efificient Revolutionary service in that 
locality, which will presently be noticed. In the French and 
Indian War we find him, when but sixteen years old, in the 
company of his uncle, Capt. Nathaniel Perry. This was in 1754. 
After this, for about ten years, Easton was his home. He was 
employed upon the farm of Joshua Howard, though he owned 
and may have cultivated a few acres of land which he bought in 
1756. He served, however, in several campaigns in the war just 
named, being a corporal in 1757, and a sergeant in 1759. In 
Easton he was for a number of years a schoolmaster, serving in 
this capacity during the winter. He taught as early as 1761. 

November 18, 1762, Mr. Tupper married Huldah, daughter 
of Edward and Kezia White, of Bridgewater. She was born in 
1739. Her mother Kezia was a native of Easton, being the 
daughter of George and Katherine (Dean) Hall, who were early 
settlers. Mrs. White had married in 1748, for a second hus- 
band, Edward PI ay ward, Esq., already so well known in this 
history. The latter died May 21, 1760. She lived four years 
of widowhood, and then in 1764 married Deacon Robert Ran- 
dall. January 8, 1764, Benjamin Tupper joined the Congre- 
gational Church of Easton. A few months after this he moved 
to Cliestcrfield, where he was an active citizen, and became the 
first deacon of the church. On the breaking out of the Revo- 
lutionary War he was a lieutenant of militia. He proceeded at 
once to Springfield, and dispersed the Supreme Court of the 
Crown then in session there. He then marched to Roxbury, 
and was at once made a major in Colonel Fellows's regiment. 
About the middle of July, 1775, he made an expedition with 
muffled oars to Castle Island, burned the lighthouse, and brought 
off considerable property, though the British fleet was not far off. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 



253 



The British endeavored to rebuild the lighthouse, but while 
the work of restoration was in progress, Major Tupper embarked 
some men in whale-boats, taking some field-pieces with them. 
They arrived at the lighthouse about two o'clock in the morning 
and attacked the guard, killed the officers and four privates, and 
captured the rest of the troops. Having demolished the works 
they were about to depart, but the tide left them, and the Major 
himself was attacked by the enemy's boats. But sinking one 
of the boats with his field-piece, he escaped with the loss of one 
man killed and one wounded. He killed and captured fifty-three 
of the enemy ; and among the captures were ten Tories, who 
were immediately sent to Springfield jail. This brave and suc- 
cessful attack won great praise. Washington thanked Major 
Tupper the next day in general orders. Jefferson saw in it "the 
adventurous genius and intrepidity of the New Englanders ; " 
and the British Admiral said that " no one act of the siege 
caused so much chagrin in London as the destruction of the 
lighthouse, and it was the theme of the most biting sarcasm." 

He was sent to Martha's Vineyard to capture two vessels in 
August, 1775. In the following September he embarked with 
his men on whale-boats from Dorchester, landed on Governor's 
Island, and brought off eleven head of cattle and two fine horses. 
While the enemy held Boston, Colonel Tupper was intrusted 
with the command of several expeditions that cannot be de- 
tailed here, but which showed the great confidence that General 
Washington had in his good judgment and courage. The follow- 
ing incident illustrates his intrepidity and presence of mind: — 

"Three men were out in a boat, fishing in Boston Harbor. The 
wind shifted, and the broken ice completely blocked up their way, so 
that it was impossible for them to return. Their situation was one of 
great peril. The wind blew severely cold, and the men must soon 
have perished had not Colonel Tupper appeared, who, taking in the 
situation at a glance, procured four pairs of snow-shoes, and putting 
one pair upon his own feet, and taking the others under his arm, he 
made his way to the boat over the floating ice. The shoes were 
fastened to the feet of the men, and Colonel Tupper brought them 
all away safely to the shore amidst the shouts and congratulations of 
the people." ^ 

1 See articles by Solomon Talbot, already mentioned. 



254 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Benjamin Tupper was lieutenant-colonel in Colonel Bailey's 
regiment, from January i, 1777, to July i, at which time he be- 
came Colonel of the Eleventh Regiment of Continental troops, 
which command he held to the end of the war. From Septem- 
ber I, 1778, and for more than a year afterward, he was inspec- 
tor in General Patterson's brigade.^ 

During the memorable winter of 1 777-1 778, his regiment was 
with Washington at Valley Forge; and on January 28, 1778, 
he addressed a pathetic appeal to the President of the Council 
of Massachusetts, imploring help for the distressed soldiers. 
He served with honor throughout the war, and towards its close 
was appointed brigadier-general by brevet. He took charge of 
the military organizations at Springfield at the time of Shays's 
Rebellion, and repelled the attack made by the insurgents on 
the Armory. He and General Putnam were chiefly instrumen- 
tal in organizing the Ohio Company,^ — a company formed to 
buy and encourage the settlement of the fertile lands of the 
Ohio Valley. General Tupper was one of the most active in 
surveying and laying out the lands and inviting their occupation 
by settlers. We cannot follow in detail all his interesting West- 
ern experience in the Ohio territory. He was appointed Judge of 
the Court of Common Pleas in 1788 ; was a Freemason of high 
rank, and a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. 

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing in the life of General 
Tupper is the fact, based on what seems sufficient evidence, 
that he was the real inventor of the screzv-propeller. The au- 
thority for this is the diary of the Rev. Dr. Manassah Cutler, a 
clergyman of note, and afterwards a member of Congress. He 
was with General Tupper in 1788, while on his journey to Ohio. 
The following extract from his diary is quoted by Solomon Tal- 
bot in his account of General Tupper : — 

1 State Archives, Continental Officers, vol. for 1777 to 1779, p. 13S. 

2 The evidence for the truth of this statement seems to the writer to be conclu- 
sive, notwithstanding that Hon. George B. Loring gives the chief credit of the affair 
to Dr. Manassah Cutler, of Essex County, Mass. Rufus Putnam and Benjamin 
Tupper joined in the call for the meeting held in Boston which led to the formation 
of this Company, — a meeting which Dr. Cutler says he had not thought of 
attending until urged to do so by Winthrop Sargent, a friend of General Tupper. 
For proof of these statements see Nos. 10 and 11 of the articles of Solomon Talbot 
already alluded to. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 255 

"Friday, August 15, 1788. — This morning we went pretty early to 
the boat. General Tupper had mentioned to me a mode of con- 
structing a machine to work in the head or stern of a boat instead of 
oars. It appeared to me highly probable that it might succeed. I 
therefore proposed that we should make the experiment. Assisted 
by a number of people, we went to work and constructed a machine 
in the form of a screw, with short blades, and placed it in the stern 
of the boat, and which we turned with a crank. It succeeded to ad- 
miration, and I think it a very successful discovery." 

It would thus appear that General Tupper, ninety-eight years 
ago, anticipated the discovery of the screw-propeller, which was 
nearly half a century in coming into favor, but which every 
ocean steamship now employs. 

Troubled times with the Indians soon followed, and a war of 
several years duration was brought to an end by General Wayne, 
who subdued the savages in 1795. But General Tupper passed 
away earlier, dying June 7, 1792, at fifty-four years of age, and 
was buried at Marietta. When General Lafayette visited 
Marietta in 1825, and the names of the pioneers (many of 
them Revolutionary soldiers) were read to him, he responded, 
" I know them all. I saw them at Brandywine, at Yorktown, 
at Monmouth, and at Rhode Island. TJiey zvere the bravest 
of the brave!' 

One curious thing deserves notice here. The reader may 
recall the fact mentioned at the beginning of this sketch, that 
Mrs. Kezia White, the mother of General Tupper's wife, married 
for her second husband Edward Hayward, Esq. In the course 
of time it turned out that Edward Hayward's grandson, Capt. 
Rotheus Hayward (son of Deacon Joseph) married the grand- 
daughter of General Tupper. Her name was Panthia Nye. 

Major Anselm Tupper, eldest son of General Benjamin and 
Huldah (White) Tupper, whose picture is here presented to the 
reader, was born in Easton, October 11, 1763. When the 
Revolutionary War began he was eleven years of age. His 
father, of course, left him at home when he departed for the 
scene of action ; but he inherited the military spirit from both 
the Perrys and the Tuppers, and the brave lad could not re- 
main at home. Accordingly, soon after the battle of Le.xing- 



256 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



ton, he enlisted in Capt. Robert West's Chesterfield company,^ 
which was assigned to Colonel Fellows's regiment, in which his 
father was already major. It is interesting to think of this 
Revolutionary soldier, not yet twelve years old, engaging in all 
the toil, hardship, and peril of war, and never flinching until his 
country's independence was achieved. 

Anselm Tapper remained in the service in the same regiment 
with his father, participating with him in the engagement on the 
North River in August, 1776, being in his regiment also at 
West Point. He was an ensign in 1779. March 15, 1780, he be- 
gan to serve as lieutenant, though not at that time commissioned 
as such. September 15, 1780, Colonel Tupper recommended 
Anselm Tupper and others in his regiment for promotion. The 
document embodying this recommendation is very interesting, 
because it is indorsed by General Washington, who, under his 
own signature, earnestly approved and urged the promotions 
suggested by Colonel Tupper.^ 

The appointment was made September 26, 1780. He then 
began to be paid as lieutenant.*^ From January i, 1782, until 
January i, 1783, he was lieutenant and adjutant in Colonel 
Tupper's regiment in the Continental army (the eleventh).* His 
appointment as adjutant began presumably on the former of 
these two dates, although it is possible he may have been serv- 
ing in that capacity a short time in 1781. After this time and 
until the close of the war he served as adjutant in the Con- 
tinental service in Col. Ebenezer Sprout's regiment (the second, 
once Colonel Bailey's). His name appears as of that rank in a 
list of officers of that regiment under date of July 11, 1783.^ 

After the close of the war'' he was engaged as surveyor with 
his father, who had been appointed by the Government to lay 
out the lands in the territory northwest of the Ohio. After 

^ State Archives, Revolutionary Rolls, vol. Ivi. p. 43. 

2 Ibid., Revolutionary Letters, vol. cciii. pp. 109, no. 

s Ibid., Continental Officers, vol. for 17S0, p. 87. 

* Ibid., Revolutionary Rolls, vol. Ix. p. 13. 

6 Ibid., vol. 1. p. 13. 

6 This remaining account of Major Anselm Tupper was mainly written by 
Anselm Tupper Nye, the nephew of Major Tupper, for Solomon Talbot, who has 
kindly furnished it to the writer of this History. The heliotype print here given 
is from a photograph of a copy of a painting of Major Tupper, the original being 
the work of Sully. 




Major Anselm Tupper. 



EASTON IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. 257 

completing the survey of the seven ranges Major Tapper re- 
turned to Massachusetts, and in November, 1787, was appointed 
by the directors of the Ohio Company as surveyor for that com- 
pany for the State of Massachusetts. He was one of the fa- 
mous pioneer band that crossed the Alleghany Mountains in 
the winter, and made the first settlement in the Northwest Ter- 
ritory at Marietta, April 7, 1788. The survey was continued 
until they were driven off by the attacks of the Indians, who 
afterwards, in 1790, surprised a settlement up the Muskingum 
River and barbarously butchered one woman, two children, and 
eleven men. Major Tupper at the head of a company of sol- 
diers went to this sickening scene of atrocity, and buried the 
mutilated bodies side by side where they fell. 

Anselm Tupper was the first school-teacher at Marietta. 
When we consider that such regular schooling as he possessed 
must all have been acquired previous to his entering the army 
(which he did before he was twelve years old), it may seem 
strange that he was fitted to fill the position of teacher. But 
he had no doubt improved the opportunities afforded by associ- 
ation with French officers of education and culture, probably 
learning the French and Latin languages, as he is understood 
to have been a classical scholar. He had great proficiency in 
mathematics, and was also something of a poet. 

Major Tupper is said to have possessed a polished address 
and fine intellectual ability, and was a great favorite in society. 
He never married. He was appointed major of the stockade 
at Marietta during the war, and afterwards taught school in one 
of the blockhouses. In a vessel built at Marietta he made a 
voyage as second officer down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, 
across the Atlantic, up the Mediterranean and Black seas to 
Trieste. He returned home, and died several years afterward. 
He was buried in the Mound Cemetery at Marietta, near his 
father, and his epitaph reads, — 

Major Anselm Tupper, born at Easton, Mass, 
Oct. II, 1763, DIED December 25TH, 1808. 

17 



258 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

CHAPTER XV. 

THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 

The Dawn of Peackful Times for the Easton Church. — The Call 
OF William Reed. — His Birth and Ancestry. — " Relation" of 
HIS Religious Experience. — How he obtained his Wife. — The 
Ordination Services. — Home Life. — Church Discipline. — 
The Ministerial Land. — Incorporation of the Parish. — 
The Church Bell. — Pecuniary Struggles. — Mr. Reed as 
a Preacher. 

AT last in the religious life of Easton we have come to peace- 
ful times. The dreary succession of storms and tempests 
is over. The clouds have rolled away, and though we continue 
to hear the echoes of the retreating thunder, though all about 
us are too evident signs of damage and desolation, still the sky 
is blue above our heads, and the sun shines bright with promise 
of better days. For half a century now we shall have a church 
life of comparative peace. 

At the date of Mr. Campbell's dismissal, 1782, the church 
life was low. The church had suffered in the late dissension. 
Hard feeling and alienations and consequent declining of reli- 
gious interest had resulted. Moreover, the long war of the 
Revolution had done much to unsettle the habits of the people. 
Returning soldiers brought back rougher manners and looser 
principles. The times, too, were hard. A rapidly depreciating 
currency created distrust and discontent. Notwithstanding this 
state of things in the church and parish, all were unanimous 
in the desire to have the Rev. William Reed for their pastor. 
The church called him, July 25, 1783, after the usual fasting 
and prayer. The town unanimously concurred in this call 
August 25. Deacon Phillips said to Mr. Reed that he must 
not refuse the call, for if he did they would " be all broken up." 
Esquire Hubbard, of Abington, told Mrs. Deacon Pratt that Mr. 
Reed was too good a man for a town like Easton, With quick 
wit, and with good sense too, Mrs. Pratt responded that if 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 



259 



Easton people were as wicked as he had intimated, then they 
needed just such a man as Mr. Reed for their minister. Esquire 
Hubbard's remark, however, shows the reputation Easton had 
acquired in the vicinity. 

The town voted Mr. Reed one hundred pounds for his yearly 
salary for four years, and after that eighty pounds. This needs 
explanation. Formerly a sum about equal to one year's salary 
had been voted as an inducement for the minister to settle, and 
was called his " encouragement," or " settlement." But it was 
not found easy to raise this extra money in one or two years. It 
was therefore thought better to distribute it through several 
years ; so that we are, in fact, to understand that his salary for 
each year was eighty pounds, and the addition of twenty pounds 
a year for the first four years was his " encouragement." Subse- 
quently they voted that he might get his firewood from the min- 
isterial land ; and an increasing confidence in the clergy seems 
indicated by the fact that they did not, as in Mr. Campbell's 
case, appoint some one to watch lest " good timber " should 
be cut for firewood. Mr. Reed accepted the call of church and 
parish in the following concise, sensible letter : — 

2^0 the Church and Congregation in Easton : 

Brethren, — Having taken into mature consideration the request of 
the church, together with the concurring voice of the congregation, to 
settle amongst you in the work of the ministry, I think it my duty to ac- 
cept of your call. Desiring your prayers to God for me that I may be 
faithful and successful in the great and important work, I am with re- 
spect, brethren, your most obedient and humble servant, 

William Reed. 
Easton, Feb. 7, 1784. 

We note the absence of all professions, promises, and verbal 
extravagance in this brief letter. It was characteristic of Mr. 
Reed, we shall find, to avoid circumlocution, to say no more 
than he meant, and to go straight to his mark. 

" Rev. William Reed, of Easton, was the son of William and Silence 
(Nash) Reed of Abington, and was descended in the fifth generation 
from William Reed born in 1605, who sailed from Gravesend in the 
county of Kent, England, in the ' Assurance de Lo ' (of London) in 
1635, who settled in Weymouth, Mass., and was made a freeman 



26o HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Sept. 2, 1635. The direct descendants of this first William Reed who 
came to this country were William, who married Esther Thompson of 
Middleboro in 1675, a granddaughter of Francis Cook, one of the 
' Mayflower ' company. Of their eight children, Jacob, the third son, 
born in 1691, married Sarah Hersey, and their son William was the 
Rev. William Reed, of Easton. 

" He was born on June 8, 1755, and as it was Sunday he was carried 
the same afternoon two miles on horseback to be baptized, in con- 
formity wilh the custom of the times. Think of the poor little infant 
wrapped in its swaddling clothes, its eyes hardly opened to the light of 
the new world it had just entered, jolted over two miles of a country 
road in the arms of a nurse, who sat on a pillion behind the father ! 
His boyhood and youth were spent in the usual labors of New Eng- 
land farmers' sons of that day ; and being nurtured in a religious 
home, and surrounded by the grave influences prevalent at that time, 
he early became religiously disposed, and made every effort to obtain 
a collegiate education, with a view of entering the Christian ministry. 
His advantages were meagre in the imperfect winter schools of his 
native town, and various circumstances prevented his entering on his 
preparatory studies till the age of twenty-one. Still he struggled on. 
It was probably at this time that he publicly connected himself with 
the church, for we find the following curious ' Relation,' as it is 
called, — a confession of his unworthiness and sin, and of his con- 
viction that he had found the grace of God, which confession was 
publicly made as a preliminary of joining the church." ^ 

The " relation " referred to above we shall give in full, be- 
cause it illustrates a phase of church life and discipline which 
was introduced by the Rev. Mr. Prentice soon after his settle- 
ment here, and continued in use for many years. The writer 
has seen many such "relations," and their similarity and confor- 
mity to an established type make them appear formal and con- 
ventional, wanting the individuality, sincerity, and fresh feeling 
which the expression of religious experience ought to indicate. 
The temptation to make a good statement of such experience 
must often have led persons to express more than they really 
felt, and opened the way to insincerity and hypocrisy. Mr. 
Reed's "relation" is as follows: — 

1 Quoted from a sketch of the Rev. William Reed, written by his grandson, Wil- 
liam Howells Reed, to whom the writer is indebted for interesting personal details 
in this chapter. 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 261 



To the Rev. Pastor and Church of Christ in this place : 

The all-wise God, whose ways are unsarchable and whose judge- 
ments are past finding out, was pleased in his boundless mercy to 
send forth his holy spirit and apprehend me while in a state of secur- 
ity and guilt, and awaken me to a solemn concern for my immortal 
soul. I was brought to see that I was a sinner by nature, that I came 
into the world in a state of pollution and guilt, and that I had actually 
broken the law of God in thought, word, and deed, ways and times 
without number, and was thereby exposed to eternal death. I saw 
that my feet stood in slippery places, and that I was in the utmost 
danger every moment of sliding into the bottomless gulf of eternal 
despair. The arrows of the Almighty so pierced my soul that I was 
ready to cry out, A wounded spirit who can bear 1 Now my earnest 
enquiry was, How shall I escape the wrath of an angry God, which I 
saw revealed from heaven against all the workers of iniquity ? I was 
ready to fly to the law for relief, but all in vain ; for I found that the 
law required perfect obedience, and condemned for the least offence, 
and demanded satisfaction for former violations which I saw impos- 
sible for me ever to make ; therefore I was convinced that I could not 
be saved by the deeds of the law. I was convinced that the strictest 
outward morality would never entitle me to the favor of God, — it was 
the heart and the whole heart that God required. I saw that it would 
be just with God to cast me off forever, and that there was no pos- 
sible way to escape but and through Jesus Christ. But my reluctant 
unbelieving heart was unwilling to part with all for the pearl of great 
price, till God by his almighty power humbled me to the very dust, 
and brought me to lie at the foot of sovereign mercy ; then He who 
is rich in mercy was pleased to send forth a ray of divine light and 
illuminate my dark and benighted understanding, and give me to see 
the beauty, excellency, and glory of God shining forth in the face of 
Jesus Christ. I beheld Christ Jesus by an eye of [faith] to be an 
all-sufficient glorious Saviour, and saw the infinite evil of sin, and be- 
held Jesus, the Lord of glory, wounded for my transgressions and 
bruised for mine iniquities. I saw that he had wrought a righteous- 
ness every way answering the demands of a broken law, which was 
sufficient to justify the vilest sinner in the sight of God, and was 
offered freely to every one that would accept of it without money and 
without price. Christ Jesus appeared to be the brightness of his 
father's glory and the express Image of his person, the chief among 
ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely ; and I hope and trust that 
I was enabled by faith to receive him for my Prophet, Priest, and 



262 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



King, and rest my soul upon his all-perfect righteousness. I trust 
that 1 was brought to adopt the language of holy Job, and say, " I have 
heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee ; 
wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." This I offer 
to your consideration for admission into fellowship and communion 
with this Church, desiring your reception of and prayers for me that I 
may live and walk agreeable to the Gospel of Christ. 

William Reed. 

Instead of being the outpouring of hearts deeply stirred by 
gratitude for the work of saving grace, these " relations " seem 
more like studied rehearsals of the scheme of Calvinistic divin- 
ity. But it was the rule of the church in Easton that such a 
statement should be made, either orally or in writing. 

Shortly after the battle of Lexington Mr. Reed enlisted as a 
soldier in the Revolutionary War. He served in Captain Isaac 
Wood's company of Middleborough men, being for several 
months in the army about Boston. He also served for a few 
days on several Rhode Island " alarms." At the expiration of 
his first term of service, having realized enough from his pay to 
procure the necessary books, he began his studies with his uncle, 
the Rev. Solomon Reed, of Middleborough, entering Harvard 
University in 1778, and graduating in 1782. He then spent a 
year in teaching school and reading divinity, the theological 
education of candidates for the ministry being at that time 
very meagre and superficial as a rule. It consisted of a course 
of reading for about a year, usually under the direction of a set- 
tled clergyman ; candidates were then examined by an Asso- 
ciation of ministers, who, if the examination was satisfactory, 
approbated them, and recommended them to the work of the 
ministry. The following is a copy of the certificate given to Mr. 
Reed : — 

We whose Names are underwritten do hereby Certify That Mr, 
William Reed, late of Cambridge College, having Offered himself to 
Examination relative to his Quallifications for the Work of the Gospel 
Ministry, was accordingly Examined by us Members of an Associa- 
tion in the County of Plymouth ; and it appears to us, upon strict 
Enquiries made, & the Answers he returned. Together with the Rep- 
resentation He then made of the Sense he had of God and The 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 263 

Things of Religion, that he is Suitably Qualified for, and therefore 
we can & do freely recommend him unto, the Work of the Gospel 
Ministry. 

John Shaw. 

Solomon Reed. 
Peres Fobes. 

MiDDLEBOROUGH, April l8, 1 783. ' 

Mr. Reed must have preached at Easton very soon after this 
date, as he had a call from the church three months afterward. 
He was ordained April 21, 1784. Extensive preparations were 
made for the service of ordination. As many as ten churches 
were invited to be present, — including the church ministered 
to by Mr. Reed's uncle in Middleborough, the four churches in 
Bridgewater, and the churches in Abington, Mansfield, Norton, 
Taunton, and Raynham. The Rev. Silas Brett, who had left 
his charge at Freetown to become a citizen of Easton, provided 
good cheer for the council, to the amount of forty-five dollars. 
The meeting-house had been allowed to get shabby, and now a 
decided effort was made to have it put in good order. The 
windows were carefully repaired, and Jedediah Willis was ap- 
pointed to provide a new covering for the pulpit cushion. 
People came from far and near on this great day, many of the 
men being on horseback, with their wives on pillions behind 
them. They drive to the "horse-block," where the women dis- 
mount. This horse-block was about seven feet long and three 
feet wide, and six or eight inches thick. It was a large slab of 
stone raised about three feet from the ground, and supported by 
brick-work. At one end were a few steps by which ladies might 
mount the block or descend from it. Years afterward this slab 
of stone became the door-step at Daniel Reed's store, just west 
of the church. In 1828, by formal vote, the parish relinquished 
all right to it. 

The meeting-house is unpainted, bare and weather-stained 
upon the outside. We may enter it by either of three doors, for 
there is one on the east, one on the south, and another on the 
west side of the building. The angular pulpit was on the north 
side, and had a sounding-board suspended over it, held by an 
iron rod. There was no belfry at the time, and no porch ; these 
were not built until ten years later, at which time a bell was also 



264 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

provided. There were the old, square, high-backed pews. The 
deacons' pew was by the side of the pulpit, and when occupied 
it helped to give dignity and solemnity to the scene. The front 
seats of the centre aisle were for old persons, and others who 
were hard of hearing. The "women's seats" were on one side, 
the " men's seats " on the other, these being the common seats, 
and not including the family box-pews. On one side of the 
square pews the seats were hung upon hinges, so that as the 
people rose " in prayer time " the seats could be turned up and 
make more room for standing. "And we can imagine the 
clatter and bang of these rough board seats as they were 
slammed down, not always softly we may be sure, by mischiev- 
ous urchins who liked the reverberations, which sounded like 
the irregular firing of musketry, as each seat fell in its place." ^ 
The church had a low gallery, which was entered on one side 
by " men's stairs" and on the other by " women's stairs," the 
seats on one side being for men, and on the other for women. 
It was never heated, was sometimes freezing cold, and even the 
foot-stove appears to have been an innovation of a later time. 
Apparently, at this time instrumental music had not fought its 
way into the service of our sanctuary in Easton, for the church 
has its " tuners" to sound the key-note of the hymns, and to lead 
in the singing. At this date, April, 1784, Robert Drake, Jr., and 
two others are the tuners, — and very proud no doubt they are 
of their part in the ordination service of the new minister. 

Were it possible for us to go back one century and look in 
upon the large audience that gathered in the church of our 
fathers, we should be especially struck by the imposing and 
reverend appearance of the half score of clergymen who were 
seated there, with their white wigs and quaint old costumes. 
But what would interest us most would be the appearance of the 
minister, and of the young lady who is soon to be his bride. 
Curiously enough, the record of the costumes they wore that 
day has been carefully preserved. Mr. Reed has on a light-blue 
mixed coat, black lasting vest with skirts and pockets in it, and 
small clothes of the same, white linen stockings, and silver knee 
and shoe buckles, white wig, and, when out of doors, a cocked 
hat. It was the same suit he had worn at his graduation the 
1 William Howells Reed's statement. 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 265 

year before. But curiosity is on tiptoe to see the young lady, 
Miss Olive Pool, who was soon to be the minister's wife. She 
dismounts from the pillion of her father's horse at the horse- 
block, and the staid matrons shake their heads gravely as they 
catch sight of the slight form of this girl, seventeen years old. 
She comes in shyly no doubt, with happy face and sparkling 
eyes, in her scarlet silk dress "trailing half a yard," open in 
front, with gauze handkerchief, white petticoat, and embroidered 
apron with strings tied in front, and with high-heeled shoes. 
She had worn the same dress at his graduation, and it is worth 
telling how she got it, because it will also tell us how she got 
her husband. 

Mr. Samuel Pool lived in a house that was on the boundary line 
between Abington and Bridgewater. He had several daughters 
who were acquaintances of Mr. Reed, he having taught in the 
district school which they attended. He invited the oldest 
daughter to attend his graduation at Cambridge ; she declined. 
He then asked her sister next of age ; she did not care to go. 
He was not to be put off in this way, and he invited Olive, then 
only sixteen years of age, twelve years younger than himself. 
Much surprised, and as much pleased, she said she would like to 
go if she had any dress fit to wear on such an occasion. Mr. 
Reed would not allow this deficiency to stand in the way, and so 
he bought the material himself, and took the young lady with it 
to his sisters at Abington, and they made it up for her. How 
much sometimes hangs on how little ! It was doubtless the 
declining this invitation by the older sisters that made Olive Pool 
the wife of William Reed. Be that as it may, one month after 
the ordination at Easton, May 20, 1784, they became husband 
and wife, and moved to Easton on the 8th of June following. It 
may seem strange that Mrs. Reed did not join the church until 
1800, but such is the fact. She evidently meant to be sure of 
her calling and election before taking that important step. 

Mr. Reed bought the place opposite the almshouse, and 
moved into a house a little west of the large square house he 
soon afterward built. The well that belonged to the old house 
may still be seen. The new house was built probably in 1786, 
as William, Jr., born in 1787, was the first child born there. 
This house, somewhat enlarged from what it was in those days, 



266 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

is still standing, its interior in many respects the same. There 
was the grand old kitchen, the living room of the house, with 
its large chimney, its deep fire-place, and the blackened crane 
from which hung the utensils used for cooking. There was the 
huge back-log, ablaze with cheerful warmth. There was the 
great pantry stored with the good things made by the careful 
and hospitable housewife. There in the long winter evenings 
might be heard the hum of the spinning-wheel and the flying 
shuttles of the loom, — sounds of industry often prolonged late 
into the night. From the low trundle-bed the children, if wake- 
ful, might see the deft and loving hands of the dear mother 
working patiently in the still hours, that they, in their rough but 
strong and neat homespun, might go tidy to school. It was not 
unusual for one of her boys to tell her in the evening that he had 
worn out his mittens and needed a new pair, and to wake up in 
the morning and find the new pair knit and ready for him to put 
on. One of her sons returned at one time from a distant school, 
and within twenty-four hours she spun and wove three yards of 
cotton cloth, and made a shirt for him to take away. In the 
midst of such cares came the first sorrow to the young mother, 
in the loss of the little daughter Olive, in the month of August, 
1 793 > the child being' seventeen months old. The little coffin 
was placed upon a round table out in the open air near the grave, 
which was under a walnut tree not far from the house. It was 
a very impressive scene, as the clergymen in their white wigs 
stood there reverently conducting the service, and the moaning 
of the bereaved mother mingled with the rustling of the leaves, 
the songs of birds, and all the varied sounds of Nature. The 
interesting picture of Mrs. Reed here presented is from a da- 
guerrotype taken late in life. It gives the impression of serenity 
and strength, traits conspicuous in her character. 

In the parish and church things go quietly and peacefully on. 
There is at first a lack of religious interest. The church meet- 
ings are few, and not well attended. It is easy to understand 
the disappointment of the excellent minister when he had to re- 
cord, as he sometimes did, " The meeting was dismissed, owing 
to the small number present." In 1784 Matthew Hay ward is 
chosen deacon, and some years later Joseph Drake and Abijah 
Reed are chosen to the same office, Matthew Hayward having 




Mrs. Olive Reed. 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 267 

moved away. It is refreshing to note that at this time church 
discipline means something, and that dishonesty, intemperance, 
slander, etc., unless repented of, are sufficient grounds for open 
rebuke and even expulsion. As an example we give the follow- 
ing case of discipline, the Willis named being Captain Jedediah, 
who leaves no descendants here to be troubled by this record. 
It was voted at church meeting, August 20, 1792, — 

"i. That the conduct of Capt. Jedediah Willis towards Abijah 
Knapp, a member of the church in Taunton, was unchristian, in 
calling hira a Rascal, & ordering him out of his house in an abrupt 
manner. 

" 2. We have such strong suspicions, from circumstancial evedence, 
that said Willis has given himself up to excessive drinking of Spiritous 
Liquor, that we are unwilling to commune with him at the Lord's Table. 

"3. That he has been guilty of slander in declaring openly & re- 
peatedly that the Pastor of the church of Christ in Easton had told 
him thirty Devilish Lies. 

"For which offences, Voted unanimously that he, the said Willis, be 
suspended from our Communion and from all church privileges, till he 
make a publick confession to church and congregation." 

In 1 79 1 the town petitioned the General Court to pass an Act 
to incorporate the parish in Easton. It was allowed; and on 
February 4, 1792, there was passed "An Act to establish and 
incorporate a Religious Society in the Town of Easton in the 
County of Bristol, by the name of the Congregational Parish of 
Easton." By this Act those who usually attended or should 
attend services with the Congregational society in Easton, and 
who should cause their names to be registered with the clerk 
of said society, were constituted a distinct corporation, with 
power to hold meetings, levy and collect taxes, and transact such 
business as other parishes of the Commonwealth might transact. 
One effect of this Act was to take the parish business out of town- 
meetings, and to have it managed only by those who were prop- 
erly members of the parish. This was a very great gain, saving 
as it did much wrangling and embarrassment consequent upon 
the business of the parish being shared in by so many who had 
no real interest in its affairs. It also enabled the parish in its 
corporate capacity to hold property the income of which should 



268 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

not exceed ;!^I50, and provided that until the annual income of 
such property was sufficient to support a public teacher, no part 
of it should be "applied or used for any other purpose than to 
increase the principal fund or estate." The strongest motive 
for incorporating the parish was doubtless to enable its mem- 
bers to secure for the sole use of the Congregational society the 
property originally designed for its use. A sentiment adverse 
to this had been developing. The Baptists, the rising Metho- 
dist Society, and others maintained, that, as the ministerial lands 
had been originally voted to the whole town as a parish, now 
that the town was divided into several parishes there should be 
an equitable division of the property among all of them. This 
proposition seemed plausible and just. But the question in- 
volved was no new one ; it had been discussed and definitely 
acted upon many years before. In 1753, when the Presbyterian 
society was organized under Mr. Prentice, an attempt was made 
to secure a part of this property for the use of this society. But 
the Taunton North-Purchase Company settled the question au- 
thoritatively in a meeting held April 2, 1753. After defining 
the boundaries of the ministerial lands granted by said company 
in 1684, the proprietors voted as follows : — 

"And whereas our predecessors who voted and set said land appart 
for the ministry were of, and belonged to, those Churches which were 
then called and known by the name of Congregational Churches, and 
we apprehend it was their design and intent that the above mentioned 
lands shall be improved for the maintaining of the ministers of those 
Churches which shall be of those principles : Therefore we now vote 
that the whole of the abovesaid lands shall be improved for the main- 
taining of the ministers of the several Congregational Churches which 
belong to the said towns above mentioned, and be improved for that 
end only." ^ 

It was therefore just that this property should be used for the 
Congregational society alone, and by having it vested in the 
corporation now organized it would be no longer in danger of 
division or misappropriation. 

1 Taunton North-Purchase Book of Votes, p. 86. The " said towns above men- 
tioned " were Norton and Easton. 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 269 

This Act did not exempt all persons except members of this 
parish from taxation for the support of worship. Those who 
were connected with other religious organizations were thus 
exempted by a vote of the parish ; but those who were con- 
nected with none were not exempted. The Act abolishing com- 
pulsory taxation for the support of worship, and making such 
support entirely voluntary was not passed until 1832. It is prob- 
able, however, that before that date it had long been a dead letter, 
and that even in 1793 and afterward the law, which must have 
been increasingly odious, was not very rigidly enforced. 

The Act of incorporation referred to provided for the choice 
of five trustees besides the minister, who should receive, hold, 
and manage the parish funds. These trustees were to be 
chosen annually. The Act was amended in 18 10, after the 
death of Rev. Mr. Reed, by repealing so much of it as required 
that the minister of the society should be one of the trustees. 
The first board of trustees was the Rev. William Reed, Matthew 
Hayward, Abiel Mitchell, Samuel Guild, Abisha Leach, and 
Elijah Hayward. But when the first meeting was held for 
organization of the corporation, John Howard and Edward 
Williams were chosen trustees in place of Matthew Hayward 
and Samuel Guild. Elijah Howard was elected clerk and 
treasurer. A parish record was begun, which still exists in 
perfect order, and is in the possession of the Congregational 
(Unitarian) Parish of Easton. 

In 1793, after the incorporation of the parish, it was found 
that the town of Easton had about three hundred pounds' worth 
of unappropriated property. An attempt was made to increase 
the parish fund by adding to it this property, after deducting 
from it and allowing to " people of other denominations being 
inhabitants of the Town " such proportion as should appear to 
be their due according to the amounts assessed upon them for 
taxes, and allowing them to use it as they saw fit. It does 
not appear whether this plan was proposed or opposed by the 
parish, but it was voted; and the Baptist Society which was 
just dying, and the Methodist Society which was just being 
born, might hope for some advantage by having town funds 
thus divided. But their hopes were dashed ; for in April of 
the next year the vote was rescinded, and the unappropriated 



'&£' 



270 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

property of the town was turned over to the payment of regular 
town charges. In October, 1792, the following proceedings are 
recorded : — 

" It is observable that the People of this Town are very irregular as 
to the time of attending Publick worship. To prevent this Disorder, 
We, the subscribers, are desireous of procuring a Bell to the Meeting- 
house, and promise to pay the sums affixed to our Names for that 
purpose," etc. 

Nearly fifty pounds were subscribed, Mr. Reed giving the 
largest sum (;^3, 18s.), his parishioners refraining with singular 
delicacy from exceeding the amount given by their minister. 
The bell was cast by Ezekiel Reed. The metal put into it was 
one old bell of 346 pounds weight, and 274^ pounds of copper 
and block tin, a total of 620^^ pounds. It cost £48, Ss., $d. 
August 15, 1793, it was voted to give the new bell for the use 
of the parish, " And the Town, or any inhabitant of The Town 
of Easton, shall not be Prohibited the use of said Bell on any 
Necessary Occasion." On the 2d of September the parish voted 
to accept the bell of the donors, and to build a belfry from the 
garret beams to hang the bell in. The work does not appear 
to have been done, nor the bell to have been hung until nearly 
June, 1794. It was voted, June 23, that any individual might 
have the bell tolled on the death of a friend, provided he would 
bear the expense of tolling it. The access to the belfry, that is 
to the platform on which the bell frame was placed, was by one 
or two flights of stairs to a floor, and there a ladder about six 
feet in length admitted one to the fioor of the belfry. A spire 
surmounted the belfry, and at this time a porch was added to the 
meeting-house. 

It has already been stated that the salary of Mr. Reed was 
fixed at eighty pounds a year, an addition of twenty pounds 
yearly being made for the first four years for his " settlement." 
This money for many years succeeding the Revolutionary War 
had a very uncertain value, as we have already shown, — a value 
considerably less than the present worth of the English pound 
sterling. With his family growing up about him, and with the 
large demands of hospitality which a country clergyman at that 
time must meet, his salary proved too small. This became 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 



271 



known, and in 1796 the parish voted that a committee be chosen 
to " take into consideration the surcumstances of the Rev. Mr. 
Reed," and to name what would be the proper sum to pay him 
for a salary. The committee reported that one hundred pounds 
was about the right sum, and this was voted. The real value of 
this salary at that date was only three hundred dollars. Of course 
the necessaries of life then were cheaper than they are now, and 
Mr. Reed was able to get something from the unwilling soil. 
But it was a hard struggle. To meet the growing demands of a 
large family and the claims of hospitality required on that salary 
such toil in the field by the goodman, and at the spinning-wheel 
and loom by the prudent housewife, such economy and self- 
sacrifice, as the present generation knows little of. There were 
some in the society who saw and appreciated the situation, and 
in 1801, through their influence, a vote was passed to make Mr. 
Reed's salary one hundred and twenty pounds, the exact value 
of which then was four hundred dollars. Instantly the parish was 
in a ferment. It would not do to encourage such extravagance. 
Numbers actually withdrew from the parish ; others threatened 
to do so. Daniel VVheaton headed a petition, " Viewing with 
concern the state of the affairs of said parish," and proposing, 
first, to sell enough of the parish land as would increase the in- 
come of the parish fund sufficiently to pay parish charges ; or, 
if this were negatived, to add the four hundred dollars voted for 
Mr. Reed's salary to the parish fund, making its interest about 
ninety pounds, or three hundred dollars, provided Mr. Reed 
would accept that amount for his salary if he could receive it 
semi-annually. The meeting was called. The parish voted not to 
sell any of the parish land. The yeas and nays were taken as to 
whether the parish wished Mr. Reed to relinquish any part of 
the salary of four hundred dollars they had voted him. There 
were twenty-eight yeas and thirty-eight nays. The situation was 
critical with votes so nearly equal. The meeting adjourned for 
ten days to give time to think over the situation. The disaffec- 
tion at the increased salary grew, and a compromise became 
necessary. At the adjourned meeting the parish voted that if 
he would allow the four hundred dollars voted him to be added 
to the parish fund, he should have three hundred and fifty 
dollars payable in two instalments, and if the price of labor 



272 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

rose above three shillings a day his salary should rise in like 
proportion. They also voted that " he shall have the privilege 
of a free public contribution twice a year." This last proposi- 
tion must have been hard to accept ; it seemed to make their 
faithful servant, to whom they were bound to give an adequate 
support in an honorable manner, an object of semi-annual 
charity. But Mr. Reed was a prudent man ; and if a sense of 
proper, manly independence tempted him to refuse the disagree- 
able proffer the sight of his large family made him control and 
conceal his feelings, and submit to receive as a charity what was 
due him for service well rendered. When we consider that the 
interest of the parish fund was now three hundred dollars, and 
that expenses other than the minister's salary were very light 
(less than one hundred dollars), this action of the parish forces 
upon us one of two conclusions, — either that the people were 
very poor, or that they meant to adopt as far as possible the 
Scriptural suggestion of getting the truth " without money and 
without price." Mr. Reed did not, however, long receive the 
amount granted him. The parish fund increased to $5,773.86, 
and he was voted the interest of it for his salary. For several 
years this interest amounted to $327.36. Once they voted that 
wood enough be sold from the parish land " to pay for ringing the 
bell, sweeping the meeting-house, and shovelling snow from the 
meeting-house doors;" and thus with the salary paid from the 
interest of the parish fund and other expenses from the sale of 
wood, the Scriptural promise alluded to seems almost literally to 
have been fulfilled. 

It is not pleasant to report such facts, but the writer did not 
invent them, and truth to history forbids him to suppress them. 
Those whose ancestors were represented in the parish of that 
date are at liberty to imagine that they belonged to the more 
generous majority, who for the sake of retaining the disaffected 
among their number made up to their minister by private gifts 
the deficiency already mentioned. The parish voted him the 
next year a gift of one hundred dollars to allow for past loss by 
depreciation of currency. It must also in justice be said that 
the town was poor at this time. The court records at Taunton 
show an astonishing number of lawsuits growing out of the fail- 
ures and troubles of a depressed and unsettled business condition. 



THE REV. WILLIAM REED. 273 

Everything then was conceived and executed upon a different 
scale from the present, and we may easily err in applying to 
another time the standards of judgment current and appropriate 
to this. 

The Rev. Mr. Reed's sermons are curious-looking little manu- 
scripts, six inches long by three and three quarters inches wide, 
being written when paper was costly and money scarce. Con- 
trary to our traditional ideas of the sermons of a century ago, 
these are short, and, unless Mr. Reed's delivery was exception- 
ally slow, would not average over fifteen minutes in their preach- 
ing. It is probable, however, that he may have extemporized 
the " improvement" or application at the end. After the main 
statements in some of them there is the word " Enlarge," — a 
word that seriously endangers the brevity of a sermon. These 
sermons are just such as a moderate Calvinist of that time, 
with an even temperament and practical good sense, might be 
expected to write. They are wanting in originality of thought, 
in fertility of imagination, and in fervent feeling. They are 
calm, commonplace, and, unless relieved by extemporaneous 
additions, dull. They do not show the least sign of departure 
from the prevailing Calvinism of the period. They abound in 
statements that are technical reproductions of the then current 
theories of God, man, and human destiny. There is nothing 
harrowing to the feelings in them ; but this peculiarity results 
rather from deficiency of imagination than from any apparent 
lack of sturdy belief in Calvinistic doctrines. For he, too, can 
preach about the " wrath of an incensed God." He also repeats 
the absurdity that sin deserves an infinite penalty because it is 
sin against an infinite being, and gives as a reason for the resur- 
rection of the body, that the body, being the soul's partner in 
sin, deserves to suffer with the soul the penalties of hell-fire ! 
In sermon No. 136 (for his sermons are all carefully numbered 
and labelled), a sermon from the text " No man can come unto 
me except the Father draw him," he argues that while man is 
utterly unable to come to Christ, he is no less culpable because 
of his inability. After stating that men are wholly blind to all 
spiritual things in the natural state he reasons as follows : — 

" Our understandings are darkened so that we cannot see the excel- 
lency and beauty of the divine character. We have lost the image 

18 



274 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

of our God, which consisted in knowledge, righteousness, and holi- 
ness ; and it is not in our power again to restore the image of God, 
for by this loss we are become weak and impotent ; and what is still 
worse we are insensible of our weakness, wretchedness, and misery. 
By our apostasy from God we have lost our strength (Romans, v. 6) ; 
for when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for 
the ungodly. Had not Christ have died, there would have been no 
possible way for us to have been saved, — for without shedding of 
blood there could be no remission of sins. Now the way of life and 
salvation is opened by the blood of Christ ; but we have no strength 
to return. In the first place we are blind in a spiritual sense and 
unable to see the necessity of returning to God from whom we have 
revolted ; and without the illumination of the divine Spirit we should 
all forever remain in this state of blindness and opposition to God. 
It is not in the power of man to open the eyes of his understanding ; 
and therefore it is impossible for them to discover the beauties and 
excellencies of a Savior, and consequently they cannot come and 
heartily embrace and receive him. For persons that come and receive 
the Lord Jesus Christ as their redeemer and Savior are always ravished 
with his beauty and charmed with his excellencies." 

The above is an average specimen of Mr. Reed's sermons, — 
calm, clear, rehearsing the commonplaces of the Calvinistic sys- 
tem without really penetrating to its marrow and essence. 

We gladly turn, however, to another side of the picture. 
What gave Mr. Reed his real power and influence were the moral 
earnestness, the unquestioning faith, the serious purpose and 
spirit that pervaded his discourses. It is these that tell in the 
long run, in pulpit ministrations, more than originality of thought 
or oratorical power. Behind these sermons was an earnest, up- 
right, high-minded life ; and this life told upon the character and 
conduct of others, commanding respect, inviting imitation. Mr. 
Reed died November i6, 1809, at the age of fifty-four, having 
been pastor of the Congregational Society in Easton over twenty- 
five years. Forty years later, March 26, 1850, his widow died at 
the age of eighty-three, beloved and respected by all for her gen- 
tleness, serenity, and peace-loving spirit. At her funeral her 
eight children gathered in one company at the old homestead to 
mingle their tears and prayers at their mother's bier, and to lay 
her precious dust away tenderly by their father's side. 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 



275 



CHAPTER XVI. 

INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 

The Randalls build the first Saw-Mill. — Clement Briggs 
STARTS the first Grist-Mill. — Eliphalet Leonard erects 
Brummagem Forge. — Other Iron Industries. — Firearms Man- 
ufactured AT THE "Quaker Leonard Place." — Easton said 
TO Manufacture the first Steel made in this Country. 
— Miscellaneous Industries. 

ONE of the necessities of a settlement in the old New- 
England times was a saw-mill. The first dwellings of 
the early settlers were built of hewn logs, the interstices be- 
ing filled with clay or mud. In some cases the floor was the 
ground, smoothed for the purpose. These quarters were small, 
and all conveniences of the rudest kind. The transportation 
for long distances of boards and other lumber must have been, 
in the absence of roads, nearly out of the question. Yet such 
lumber became an immediate necessity ; and therefore an eli- 
gible site for a mill had to be selected at once, a dam con- 
structed, a mill erected, saws and other apparatus set in place, 
and work begun. No music was more delightful to the ears 
of those pioneers than the harsh humming of the saw as it cut 
its way through the logs. 

It might seem more systematic to group similar industries to- 
gether in the following account ; but the writer prefers to present 
them in chronological order, that the reader may understand the 
gradual development of the business enterprises of Easton. 

The first settlement in this town was made at what is now 
South Easton village. This was in 1694. Thomas Randall, Sr., 
located a few rods northeast of the stream, upon which J. O. 
& T. H. Dean's mill now stands. He was a man of some means, 
and his son Thomas Randall, Jr., was soon worth more than 
his father. They were the principal builders and owners of the 



276 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

original mill. This is put beyond question by old deeds at 
Taunton ; by these it appears that Thomas Randall, Jr., was a 
half owner, Thomas Randall, Sr., a quarter owner, and Nathaniel 
Packard, of Bridgewater, brother-in-law of the latter, was also a 
quarter owner. The exact date of the building of this mill can- 
not now be determined. It was an accepted fact in March, 
1703, at which time it is referred to in the North-Purchase re- 
cords in the laying out of a road.^ It was without doubt erected 
before 1700, and probably quite near the date of settlement 
given above. This mill stood close by the north end of the 
present dam. In 17 13 Thomas Randall, 2d, his father being 
dead, sold one quarter of the mill-privilege to Timothy Cooper, 
and another quarter to John Daily, who at once deeded it, either 
as a sale or as security, to Timothy Cooper. Ephraim and Israel 
Randall, who inherited a quarter of it from their father, sold their 
share of it to Clement Briggs, who sold it to Timothy Cooper. 
The latter owned it at the time of his death in 1726. 

A grist-mill had been built at the same place by Clement 
Briggs, prior to 171 3. How long before this date it may have 
been in operation there is no means of determining. But in- 
asmuch as a grist-mill was a prime necessity to a young settle- 
ment, it is very probable that this one was erected not long 
after the settlement was begun, perhaps even before 1700. Cle- 
ment Briggs, the first settler, was dead as early as June, 1720; 
and the oldest son, Clement, in February, 1723, sold the grist- 
mill to Timothy Cooper. In 1729 the grist-mill appears to have 
been in the possession of Ephraim Randall, passing afterward into 
the ownership of his son Timothy. The old mill was torn down 
in 1750, and another was built, — Robert Ripley being the car- 
penter who did the work. Timothy Randall owned it as late 
as February, 1781, when he died. It then became the prop- 
erty of his son Timothy, who owned it until 1803. The saw- 
mill had disappeared long before this time ; it does not, at least, 
appear in the valuation for 1771. 

We have seen that the first business enterprise in what is 

now Easton was the Randall saw-mill at South Easton village, 

and the second was Clement Briggs's grist-mill at the same 

dam. It cannot be positively determined which was the third. 

^ See First Book of Surveys, p. 21. 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 277 

The third to be positively knozvn is the Leonard forge at the 
foot of Stone's Pond, now so called ; that we know to have 
been in operation in October, 1723. But it is probable that 
Josiah Keith's saw-mill was built a little earlier than this forge. 
May 24, 1 71 7, he bought of Nathaniel Ames, of Bridgewater, one 
hundred and eight acres of land where the farm of Edward D. 
Williams is situated. In 1724 he was sued by William Britton, 
who with his brother seems to have worked for Mr. Keith, and 
he was forced to deliver to the plaintiff twenty-one thousand 
shingles, besides paying the cost of suit. Reference is made in 
another suit against Mr. Keith to the " saw-mill near his now 
dwelling-house." There being no saw-mill in that part of the 
town before, it is very probable that this one was erected soon 
after Mr. Keith's settlement there, which was as early as 1718 ; 
the site of this mill may still be found west of the residence of 
Mr. Williams. Josiah Keith soon became involved, and other 
persons became owners in the mill. George Hall, living at the 
Daniel Heath place, became half owner, and finally sold his share 
to James Williams, of Taunton. In 1734 Mr. Keith sold a 
quarter-share of the mill to George Leonard, of Norton, and in 
1735 he sold another quarter to Eleazer Keith, together with 
the farm and buildings, his ownership of mill and homestead 
then ceasing. James Williams sold a quarter share of the mill 
to Silas Williams, in 1738. Another quarter was owned by 
Thomas Manley, Sr., when he made his will in 1743, in which 
it was called " Keith's old saw-mill." How much or how long 
it was used after this time is not known, but it was abandoned 
before 1 771, as it does not then appear upon the valuation of 
the town. 

The discovery of bog-iron ore in the northeast part of the 
town, which has already been mentioned, induced Capt. James 
Leonard to start the iron business there. In December, 1716, 
he purchased of Nathaniel Manley thirty-five acres upon both 
sides of " Trought-hole Brook," as it was called and misspelled. 
In June, 1720, he made a further purchase of eight and a half 
acres at the same place. These purchases included the present 
location of the Red Factory in North Easton village, and land 
on both sides of the stream north of that location. The exact 
date of the building of the dam to make the pond, and of the 



278 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

erection of the forge, cannot be given ; it was however in full 
operation before October, 1723, and was probably begun in 1720, 
as that was the date of the last purchase, and as Capt. Leonard's 
son Eliphalet, who always managed the business, had just then 
reached an age when he could look after this work. It was the 
first forge built within the limits of what soon after became 
the town of Easton. It was christened the Brummagem Forge. 
The word Brummagem is a corruption of Birmingham, the 
famous iron-working place in England ; and it gave the clerks 
and surveyors of the North-Purchase Company much trouble, 
they in their efforts to master it showing great originality in 
their spelling. It was written Bramingium, Bromajam, Brum- 
majam, etc. This name was for a time applied alike to the 
stream and the pond. But the forge was soon known as Eli- 
phalet Leonard's Forge. Here the bog-iron ore was brought 
from the lot near Lincoln Spring and from other places, and by 
fire and hammer was reduced to malleable iron of an excellent 
quality. In October, 1723, Thomas Manley, Sr., became a quar- 
ter owner of the forge, but sold out his share in June, 1728, to 
Eliphalet Leonard. In August, 1742, Eliphalet's father, James 
Leonard, gave him the entire ownership. This Captain Eliphalet 
carried on the business until 1782, when he deeded it to his son 
Jacob. It does not appear to have been very prosperous at any 
time. The property passed into the hands of Isaac Leonard, 
son of Jacob, who was its owner in 1800. In September, 1802, 
he sold the forge, coal-house, grist-mill, etc., to Timothy Mitchell 
and Giles Leach. In February, 1805, Leach sold out his in- 
terest in this property to his partner. Isaac Leonard the year 
before this, April, 1804, sold his homestead, now the F. L. Ames 
farm-place, to Richard Wild ; and thus the Leonard ownership 
of this property ceased. 

Some time before 1771 Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., had erected 
a forge at what is now called the Marshall place, on the road 
east of the Washington Street Methodist Meeting-house. It 
appears on the valuation of the above date. Eliphalet, Jr., 
was deeded the land where his house stood at the Marshall 
place in 1765, and this forge was erected without doubt not long 
afterward. It is a point of great interest to be told by good 
authority that he was the first person to attempt the making of 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 279 

steel in this country. We are aware that claims like this must 
be received with caution ; but it was made by the well-known 
Jonathan Leonard, of the firm of Leonard & Kinsley, of Canton. 
He was a son of this second Eliphalet, was well informed in 
such matters, and in a letter dated February 23, 1826,^ he writes 
as follows : — 

"As to the making of steely the first attempt made in this country, 
so far as my knowledge goes, was by my father, Eliphalet Leonard, of 
Easton, about the year 1775 or 1776. He was led to that attempt by 
the extreme scarcity of steel, and the difficulty of procuring it for his 
manufactury of firearms, then in great demand for the defence of the 
country. He constructed several furnaces, and so far succeeded as 
to supply himself and some of the most urgent wants of his neigh- 
bors. In 1787 I obtained further insight into the business, and 
erected at Easton a furnace capable of making three tons at a batch. 
This was continued until 1808, when in consequence of commercial 
restrictions I erected another in the same place capable of making 
ten tons at a batch, and afterwards from twenty to thirty tons a year. 
In 1813 I erected another furnace at Canton, where I now (1826) 
live, where I made at times about one hundred tons of steel a year." 

These are very interesting statements. The one concerning 
the manufacture of firearms by Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., at the 
Marshall place about the time of the Revolution, does not rest 
wholly upon the statement of his son. Samuel Simpson has 
informed the writer that he once owned one of these Leonard 
muskets ; other old citizens used them with fatal execution 
in defence of their country. The steel furnace first alluded to 
was connected with the forge at the Marshall place. It was 
there, also, that Jonathan Leonard erected a steel furnace in 
1787, and another in 1808. As to the manner in which he "ob- 
tained further insight into the business," curious things are told. 
Hearing that steel was manufactured by an improved process 
in Pennsylvania, he went there, and when he came to the fur- 
nace where it was made he assumed the ways of a simpleton ; 
gradually however exciting the pitying or humorous interest of 
the workmen, he received some menial employment about the 
furnace, meanwhile keeping his eyes wide open, and profiting 

1 N. E. Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. xi. pp. 289-290. 



28o HISTORY OF EASTON. 

later by the knowledge he thus surreptitiously gained by ap- 
plying it on his return in his own manufacture of steel. Jona- 
than Leonard, who came to be known as Quaker Leonard, 
the road past the Marshall place retaining this name, was 
certainly eccentric and bright enough to have done what is 
thus attributed to him. He paid his first poll-tax in Easton 
in 1785, and after 1792 his name disappears for about ten 
years, after which he was taxed as a non-resident, though he 
continued running the business where he had erected his steel 
furnace. 

About 1792 or 1793 the third Eliphalet Leonard, brother of 
Jonathan, built the dam which made what is known as the Shovel- 
shop Pond. The dam was not so high then as now, and the 
pond was consequently smaller. He also put up a forge with a 
trip-hammer, and a nailers' shop was built in the same place. 
He subsequently built a house there, — esteemed a fine house 
for those days. It was the first painted house in North Easton 
village, exciting considerable notice on that account ; it is the 
house in which Oakes Ames was born, and is still standing, 
unsuspected of ever having excited wonder and envy by a coat 
of paint. This third Eliphalet did not meet with success in 
his business; he was a bankrupt in 1801, — Daniel Wheaton 
being assignee of his property, which passed into the hands of 
Abiezer Alger, of Bridgewater, who sold it, August i, 1803, to 
Oliver Ames, as will be narrated in another chapter. 

In this section of the town the iron business, prior to 1800, 
was carried on exclusively by the Leonards, who acquired dis- 
tinction as iron-workers. About the date named it passed out 
of their hands, except that Jonathan Leonard continued it for 
some years at the Marshall place. 

There was a forge erected in 1724 at the present site of 
the old Dean saw-mill at Cranberry Meadow. January 10 of 
that year Timothy Cooper, John Dailey, Edward Hayward, 
Jonathan Hayward, and Benjamin Fobes entered into an 
agreement to build this forge. Some ore had been discovered 
near by, and other similar discoveries were expected. Nearly 
twenty years previous to this, Timothy Cooper had seen the 
possibilities of the situation, and had purchased twenty-six acres 
of land, of which the present mill-site was near the centre. 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 281 

He saw that to raise a dam there would cause the water to over- 
flow the south side of the meadow west of it, and he shrewdly ob- 
tained possession of a long and very narrow strip of land by the 
meadow's edge ; and then he bided his time. The time came 
as above stated. The dam was built in its present location, and 
to prevent the overflow southward a bank was raised by means 
of logs covered with earth. It was called in the famous Dean 
and Brett litigation, which will be noticed in due time, "the 
log dam." Another dam, or an extension of the dam just no- 
ticed, was made of slabs. The forge was erected and the busi- 
ness started. But it did not pay. Timothy Cooper, the leading 
man in the enterprise, soon died, and his heirs and the other 
partners sold out in 1 727-1 729 to Josiah Winslow, of Bridge- 
water, he finally owning all but one ninth. He did not make 
a success of it, but he found a ready purchaser in Eliphalet 
Leonard, who bought out his entire interest, with dwelling- 
house, land, etc. But after owning it for ten years, with appa- 
rently no profit, he sold out to Edward Hayvvard. The forge 
was pulled down, and James Dean, a son-in-law of Mr. Hay- 
ward, built a hammer-shop and carried on blacksmithing until 
1750, when another change was made in the business, which will 
be considered in the proper place. 

June 9, 1724, William Thayer, then living near the mill- 
site on the north road to Brockton, gave to eight persons as 
much land as would be required to build a dam, flow a pond, 
build a saw-mill, etc., with privilege of passing through land 
with timber, provided they would build and maintain such a 
saw-mill. These eight persons were Daniel Owen, William 
Phillips, Samuel Waters, Thomas Manley, Jr., Jonathan Thayer, 
Samuel Phillips, Clement Briggs, and Ebenezer Drake. They 
went to work at once and soon completed the mill. Eliphalet 
Leonard thereupon obtained possession of three eighths of it, 
mortgaging his purchase in order to raise money for the pay- 
ment. Two Boston men, Samuel Clark and William Lee, who 
figured largely in such transactions in Easton in early times, fur- 
nished Leonard the money. Subsequently the controlling in- 
terest in the saw-mill came into the possession of Clark and Lee. 
Praisever Littlefield became owner of three eighths and one six- 
teenth of this property, and in 1743 sold his portion to Samuel 



282 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Stone, then of Stoughton, who settled near the mill. The latter 
retained this part-ownership until his death in 1776, when his 
son Samuel sold it to George Monk, of Stoughton, Mr. Monk 
lived in Stoughton until about 1795, when he removed to Easton 
and continued owner of the mill. 

West of the Ames office in North Easton village there is a 
cart-way leading southwest. This cart-way was once the location 
of a mill-dam ; the pond spread over the meadow above the dam. 
Here as early as 1728 was a saw-mill, which was built and 
owned by Thomas Randall, 2d.^ It was doubtless built sev- 
eral years earlier than this date, for the land where it was situ- 
ated was taken up by Deacon Randall in 1718, and was probably 
taken with reference to the erection of this mill. It may there- 
fore have been built previous to the mill last mentioned, and even 
previous to Josiah Keith's mill ; but the first positive knowl- 
edge we have of its existence is at the beginning of 1729. By 
his will Deacon Randall left this property and the land about 
it to his sons John and Samuel, John living within a stone's 
throw southeast of the mill, A grist-mill had been erected 
there also previous to 1760, but the exact date is unknown. 
About 1760 these mills seem to have changed ownership several 
times. In 1761 Ephraim Randall, Jr., Samuel Phillips, and Israel 
Woodward, — the former a half owner, the latter two quarter 
owners of the grist-mill, — came to an agreement as to the 
management of the same. But the next year it is owned by 
Seth Manley and Ephraim Burr, who remain in partnership 
for several years. The saw-mill does not seem to have amounted 
to much at this time, as in the several agreements made 
it is stipulated that the grist-mill shall have the use of the 
water, and if any can be spared it shall be allowed for the 
saw-mill. 

In 1764 Seth Manley and Ephraim Burr, the owners of this 
" corn-mill," brought an action against David Gay, William Mer- 
riam, and Nathan Drake, of Stoughton, because in May, 1763, 
they, by building a dam on George Ferguson's land, injured 
their mill privilege. This dam was built by these Stoughton 
men for the purpose of flowing the meadows north of it. It 
had the effect of turning a part of the stream away from its 
^ North Purchase First Book of Surveys, p. 213. 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 28 



o 



natural course, so that it ran " partly through the land of one 
Ephraim Randall and partly through the land of Jacob Hewins," 
that is, into the stream that flows through William King's land. 
This was of course a serious loss to the Burr and Manley mill, 
and they were awarded damages. The dam alluded to was the 
same as the present dam at the lower end of Long Pond, 
being now, however, much higher than it was then. 

In 1771 the grist-mill we are considering was managed by 
Ephraim Randall and others, though the real owner was Ben- 
jamin Kinsley, who bought it of Abiah Manley in 1770. It 
was known in 1780 as Benjamin Kinsley's grist-mill. March 
15 of that year he sold it to Thomas Willis. The saw-mill 
adjoining this grist-mill was bought in 1762 by Robert Ripley, 
a carpenter, the ancestor of the Easton Ripleys. The scarcity 
of water did not allow of much work being accomplished by it, 
as the grist-mill had the precedence in the use of the stream ; 
but he owned it until March 15, 1780, when he sold it to 
Thomas Willis, this being the same date as the latter's purchase 
of the grist-mill. The saw-mill was henceforth discontinued. 
Mr. Willis owned the grist-mill for ten years, when, December 
14, 1790, he sold it to Jonathan Randall, who carried on the 
mill business until his death, which occurred November 1 1, 1805. 
His widow, familiarly known as Aunt Lucy, was a strong, capa- 
ble woman, and she ran the mill herself for several years. 
Richard Wild, the guardian of Jonathan Randall's children, 
sold the mill to Samuel Hodges, who on May 26, 181 3, sold it 
to Oliver Ames. 

In May, 1742, there was a saw-mill erected on Mulberry- 
Meadow Brook at the Furnace Village, a short distance below 
the furnace, by Eleazer Keith, Silas Williams, and Benjamin 
Williams. This date is made known by a suit brought in 1749 
against these parties by Mark Keith and John Manley, whose 
lands had been damaged by being flowed,^ The case was re- 
ferred to persons who met at the house of John Williams, inn- 
keeper, and they gave it as their opinion that Mark Keith and 
John Manley were "yearly damnified to the amount of four 
pounds each, old tenor." The court allowed this amount of 
damage. In 1765 this saw-mill had become a grist-mill, and at 
1 Records of Court of Sessions, 1 746-1 767, p. 44. 



284 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

this date was deeded to Lemuel Keith by his father Eleazer, 
and continued in his possession until after 1800. 

The first industry at the Morse privilege, South Easton village, 
was a saw-milh In 1739 Daniel Williams bought a large piece 
of land on the west side of Mill River at this place, with house, 
barn, orchards, fences, etc. Between that time and 1747 this 
saw-mill was erected. There is no trace of it prior to 1739; 
but in 1747 Daniel Williams brought a suit against Daniel Keith 
because the latter had promised, November 11, 1747 — but had 
failed to fulfil the promise — to deliver to him "white oak Loggs 
enough to make one thousand feet of good merchantable plank, 
delivered on the Def 'ts homestead in Easton all ready cutt & butt 
and easy to come at, at or before the last of November, 1747." 
The case was won by Daniel Williams. He carried on the busi- 
ness here for many years, probably until his death, which oc- 
curred in 1782. In 1792 this property, or a portion of it including 
the saw-mill and dwelling-house, was bought by Eliphalet Leon- 
ard ; September 16, 1797, he sold it to Josiah Copeland. The 
latter was then residing at Bridgewater, though he had lived in 
Easton with his father until about two years before this time. 

Some distance above the Morse privilege, about west of the 
Macombers, another dam was built at one time. No definite 
information can be given about the date of its construction or 
its precise purpose. Samuel Simpson was told by Daniel Ran- 
dall, Sr., many years ago, that three men named Orr, Barclay, 
and Adams erected the dam. The Mr. Orr was probably Hugh 
Orr, who came from Scotland in 1740, and settled in Bridge- 
water, and engaged there in the iron manufacture ; the Barclay 
was William Barclay, who settled in Easton ; and the Adams was 
probably William Adams, who also settled here, and became an 
artillery man in the Revolution. As to the time of the con- 
struction of this dam, it may be said that William Barclay's 
name does not appear upon a full list of the residents of Easton 
in 1757, and it does appear on the oldest tax-list now preserved, 
which is dated 1767. The dam was therefore probably built 
between those two dates. The fact that Hugh Orr engaged in 
Bridgewater in various kinds of iron manufacture, and that Wil- 
liam Barclay worked for Eliphalet Leonard, Jr., in the manufac- 
ture of firearms at the now named Marshall place, are sufficient 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO ISOO. 285 

reasons for assuming that they meant to erect here a foundry or 
furnace to carry on some description of the iron business. 

Why this enterprise was abandoned when the dam was con- 
structed is a matter of conjecture only. It may be that it in- 
terfered with the Daniel Williams privilege below. It may be 
also that Williams had the right to raise his dam, and so raised it 
as to make the upper privilege untenable ; and that he thus drove 
off the enterprising Scotchmen, who might have built up a flour- 
ishing business to the great benefit of that neighborhood, — just 
as Cyrus Alger was prevented about half a century later from 
doing the same thing at the now Dean privilege below. One 
thing however is certain, — the dam was constructed, and may 
now be seen, with the site of its sluiceway, when Morse's Pond 
is at low water. A road or travelled lane once went over this 
dam, connecting Washington Street with Short Street, and run- 
ning past the Lyman Wheelock house, which was for awhile an 
inn. It was known as the Scotch dam. 

The origin of the furnace business at the Furnace Village 
came to light only after many days of patient investigation 
among the thousands of deeds at the Register's office at Taun- 
ton. At last in Book 41, p. 66, was found the "Articles of 
agreement made and concluded upon the thirteenth day of De- 
cember, in ye 25th year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord 
George the second of Great Brittian, annoque Domini one Thou- 
sand seven hundred & fifty-one ; witnesseth that John Williams, 
gent., Daniel Williams, gent., Matthew Hayward, yeoman, Jo- 
siah Keith, Jr., yeoman, Timothy Williams, yeoman, Josiah 
Churchill, founder, Benjamin Wilhams, Jr., laborer, Jabez 
Churchill, laborer, all of Easton ; and James Godfry, yeoman, 
of Norton," etc. John Williams and Daniel Williams were to 
own a quarter part each, Matthew Hayward one eighth part, 
and each of the others one sixteenth part. The terms and con- 
ditions of the contract, and the stipulations of the management, 
etc., are very elaborately stated, the contractors evidently feeling 
that the undertaking was one of immense importance. The 
dam and furnace were to be erected on what was then called 
Little Brook, now Beaver Brook, on land leased by Simeon 
Williams. It was to be begun at once, and finished ready for a 
blast November i the next year. No one was to sell his shares 



286 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

to outsiders until he had given the other shareholders the privi- 
lege of buying, etc. The Easton furnace was therefore begun 
in December, 1751, and completed, ready for active business, 
late in 1752. With various changes of ownership, and some 
variations in the kind and method of business, it has been in 
operation ever since. 

It is the oldest industry now carried on in Easton, with the 
exception of the grist-mill business at the Green. About ten 
years before the Revolutionary War it became the property of 
Capt. Zephaniah Keith. Capt. James Perry bought a quarter 
ownership in April, 1773. He and Matthew Hay ward were 
partners until June, 1776, when the latter sold out his interest, 
and Captain Perry became sole owner. This furnace did good 
service in the Revolution, turning out small cannon and cannon 
balls. Not far from the village, in a depression between two 
hills near the Sharon road, these cannon used to be tested ; and 
many balls have since been dug out of one of the banks or hill- 
sides there, and some fragments of a cannon that had burst 
were taken from a brook. About 1783 the furnace building 
became dilapidated, and a new one was erected in place of it. 
Captain Perry became greatly involved in his business affairs 
after the Revolution, owing to the depreciation of Continental 
currency, and to other causes noticed in the sketch of his life.^ 
In 1784 several executions were served upon his estate, and his 
property became heavily mortgaged. About 1780 he built a 
forge on the same dam where the furnace was, and carried on the 
forge as well as the furnace business. Before 1800 he sold 
out the forge to Abisha Leach. Though his furnace was mort- 
gaged to other parties he continued to manage the business ; 
but September 29, 1798, the real owners, Samuel Leonard of 
Taunton, Josiah Dean of Raynham, and Thomas Green, a store- 
keeper of Easton, sold the property to John Brown, of Provi- 
dence, in whose hands we will leave it until we consider the 
industries of Easton after 1800. 

In 1750 James Dean and Matthew Hay ward entered into 
partnership to build a saw-mill at the Cranberry Meadow dam, 
now known as the Dean place and owned by F. L. Ames. They 
conducted the business together; but in 1769 Jonathan Pratt 

1 See p. 245 et seq. 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 287 

bought out Mr. Hayward, and the new partnership — Dean & 
Pratt — built a new mill and carried on the business together. 
This new mill lasted thirty years, when in 1800 it gave place 
to another. 

In 1757 Matthew Hayward bought of Simeon Williams the 
right to erect a saw-mill upon the Furnace dam at the Furnace 
Village. The mill was soon erected, and was managed by Mr. 
Hayward until 1764, when he sold it to Abisha Leach. 

In November, 1747, George Ferguson, then of Falmouth 
(Portland), Maine, bought a large tract of land in the north part 
of the town. Before 1759, but at just what date cannot be as- 
certained, he had erected a saw-mill at what is now known as 
the Picker place. Though it was somewhat encumbered by 
mortgages, he retained ownership of it until about 1786, when 
it passed into the possession of George Ferguson, Jr., who soon 
rebuilt it. October 21, 1801, the latter sold it to Capt. Elisha 
Harvey; and Capt. Harvey, November 12, 1802, sold a half 
ownership in it to Ziba Randall. The saw-mill business was 
discontinued here about 181 5. 

As early as 1754 James Dean was making brick upon his 
land not far from the present Finley place. This is evident 
from various bills now in possession of the writer, which show 
that the Rev. George Farrar purchased brick from Mr. Dean and 
paid for hauling them from his brick-yard. Brick-clay is found 
southeast of Mr. Finley's house. There was a brick-yard also 
on land now owned by David Howard, and just northeast of 
his house, there being many plain indications that brick-making 
was carried on there. 

During the last century, but at what date cannot be deter- 
mined, a saw-mill was erected in Poquanticut either by the first 
John Selee or by his son Nathan, — more probably by the former, 
as the need of such a mill must have been very early felt in the 
locality where he lived. It was not far from the old Selee place 
and northeast of the house of John Selee now living. The 
location of it may still be seen. Nathan Selee sawed lumber 
there late in the century ; and strange stories were told, and 
even believed by superstitious people, about the Devil or his 
imps running the mill at night, Nathan Selee being reported 
as knowing too much about magic arts, and being on too good 



288 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

terms for awhile with their author. But sawing logs by water- 
power on cold nights seems rather uncongenial work for his 
Satanic Majesty ; it would be more easy to credit his running 
a steam saw-mill, with a blazing furnace. It is wiser to acquit 
Mr. Selee of any such questionable partnership, and to think 
that the rolling and buzzing of wheel and saw, which the 
belated passers-by supposed they heard, were all in their own 
brains, and might easily be accounted for by the strength and 
quantity of hard cider gr New England rum they had taken. 
But it is said that more than one horseless Tam O'Shanter 
made hot speed past the old mill, and got home breathless with 
running and fright. This mill ceased doing service about fifty 
years ago. 

In the last quarter of the century the tanning business was 
carried on by Edward Williams, an eighth of a mile west of the 
Lemuel Keith mill at the Furnace Village. There was also a 
tannery not far west of where Daniel Heath lives, carried on 
by Mr. Pratt. 

Lieut. Samuel Coney, who moved from Sharon to Easton 
about 1770, built a saw-mill on the road running westward from 
the No. 10 schoolhouse. It was on a brook then called Cooper's 
Brook, in the hollow by the Stimpson Williams place. Lieu- 
tenant Coney soon left town and went to Maine. The site of 
the mill can still be found ; but the location did not admit of 
a large collection of water, and the mill could have had a 
water-supply for only a short time in ordinary seasons. In 
1779 James Perry bought a two-thirds ownership in this mill, 
and might have been sole owner without being any better off 
financially. 

There was a grist-mill at the foot of Stone's Pond close by 
the forge before 1800, owned evidently at one time by Abiel 
Mitchell, and at another by Capt. Jacob Leonard. 

In 1760 Lieut. Joshua Howard built a dam on Gallows Brook 
for the purpose of building a flax-mill, and he dug a ditch from 
Cranberry Meadow in order to increase his supply of water. 
But he was not allowed to keep the ditch open, because in tap- 
ping the stream that supplied Dean's mill-pond he damaged that 
privilege. In 1792, however, Josiah Copeland and Calvin Brett 
built an oil-mill at the dam which was constructed thirty years 



INDUSTRIES PRIOR TO 1800. 289 

before by Joshua Howard, the mill being used to press the oil 
out of flax-seed. In 1802 Mr. Copeland sold his half interest 
in the oil-mill to his partner. In order to get sufficient water- 
power, Mr. Brett opened the ditch to Cranberry Meadow again, 
or dug a new one. It was closed by James Dean, and opened 
again by Mr. Brett. The affair finally led to a long, vexing, and 
expensive law-suit, costing the latter, who lost the case, over a 
thousand dollars. Having no sufficient supply of water this 
mill fell into disuse. Its site may be seen a few rods from the 
Finley house. 

We have thus described all the principal industries that were 
in operation previous to 1 800. There were, in addition to what 
have been noticed, other kinds of business, such as pot and 
pearlash works, blacksmith shops, cooper shops, stores, and the 
various trades that were needed to supply the wants of the 
people. But to mention these would be to go into too much de- 
tail. The later industries, beginning about 1800, will be treated 
of in a separate chapter. 



19 



290 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 

Struggles of Early Settlers. — A Trip through the North- 
east Corner of the Town. — Old Places in and about North 
Easton. — Down the old Meeting-house Road. — About Easton 
Centre. — In South Easton. — On and near the Bay Road. — 
In the Southwest Part of the Town. 

ANY one who goes about the town of Easton with his eyes 
open will see many indications of old homesteads now 
abandoned, — old houses tumbling to decay, or cellars over which 
a century or more ago dwellings stood that were homes of fami- 
lies long since departed, about whose doors played little chil- 
dren who grew to maturity and old age, and were long since 
numbered with the dead. Going about in the woods one some- 
times stumbles upon a small clearing where once the woodman's 
axe was heard cutting away the primeval forest, where he reared 
his log-house and brought his young wife, and struggled against 
almost insuperable obstacles in his endeavor to draw from the 
unwilling soil a support for his growing family. Many of these 
attempts were failures : the return was often less than the out- 
lay. One is at loss to understand how good judgment could 
approve or courage be adequate to plant a homestead in many 
places where may now be seen the indications of former habi- 
tations, — especially in the north part of the town, where even 
when a clearing was made (as for example at the two old Drake 
places north of Avery Stone's) it only revealed a gravelly soil 
covered with bowlders great and small. It is easy to under- 
stand why these hardy settlers succumbed in the unequal struggle, 
and why their homesteads were finally abandoned to the inhospi- 
table Nature that gave them such poor welcome. It is the pur- 
pose of this chapter to take the reader about the town, and 
gratify his curiosity so far as possible concerning the former 
settlers or dwellers in these abandoned places of habitation. 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 291 

If one does not care for this trip, he may pass on to another 
chapter ; but to those who have any curiosity about it the writer 
offers his escort. In this search for old places we will take an 
ancient road, to begin with. Not long after the incorporation of 
the town a few settlements were made in the extreme northeast 
quarter, and an old road ran (as the old map which is given 
in the chapter on Highways in this volume will show) north- 
erly from the village of North Easton nearly to the Stoughton 
line, and thence easterly, and so round by Washington Street. 
Starting on this road and going north as far as Simeon Ran- 
dall's, we may, with his permission, go into his garden north of 
his house and stand upon the site of James Stacey's house, all 
signs of which have now, after about a century and a half, dis- 
appeared. We turn off the road for a moment, and go across 
the fields toward the railroad, and on the elevated ground west 
of the track we may see the vestiges of a cellar where Jonathan 
Harvey and others dwelt. If we go up the track to Mr. Fisher's 
field, and then strike off eastwardly through the undergrowth 
toward the dam of Avery Stone's cranberry meadow, we shall 
find by careful searching a small cellar on the west slope toward 
the dam, — a cellar dug just about one hundred and seventy- 
three years ago by John Whitman, who then built his house 
there, and made that lonely spot his home. We shall notice in 
nearly all cases that the first houses were built near springs or 
streams of water, as the task of digging wells was then too la- 
borious to be often undertaken. Farther up the track, on an 
elevation south of where Whitman's Brook runs under the rail- 
road, there is a cellar which was half cut away recently for the 
new track, and where John Mears, the famous little drummer, is 
said to have lived. 

Retracing our steps, we start again from Simeon Randall's 
and go north to the spot where the road branches. There, in 
the angle made by the two branches, stood the house of Ephraim 
Randall, and on the knoll just opposite is the ruin where once 
Capt. Elisha Harvey found a home. Instead of going directly 
north we will take the left hand, sometimes called the Solomon 
Foster road, and after a few minutes' travel we come to a pond- 
hole on the right. If we climb the fence we shall discover just 
above this an old well now filled, and a slight depression in the 



292 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

soil will tell us where stood the house of Daniel Manley, and 
then of Dennis Taylor. Farther yet we go, until close by the 
Stoughton line we see the house where Solomon Foster lived, 
and where he recently died. Here was the homestead of Solo- 
mon Randall, maternal grandfather of Mr. Foster ; and here 
lived also at one time William and Thomas Butler. Crossing 
easterly by a foot-path we come to Egg Rock; close by the 
rock at the southeast, and within a few feet of the cart-path, is a 
small ruined cellar that was once the Hixon place. South of 
this, on the old cart-path, is the depression where another cellar 
and house were located, which was owned by, and was the home 
of, a Packard ; still north of this, and near a large and excellent 
spring in an open pasture close to the town line, was the house 
of Joseph Packard. Crossing Whitman's Brook we find a cellar 
just east of the track, south of the pine-grove and close by the 
town line, where probably Joseph Packard, Jr., lived, and which 
he sold or mortgaged to Ephraim Burr in 1763. In the second 
field north of Alonzo Marshall's (now Oliver Day's) old barn 
was the house of Zachariah Watkins, no vestiges of which, how- 
ever, appear ; there, one hundred and twenty years ago, he sup- 
plied drink to thirsty customers. But south of the barn, and 
some distance behind Mr. Day's house, is plainly seen the loca- 
tion of the house of Ichabod Manley ; in this place is still visi- 
ble the well in which, in 1805, little Elijah Bartlett was drowned. 
Opposite the Sion Morse house, east of the Turnpike, lived 
Benaijah Smith ; and we may by careful search find about 
twenty-five rods farther east the location of " Priest " Crosswell's 
house, who came here from Plymouth. It was down the chim- 
ney of this house that a mischievous fellow in sepulchral tones 
shouted a message which the pious man supposed was a mes- 
sage from the Lord. 

Starting eastward from Washington Street, and going on 
Union Street past the first group of houses, we find a cart-path 
leading northward that was sometimes called the Allen road, 
though it was never a town way. About eighty rods from the 
entrance, a short distance to the right of this cart-path, is a small 
cellar, where stood a house which the oldest inhabitant knows 
nothing about, but where perhaps one of the several Stone 
families lived. North of this is the well-known Allen place. 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 293 

where prior to 1750 David Stone erected a commodious house ; 
the well-made cellar is still intact though somewhat filled, 
and the front door-stone may yet be seen. If we may judge 
from the softness of the turf, the soil is excellent about it. 
On the south side a pretty enclosure marks the spot where a 
century ago was one of the best gardens in this section, at 
the end of which large lilacs filled the air with fragrance when 
the writer visited it ; roses still blossom luxuriantly here. This 
is where Turell Allen lived at one time. 

Not far from fifty rods east of this is the so-called Adams 
cellar, where probably lived William Adams, who served as an 
artillery man in the Revolutionary War. Down the north slope 
from this cellar is the old well ; taking the cart-path south of 
this, careful scrutiny will detect, by the wall that separates two 
small fields northwest of the pond, the tansy, rosebushes, and 
shrubbery that mark the site of the house of Henry Farr, also 
a Revolutionary soldier. East of the mill and a few rods west 
of Ramoth Monk's is where Samuel Stone, ist, lived. The old 
well with the well-sweep may yet be seen by the wall. 

Some distance west of Howard French's, on an elevation north 
of the road, are observable in summer-time large masses of lilies, 
and above them groups of lilac bushes, which mark the location 
of the house of Jacob Phillips very early in this century. He 
died in 1812 ; and three years afterward the September gale so 
seriously tried the strength of the dwelling that its inmates fled, 
carrying away in their arms an invalid woman : the house fell 
soon afterward. They took refuge in a little shop on the other 
side of the street a few rods west of the ruined dwelling ; they 
were allowed to live there afterward, and an addition was made 
to the shop, so that it became their dwelling-place. The cellar 
is plainly visible. One who visits this spot will be well rewarded 
by going a few rods southeast into the woods, where there is a 
magnificent chestnut-tree, probably the largest in town ; a no- 
ble oak near by contests for supremacy, and in the open lot 
nearer the road is a large and beautiful ash-tree. 

Coming down Washington Street, we may follow a cart-path 
west of the schoolhouse towards Whitman's Brook, and on a 
rocky knoll near the sluggish stream we find the ruined cellar 
where about one hundred and fifty years ago John Drake built 



294 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

his house, and a Httle down the hill the old well may also be 
found. This sunny, rocky slope is east of the track, in plain 
sight from the passing cars, a little south of where the brook 
runs under the track from west to east ; it is a famous resort 
of black snakes. Near by, but a little south, a very careful 
search will be rewarded by the sight of the location, on a small 
and rather steep slope, of the house of Joseph Drake. It is 
difficult to imagine what could have induced these men to settle 
in such a rocky and unpromising place. We go back to 
Washington Street, and nearly opposite the schoolhouse and 
now tumbling to decay is the old house built by Hezekiah 
Drake, where after him William and David Snow lived, and 
where a few years ago " Sol " Thayer and his wife died on the 
same morning. Taking the lane to Joseph H. Marshall's, we 
can trace in his dooryard the lines that mark the site of the 
house which a hundred years ago was the home of William 
Pratt. 

Still farther south, ten rods below Kay Fitton's house, on a 
little eminence back from the road, is the depression that marks 
the cellar of the house where Nathaniel Manley lived for many 
years. If you enter the second pair of bars south of this, on 
Washington Street, and go eastward to the southeast corner of 
the long pasture now owned by Timothy Marshall, then climb 
the wall and go east about two hundred yards, you may find the 
cellar of the house of Joseph Drake, 3d, who lived there a 
century and a half ago, and later. East of it, and near the wall, 
is a beautiful spring of the coldest, clearest water, from which 
during the drought of the present year, 1886, the writer found a 
copious stream bubbling and flowing. The presence of such a 
beautiful spring explains the location of the house, for it saved 
digging a well. It is not, however, perennial. 

If we return to the village by way of Main Street we may see 
nearly opposite Mr. Kennedy's house, and near the pond, a small 
cellar, on which a few years ago stood the house where the gifted 
but eccentric James Adams once lived. This house was moved 
about 1840 to this location from a few rods farther west, where 
it had once been occupied as a store by Capt. Gurdon Stone. 

Taking a new start from North Easton village and passing 
up Canton Street, we find the old house of George Ferguson still 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 295 

standing, but destined ere long to be numbered among the 
things that were. Mr. Ferguson bought the place in 1747, and 
probably built the house about that time, — a large house for that 
day, and the oldest one in this vicinity. Down the brook and a 
few rods southwest of the field opposite the Catholic cemetery, 
on the top of a small knoll, are the remains of a cellar where in 
his young days Macey Randall used to secrete himself and shoot 
the snipe just below, and near which the writer has seen snipe 
recently ; this place, Mr. Randall thinks, was once owned by 
a Waters, though for this there is only an uncertain tradition. 
Near the southwestern edge off Long Pond may still be traced at 
low water the cellar where once lived David Taylor and Solomon 
Randall ; it is about three rods east of the shore at high water, 
and the precise spot is marked by a small willow-tree. West 
of this place, on the hill, is the clearing where the Story 
house stood, which may be reached by the lane leading from 
Mr. Sharpe's. Not far up the lane are traces of the cabin 
which was once the dwelling-place of the ever-moving " Old 
Bunn." 

On Lincoln Street, just west of Mr. Mackey's, are the ruins of 
the house of Paul Lincoln ; and back of the Philip Willis place 
is the clearing, with apple-trees still standing, and the cellar 
where was the homestead of Israel Woodward, the Quaker who 
was once fined for taking a journey on Sunday, and where 
Daniel Macomber and then Abiah Manley lived, after him. The 
" Old Castle " makes a noticeable ruin in the pine-grove south 
of Lincoln Street, some distance southeast of the old and now 
abandoned burial-ground. The house was built by David 
Randall. 

West of the DeWitt place, now owned by L. L. Berry, was the 
Turner place. The house was standing until a few months 
previous to this writing, but is now pulled down ; the cellar is 
close by the pine-grove and just east of the old meeting-house 
road. The house was built by Bethuel Turner just about a 
hundred years ago, he making with his own hands the wrought 
nails used in building it. Some distance north of him on the 
other side of the road, in the southeast corner of the northern- 
most enclosed lot, one may find the vestiges of the cellar of 
Elijah Niles's house. Several Phillips families lived in this 



296 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

vicinity, — a Samuel and Benjamin; but if there were cellars 
to their houses or cabins, there is nothing now left to indicate 
their location. 

In a field on the west side of the old meeting-house road, due 
west from Mr. Atwood's house, is the cellar of the old Seth 
Manley place, out of which are now growing an arbor-vitse, 
hemlock, and pomegranate tree. Here, after Manley had no fur- 
ther need of an earthly habitation, lived William Austin, Sr. 
He was a singular man, and his barn might be seen partly 
covered with the numerous pelts of squirrels, rabbits, and even 
polecats, which formed a portion of his ordinary fare. He was 
a rather short but powerful man, and interesting stories are told 
of his wonderful strength and skill as a wrestler. 

Just behind Patrick Menton's is the depression which marks 
the cellar of the house where this Austin just spoken of lived 
before he came into possession of the Seth Manley place. 
Austin bought the place in 1800 and built his house. It was 
occupied by different persons until not far from 1820, when it 
had become a disreputable house. The wish was expressed 
that it might be broken up. Some young men took the hint, 
and on a cold windy night made a crusade against it. They 
armed themselves with rails and sticks, quietly surrounded the 
house, and at a given signal crash went doors and windows 
into atoms. The young men vanished and kept their secret. 
This closed up the establishment forever. 

On the north end of an elevation in the valley southeast of 
the DeWitt place is the cellar, with old apple-trees near by, 
where Thomas Randall, 3d, made his home, as seen on the old 
map. If we pass down the track to Short Street, go to the little 
cemetery on that street and take the lane leading northward 
from that spot, we shall find, after a quarter of a mile's walk, the 
Lyman Wheelock place, one of the most conspicuous ruins in 
town. The location, though not very elevated, is a beautiful 
one, for from it one may command quite an extended view. 
Here lived Lyman Wheelock, the Revolutionary soldier and 
pensioner, who at one time kept an inn. The lane that ran 
by his house crossed the stream not far from the Macombers 
at South Easton, and led over what is known to have been an 
ancient dam called the Scotch dam. 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 297 

At the Centre is an old cellar in the field north of the Daniel 
Reed house. Charles Hayden's house once stood on this foun- 
dation ; it was moved to the Samuel Phillips place near the 
Easton railroad station about 1870, and is now occupied by 
Jerry Buckley. South of this, about half way from the station 
to the old saw-mill, and just west of the track, are plainly visi- 
ble the remains of a cellar, over which, before 1750, Nehemiah 
Randal] had his house and made his home. 

In South Easton most of the vestiges of the oldest settle- 
ments have been obliterated, because the locations of the ancient 
dwellings have been demanded by modern ones. It required 
careful study to enable the writer to locate the spots on which 
some of the first settlers erected their rude habitations ; and as 
the ruins do not appear, there is no occasion to add anything to 
what has already been written about them. The sites of the 
houses of Clement Briggs, Thomas Randall, ist and 2d, Elder 
William Pratt, Rev. Matthew Short, and others have been spoken 
of in another chapter, and may still be pointed out by the very 
few persons who have made the subject a study ; but no ruins 
appear that attract the attention of the ordinary observer. We 
can still see where, a few rods east of Simpson's Spring, Wil- 
liam Hayward, one of the very earliest of our settlers, built his 
house. We can find Timothy Cooper's location south of the 
Collins (once the Roland Howard) house. The ruined cellar a 
little northeast of Thaxter Hervey's was the foundation of the 
furnace owned and run by Cyrus Alger and Ichabod Macomber 
early in this century. On the north side of the road east of 
Cyrus Alger's house, and near the Cocheset line, is the cellar of 
the house once the home of Benjamin Alger. 

On Purchase Street, east of William Henry Lothrop's, are 
the remains of the cellar of the large two-story house of Isaac 
Lothrop, where once he kept an inn ; and still farther east> 
quite near the swamp, was the site of Benjamin Hanks's house : 
a gravel cutting has, however, nearly obliterated all signs of the 
cellar here. Northeast of this location and west of Washington 
Street, between Joseph Town's and Alonzo Marshall's, are partial 
clearings and the vestiges of two homesteads, in one of which 
lived a Hayward. Behind W. C. Howard's, on the Easton and 
Bridgewater line, stood the house built nearly two hundred 



298 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

years ago by Jacob Leonard, bought of him by James Harris, 
and sold by the latter to Elder Pratt, where, when later occu- 
pants sat at the table, the husband was in Easton and the wife 
in Bridgewater. Farther north, and in the angle made by the 
junction of Pine and Depot streets, a depression may be seen 
where, as appears on the old map, was the cellar of the house 
of Abiah Manley. 

Farther north yet, on Grove Street, just west of Stone-House 
Hill and on the plateau north of the road and east of the brook, 
the first John Daily had his house. On the south side of the 
same street, nearer South Easton village, may be seen the loca- 
tion and vestiges of the cellar of a house last occupied by John 
Humphrey; before that, inhabited by Jonas Howard, and about 
the beginning of the century by Daniel Dickerman. It seems 
to have been the homestead first owned by Seth Burr, which 
the town a hundred years ago bought for a poor-house but did 
not use for that purpose, or, if so used, it was for only a few 
months ; its site may be determined by the young balm-of- 
gilead-trees growing there. Directly east of Deacon Mitchell's, 
and less than half way to Stone-House Hill, is the cellar of the 
first dwelling of Ensign John Daily ; it was on the old road, 
and its location may be seen on the old map. It appears, how- 
ever, that afterwards the Ensign moved north into the woods 
about sixty or eighty rods south of the present road to Brockton 
from North Easton, not far west of the hill ; it is nearly a mile 
north of Grove Street, and where, in 1703, John Drake took up 
land and settled. The clearings may yet be seen ; well made 
stone-walls form several enclosures ; the cellar still appears ; 
the thick, elastic sod shows a good soil ; barberry bushes and 
grapevines cluster about, and out of the cellar is growing an 
arbor-vitas tree. Massive door-stones, a good bulkhead-way, and 
other signs are indications of a once well-appointed house. The 
writer visited this pretty spot on a sweet spring day, when the 
graceful barberry bushes were full of blossoms, the air musical 
with the songs of numerous birds, and everything was fragrant, 
beautiful, and peaceful. A partridge, startled by the writer's 
little dog, quietly crept a dozen paces away, and then noisily rose 
into the air, cunningly designing to draw attention from the 
spot where she first started, and where, at the foot of a tree. 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 



299 



she had been sitting upon a nest of a dozen eggs. This 
homestead in 1780 was the residence of Lewis Daily, son of 
Ensign John. Why it was abandoned is a matter of conjecture ; 
mosquitoes would seem to be a suiificient reason, for they are 
bred in multitudes in the swampy surroundings. Early in this 
century no one was living there. It was known as the North 
Daily place then. Lewis Daily afterwards built a house on 
the south slope of Stone-House Hill, just east of the Easton 
line, and the crowded lilac bushes only partly conceal the ruins 
of the cellar. His remains and those of his wife were first 
buried just west of the brook near by, and when the bank where 
they were deposited was opened for supplies of gravel, they were 
removed to the pretty burying-ground at Marshall's Corner. 

In District No. 3, opposite the house of Henry L. Howard, 
may be seen the site and part of the foundation of the house of 
Israel Randall, 2d ; and in a field some distance northeast on the 
other side of the road lived Ephraim Randall. But the location 
has been ploughed over and is hardly recognizable. 

There were some homesteads near the Sharon line west of 
the Bay road. The oldest was that of Jedediah Willis, son of 
Jeremiah and brother of Solomon and Seth. It is rather more 
than a quarter of a mile almost due south of Abijah Tisdale's, 
south of the brook and near the site of an old dam. The loca- 
tion of the cellar may be made out near the wall in the mowing- 
field near by. On the dam was said to have been a mill owned 
by Jedediah, but the dam and mill are just outside the Easton 
line. Close by the road northeast of this place, and quite a 
distance eastward, were other homesteads, but no sign of them 
now appears. West of Dr. Asahel Smith's place and what is 
now close by Wilbur's Pond was the homestead of Melzar Drake ; 
two green spots in the field mark the old location of house and 
barn. Not far south is still to be seen the well near the loca- 
tion of what is said to have been the home of John Daily, who 
in Revolutionary times owned a place here ; but it is not easy to 
discover any vestiges of the cellar of the house, and the state- 
ment of Daily's living there needs verification. 

About fifteen or twenty rods east of Edward Drake's, whose 
house is east of the Bay road close to the Stoughton line, is the 
cellar of the old Seth Willis place. When his nephew, Philip 



300 HISTORY OF EASTOxN. 

Willis, set up housekeeping about a hundred years ago, he 
bought this place, the house being already old ; there part of 
his children were born. Afterward Mr. Willis bought the old 
Thomas Manley, Jr., house, and moved there before building 
what is now known as the Philip Willis house. Southeast of 
the Seth Willis place, in what is known as the Snell pasture, 
Hugh Washburn over a century ago located a homestead and 
built a house. It is quite a pleasant location ; Mr. Snell after- 
wards lived there. On Britton Street, once called the Allen 
road, east of the Thompson Allen house recently inhabited by 
the " twenty Leonards," we can still see the cellar of the second 
house built by Benjamin Harvey. The first was on the west 
side of the road south of this place ; but at the second we may 
stand on the spot by the old doorstep where his infant daugh- 
ter so narrowly escaped the jaws of the hungry bear. Harvey 
died in 1799, and old " Deacon" Pierce lived in this house after 
him ; and coming home one night from Hodges's tavern near 
by, where he had been too convivial, he fell and was actually 
drowned in a street puddle. 

Going down the Bay road, we see in the sharp angle made 
by the junction of Randall Street with it the cellar of the house 
not long since burned, where J. Frank Williams once lived. 
The house appears to have been originally built by Thomas 
Willis ; he once had a little store there. A few rods farther 
south is the location of a house which some years ago Ellis 
Hewitt built, but which has also been destroyed by fire. 

The old cellar on Randall Street, about fifty rods southeast of 
Nathan Randall's, belonged to the house of Edward Drake, son 
of Richard. A little above, and on the other side of the road, 
John Turner, who settled in town about 1750, once had a house, 
but its location is only indicated by the slight depression that 
marks where the cellar was. If we go to Summer Street from 
here and turn to the right, we find south of that street, before 
reaching Abiel Littlefield's, a lane that leads to the location of 
the Ebenezer Littlefield place still to be traced, and farther 
west are the cellar and foundation of the house and nail-shop of 
Apollos Clark. 

Going west from there to the Bay road we may see, a little 
northeast of Ebenezer Randall's, the site of the old Kingman 



fOLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 301 

tavern ; and a few rods southwest on the west side of the road 
is the cellar of one of the Dunbar houses, originally the home 
of one of the Shaw families. Just south of Langdon Randall's 
was, until recently, an old plastered house, the cellar of which 
may yet be located ; it was the home of Eliphalet Shaw, Jr. 
West of this, fifty rods from the Bay road, we may find the 
cellar of the house of the first Eliphalet Shaw. 

From the Bay road, between the two houses south of Guil- 
ford Newcomb's, a lane runs westward. By the side of the 
third enclosure of land a pile of stones on the left side marks 
the cellar of one of the David Keiths of a century and a quarter 
ago ; this lane was for a short time a town way, which was 
superseded by Beaver Street. Opposite Mr. Newcomb's was 
the house of Josiah Keith, the site of which is marked by the 
remains of brick still visible. 

On the south side of Foundry Street east of the Bay road, 
and not very far away, was the homestead occupied fifty years 
ago by Simeon Woodward. On the same side of this street, 
about two thirds of the distance from the Bay road to Prospect 
Street, is an apple orchard, and the cellar in the same enclosure 
marks the location where stood the house of James S. Randall, 
who died in 1862. On the north side of Beaver Street, not far 
from the Bay road, may be noticed a well and a cellar ; it is not 
the site of an ancient homestead, however, but is where Ambrose 
Randall began to build a house, and abandoned the attempt. 
Some fifty rods north of this spot there lived, about 1820, a 
Mrs. Lindell, in a house then owned by Howard Lothrop, 
formerly the home of James Pratt, from whom Mr. Lothrop 
bought it in 181 1. There was once a good orchard there, 
and in the great September gale of 181 5 Mrs. Lindell found 
her way somehow through the storm to Mr. Lothrop's, and 
informed him that all the apples were blowing off his trees 
where she lived. What she expected him to do about it does 
not clearly appear. The gale did not treat her with much de- 
corum, as it rolled her over in the yard. 

If any reader of this chapter desires to explore the ancient 
places in the southwest part of Easton, he will do well to secure 
the guidance of Edward D. Williams, whose retentive memory 
allows nothing once presented to it to escape. He will take 



mt. 



302 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



you down to the stream northwest of his house and show you 
the remains of the old dam, where in 1720 Josiah Keith had 
his saw-mill, and he will point out in the brook even one of the 
sills of this vanished structure. A few minutes walk farther 
northwest will bring you to the so-called " Bear hole," where 
reliable tradition informs us was a cabin whose occupant, startled 
at night by the squeals of his pig, rushed out and fired almost a 
random shot, which proved to be a lucky one, for it furnished 
him with bear-meat for several days and a good bear-skin for a 
more permanent trophy. Our guide will then test your powers 
of locomotion by hurrying you to a spot about two hundred 
rods northwest of his house, where once was the homestead of 
Ephraim Hewett, 2d, the location of which is marked on the 
old map ; the cellar is now filled with stones. Some distance 
south of this he will show you Round Pond, a shallow body 
of water of about an acre in area, nearly circular, and sur- 
rounded by trees and bushes. Still farther west, perhaps thir- 
teen rods, we come to a clearing that used to go by the name 
of Jairus's Orchard. There was once a good orchard there, and 
the decayed trunks of some of the apple-trees are melancholy 
monuments of its former glory ; the cellar in this clearing is 
nearly filled up with stones. Here Jairus Williams, the son of 
Paul and grandson of Silas, located about a century ago. And 
now, if you can brave a good contest with the crowded under- 
growth, and a scratching of the horse-brier and blackberry vines, 
our guide will take you by a short cut through close-growing 
brambles about eighty rods farther west, to a cellar in a small 
clearing, the early ownership of which must be left to conjecture. 
The writer, however, has good ground for conjecturing that it 
was the homestead of one of the children of Nathaniel Thayer, 
though it was known later as the Clark place. Nathaniel Thayer 
had a homestead still farther from the Bay road and nearer 
Highland Street, and over fifty years ago the place was known 
as the Thayer Orchard. The dwelling had then disappeared ; 
but at the beginning of the century and earlier there was quite 
a family of Thayers here. 

We have now followed our guide to Highland Street, near 
its intersection with Foundry Street. It was a little east of 
this spot where began " ye way to Babbitts across ye High 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 



303 



Plain," which led slightly southwest, as seen on the old map. 
We return to the Bay road south of Mr. Kimball's, and about 
thirty rods east of this road, and fifty rods above George E. 
Williams's house, is the old cellar of one of the Keith families, 
where years ago it was a pastime to hunt and kill black snakes, 
over a hundred having been destroyed at one time. On the 
north and also on the south side of George WiUiams's house is a 
well, now covered, — and these wells mark the locations of the 
houses of Mark and William Keith, as seen on the old map. 

We have now returned to the house of our guide ; and if the 
reader accompanies him on a day as hot as that on which 
the writer followed his leadership, he will be glad enough to 
take a draught from the " Old Oaken Bucket " of the well in 
the oldest house in Easton, — a draught so cool as to render ice 
superfluous. 

Continuing now alone our investigation, and going farther 
down the Bay road, on the east side and north of Walter Hen- 
shaw's, we find the site of the house where Adonijah White 
lived, and where his son Alanson was born. Levi Drew once 
lived there. On the west side of the road, north of Mr. God- 
frey's, was the site of the original Silas Williams's house ; and 
across the brook behind Daniel Wheaton's may be seen two 
small ruins, from one of which sites the house that was after- 
wards used as the schoolhouse in District No. 4 was moved ; 
at the other was the dwelling where Robert West lived fifty 
years ago. 

If we go to the extreme southwest part of the town, we see 
in a field south of Asa Newcomb's a well, and also the indications 
of a former dwelling, where Asa Smith, Capt. Edward Kingman, 
and a Mr. Newcomb once lived. On the same side of the street 
with the house of Asa Newcomb, about half way to the Norton 
line, is the small ruin of the dwelling that was once the home 
of Peleg West, which was afterwards owned by O. F. Lincoln, 
and later still was the home of L. A. Lincoln ; it was only 
recently destroyed. On the Mansfield road, west of the Dvvelly 
Goward place, are the ruins of the house of Dr. Seth Babbitt, 
built not far from a century and a half ago. Less than a hun- 
dred rods north of the Goward place may still be seen the 
remains of an old cellar which was probably the location of the 



1^ 



304 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



home of Erasmus Babbitt. Farther north a lane once led from 
Highland Street to Chestnut Street, on which was formerly the 
homestead of Zachariah Britton. 

On the east side of Poquanticut Avenue, and south of the 
Tisdale Harlow location, are the vestiges that mark the home- 
stead lot of the earliest Hayward who settled in this part of the 
town. Nearer Mr. Harlow's, on the other side of the street, is 
the second Daniel Owen place, the cellar which was on the top 
of the knoll being now filled and undiscoverable ; but the old 
well may still be seen near the wall by the bars, at the side of 
the road. Some distance southwest of this spot we come upon 
the double-cellared location, once a den of thieves, as will be 
explained in the chapter entitled Shadows, and formerly occu- 
pied by the Fullers ; and farther west, about a quarter of a mile 
south of Josiah Woodbury's, is the old Mehurin place, from 
which the Mehurins went bravely forth to the war of Inde- 
pendence. 

If we pass westward beyond Josiah Woodbury's until we 
reach the end of the street, we come to the ruins of a house 
built a century ago by David Thompson, the one-armed soldier 
of the French and Indian war ; it is on the line between Easton 
and Mansfield. One of Thompson's daughters named Ruth 
in 1798 married Tarteus Buck, who built a house about twenty- 
five rods east of where Chester Buck now lives ; the house 
stood until a few years ago ; the cellar remains to mark the 
spot. The location of the cellar of the Nathan Selee house 
just east of John Selee's is still visible, the original Selee place 
being, however, a few rods north. And on our way home, east 
of the Stimpson Williams place, on the south side of the road, is 
the cellar or foundation of a barn, which was used until recently 
as a home by Lemuel Tirrell, and which is now no more. 

In our journey about the town we have found more than a 
hundred deserted homesteads and vestiges of former habita- 
tions. In some instances the old houses have simply gone to 
decay, and have been replaced by others ; but there are many 
homesteads that have been entirely abandoned, and the once cul- 
tivated fields, won by painful toil from the primeval forest, have, 
after an unequal struggle, been surrendered to the dominion of 



OLD ABANDONED HOMESTEADS. 



305 



Nature, and are being covered with trees and undergrowth. 
These deserted places are clear indications of the unprofitable- 
ness of farming in New England as ordinarily managed. It has 
been found easier to support life by mechanical pursuits ; and in 
order to conduct these successfully it is necessary for people to 
congregate in villages. Some of those who prefer farming as a 
means of livelihood have emigrated to the more fertile West. 
The stirring life and possibilities of the great cities have also 
attracted many of the young and enterprising from the quiet 
country homes where they were reared ; so that when the fathers 
pass away, none are left to carry on the farms and keep the old 
places in repair. 



I 



3o6 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE WAR OF 1812. 

New England not actively interested. — The Military Compa- 
nies OF Easton. — Enlistments in the United States Service. 
— Capt. Noah Reed's Company at New Bedford. — A practi- 
cal Joke carried too far. — Nathan Buck shoots Charles 
Gilbert. — Trial and Conviction. — Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Com- 
pany at Boston. — Capt. Samuel Cushman's Company at Ply- 
mouth. — Lieut. Elijah Smith and his Records. 

IN the year 1807 occurred the affair of the " Chesapeake " and 
the " Leopard." The British frigate, asserting the right of 
recovering British seamen vi^herever found, attacked an armed 
American vessel, compelling her surrender, and then took from 
her four seamen, three of whom were undoubtedly Americans. 
This affair caused such a feeling of exasperation as to hasten the 
war, which followed in 18 12. There was an immediate call for 
troops to be ready for action, and Easton responded with the 
following vote: — 

"Voted Eighteen Dollars pr. month [for] those persons called for 
by the President of the United States to be detached from the seve- 
ral companies in this Town, including their pay from Government. 
Voted likewise to give those men who enlist in this town $1.50 for 
each day's extra training." 

The Government declared an embargo, prohibiting all vessels 
from sailing for foreign ports. This was a heavy blow for New 
England, and it helped make the war, when it finally came in 
1 8 12, unpopular in this section. Massachusetts did little more 
than to guard her own seaports. Very meagre reference to 
the subject appears in the town records of Easton. April 6, 
1 8 12, it was, however, voted "to supply the training soldiers 
with ammunition," at the request of Capt. Noah Reed, Capt. 
Isaac Lothrop, and a number of others. "Voted the command- 



THE WAR OF 1812. 



307 



ing officers shall receive the soldier's ammunition at their dis- 
cretion, by their being accountable for the same to said town." 
There was at this time a uniformed company of Light Infantry, 
upon whose roll will be found the names of many prominent citi- 
zens of the town. It was a company that gained an enviable 
reputation for their fine military appearance and proficiency in 
drill. It was under the command of Capt. Isaac Lothrop. 
Capt. Noah Reed had a company of militia, composed only in 
part of Easton men, the rest coming from towns west of Easton. 
These companies were kept properly prepared for any emer- 
gency that might arise. It was over two years before their 
services were called for, as will be presently narrated. Another 
militia company was in the west part of the town, but they do 
not appear to have entered the service as a company. 

Meantime a recruiting station had been established at Capt. 
Samuel Hodges's tavern on the Bay road, now known as the 
Shepard place, for the purpose of enlisting soldiers in the United 
States service. There in the bar-room, over hot punches, an 
attempt was made to awaken a military ardor, but it was rather 
unsuccessful. Ebenezer Bartlett and Joseph Bartlett enlisted. 
Joseph was said to have been killed at the battle of Lundy's 
Lane, sometimes called the battle of Bridgewater, or Niagara. 
Ebenezer was wounded there, and afterward received a pension. 
Caleb Randall enlisted and died in the service. Joseph Pursho 
and one of the Easton Crossmans was in this company also. 
Lemuel Clark, father of Daniel Clark, enlisted in the same ser- 
vice, and was for awhile the orderly sergeant of his company. 
Lemuel Lincoln went as a fifer. There were also in this com- 
pany Calvin Washburn and his brother Zephaniah, both sons of 
Hugh. The latter enlisted at a later date in the United States 
regular service, probably not long after 1820, and died in 
Florida. Ellis Ames states that volunteers from Easton and 
surrounding towns in 181 3 enlisted in Col. Thomas Aspin- 
wall's regiment, the ninth, and saw service at Sackett's Harbor 
and other places.^ It is probable that these volunteers above 
named, and possibly a few other Easton men, were in this regi- 
ment. They were recruited under Capt. Samuel Hodges, Jr., 
who however stepped out when he had made his enlistments, 
1 See Proceedings of Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. xv. p. 56. 



3o8 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



as he preferred to " live to fight some other day." These 
Easton men saw active and hard service under Gen. Winfield 
Scott and Gen. Jacob Brown. 

By general orders issued in July, 1814, and regimental orders 
issued in August, Capt. Noah Reed's company of infantry were 
ordered to appear for coast-guard service at New Bedford, there 
being some apprehension that this place might be attacked by 
the British men-of-war. This company consisted of seventy- 
seven men, of whom thirty-two were from Attleborough, sixteen 
from Norton, fourteen from Mansfield, one from Westfield, and 
thirteen from Easton, whose names are given below. This com- 
pany was in the Bristol County Fourth Regiment, Second Brig- 
ade, Fifth Division. The officer in command was Lieutenant- 
Colonel (afterwards General) Benjamin Lincoln. The time of 
service began August 10, 18 14, and lasted twenty-nine days. A 
town-meeting was called, and on the 22d of August it was — 

" Voted to Raise $341.50 for the Tov/n's Stock [of ammunition] and 
equipments. Voted to raise the Soldiers' pay to $15 Dollars pr. 
month, encluding the publick pay for the time of their service when 
detached, and to raise the non-commissioned officers and Musicians 
in proportion with the publick pay, the same sum from the Town to 
be added to their wages. Voted to Raise $241 Dollars for expenses 
for the use of the Soldiers." 

The muster and pay rolls of Captain Reed's company are in 
the Treasury Department at Washington, copies of which, as 
well as of Captain Lothrop's company, have been kindly fur- 
nished the writer by the Third Auditor of that department. 
Copies of Captain Reed's roll are also deposited in the New 
Bedford Public Library. The following are the Easton names 
in the latter company : — 

Noah Reed, Captain. Jona. Drake. 

Simeon Drake, Lieiiteiiant. John Drew, Jr. 

Joseph Hayward, Jr., Sergeant. Silas Phillips, Jr. 

Martin Copeland, Drtinwier. Joseph Purshoe. 

W. Downing. Francis Russell. 

Elijah Drake. Zeph. Thayer. 
Howe White. 

A very sad affair occurred while this company was stationed 
at New Bedford. In the "Bristol County History," p. 117, occurs 



THE WAR OF 1812. 



309 



the following statement : " Charles Gilbert was killed by a 
stupid sentinel stationed at the gun-house on Spring Street, 
near Sixth. He was going the rounds in the night, inspecting 
the posts, and not answering promptly the first demand for the 
countersign, he was shot and instantly killed." As this sentinel 
was Nathan Buck, of Easton, a private in Capt. Noah Reed's 
Company, it is proper that this statement should be examined, 
and the event to which it relates correctly described. 

It seems that as there was little active service to be done 
by the troops at New Bedford, there was plenty of time for them 
to indulge in fun. Charles Gilbert and others had got into the 
habit of playing tricks upon the guards by way of putting them 
to the test, to see how they would stick to their post and do 
their duty, in some cases even getting away their guns. They 
tried this on an old Easton soldier, Elijah Drake, urging a horse 
forward towards him in the thick darkness. A bullet through 
the horse from Elijah's gun proved that he was not a safe man 
to experiment upon. They then selected Nathan Buck, another 
Easton soldier, who was not, it must be confessed, especially 
bright. Captain Reed had given orders for the sentinel to hail 
three times, and then fire. This, Nathan Buck did ; but he was 
too precipitate, having in mind perhaps the trick tried upon 
Elijah Drake. He was said to have challenged three times 
in rapid succession, and then fired, killing Charles Gilbert. 
Jonathan Drake, also an Easton man and an orderly of the com- 
pany, declared however that Buck obeyed orders and did just 
right. He was nevertheless arrested, and instead of being tried 
by military court-martial, where he would probably have been 
acquitted, he was delivered to the civil power, was tried in the 
Superior Judicial Court in the October term of 18 14, and was 
found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to ten days 
soHtary confinement in the prison at Charlestown, and after that 
to three years of hard labor in the same prison. Under the cir- 
cumstances this was an unjust sentence. He was not however 
long kept in confinement, for his health was so much affected by 
his prison life that he was soon released, and came home to his 
family to die. He passed away October 7 (or 8), 18 15. 

The indictment of Nathan Buck is such a singular specimen 
of the absurd extremes of technical legal expression that it is 



3IO HISTORY OF EASTON. 

here given in full. Any one who is inclined to think it a 
caricature may find the original in the records of the Superior 
Judicial Court, at Taunton, vol. ii. p. 472. 

Cotnnio7iweaIth of Massachusetts vs. Nathan Buck, of Easton, in our 
said County of Bristol, Laborer, Defendant. 

In a Bill of Indictment found by the Jurors of the Commonwealth 
aforesaid, who upon their Oath present that Nathan Buck, of Easton, 
in the said county of Bristol, Labourer, on the twelfth day of August 
now last past, with force and arms, at New Bedford in the county 
aforesaid, in and upon one Charles Gilbert, in the peace of the said 
Commonwealth, then and there being, feloniously and in the fury ot 
the mind of him the said Nathan Buck, did make an assault : And 
that the said Nathan Buck a certain gun of the value of Five dollars 
then and there loaded and charged with Gun-powder and one leaden 
bullet, which Gun he the said Nathan Buck, in both his hands then 
and there had and held against and upon the said Charles Gilbert, 
then and there feloniously and in the fury of his mind did shoot and 
discharge : And that he the said Nathan Buck, with the leaden Bullet 
aforesaid, out of the Gun aforesaid, then and there by force of the 
gun-powder shot and sent forth as aforesaid the aforesaid Charles 
Gilbert in and upon the right breast of him the said Charles Gilbert, 
then and there with the leaden Bullet aforesaid, by the said Nathan 
Buck, so as aforesaid shot, discharged, and sent forth feloniously and 
in the fury of his mind, did strike, penetrate, and wound, giving to the 
said Charles Gilbert, then and there with the leaden bullet aforesaid, so 
as aforesaid shot, discharged, and sent forth out of the gun aforesaid, 
by the said Nathan Buck, in and upon the said right breast of him the 
said Charles Gilbert, one mortal wound of the depth of six inches and 
of the breadth of half an inch, of which mortal wound the said Charles 
Gilbert then and there instantly died. And so the Jurors aforesaid, upon 
their oath aforesaid, do say that the said Nathan Buck the said Charles 
Gilbert then and there in manner aforesaid, feloniously and in the fury 
of his mind, did kill and slay against the peace of said Commonwealth, 
and against the form of the statute in such case made and provided. 

And now at this Term the said Nathan Buck is set to the Bar and 
has this Indictment read to him, he says that thereof he is not Guilty, 
and puts himself on the country for trial. Whereupon a jury is im- 
pannelled and sworn to try the issue, consisting of Abijah Reed, Jr., 
Foreman, and fellows, viz. • . . j who, after hearing all matters and 
things concerning the same, return a verdict thereon, and upon their 
oath say as follows, to wit, "We find the Defendant Guilty." 



THE WAR OF 1812. 



311 



It is therefore considered and ordered by the Court here, that the 
said Nathan Buck be punished by solitary confinement in the Com- 
monwealth's Prison in Charlestown, in the County of Middlesex, for 
the space of Ten days ; after the expiration of which time, that he be 
confined to hard labour in the same prison for the term of Three years, 
and stand committed until he be removed according to the law. 

Two days before Captain Reed's company was discharged, 
Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Company was ordered into service, being 
assigned to duty in the vicinity of Boston. They were in Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Tovvne's regiment of General Maltby's brigade, 
and under Major-General Whiton. There were forty-three 
members of this company, some of whom were, or afterwards 
became, prominent citizens of the town. They served a part of 
September and October, 18 14, and were quartered on what is 
now Broadway Street, South Boston, being simply on guard duty, 
but seeing no fighting. They, however, enjoyed this pre-emi- 
nence over the members of the other company, — they did get 
sight of some of the Redcoats. Joseph Ward, one member of 
the company, used to tell about seeing some British soldiers 
march over Boston Neck, while he was secreting himself by ly- 
ing alongside or behind a signboard of some kind. But Joseph's 
reclining by a signboard may perhaps be otherwise accounted 
for, as also the apparition of Redcoats. The following is the 
roll of Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Company of Light Infantry: — 



Isaac Lothrop, Captain. 
Seth Williams, Lieutenant. 
Melvin Gilmore, Ensign. 
Howard Lothrop, Sergeant. 
Oliver Pool, „ 

Simeon Leach, ,, 

Dwelly Williams, „ 
Azel Pratt, Corporal. 
George Alger, 
Lewis Williams, 
Charles Wilbur, 
John Pool, Jr., 
David Macomber, Mzisic. 
Ethan Howard, ,, 

Thomas Howard, „ 
Silas H. Brett, Private. 
Alanson Cobb, „ 



Horatio Copeland, Private. 
Wade Daily, „ 

Daniel S. Dickerman, „ 
Lincoln Drake, ,, 

Reuben Drake, „ 

Zenas Drake, ,, 

Nathaniel Guild, „ 

Asa Harlow, „ 

Tisdale Harlow, Waiter. 
Nahum Hay ward, Private. 
Charles Howard, 
George Howard, 
Warren Howard, 
Lemuel Keith, 
Joshua Lothrop, 
Eliphalet Mitchell, 
Leonard Mitchell, 



312 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Elijah Randall, 


Private. 


Alanson White, 


Private. 


William Reed, 


» 


Isaiah Wilbur, 


>) 


Simeon Thayer, 


)» 


Jason Wilbur, 


Waiter. 


Joseph Ward, 


)) 


Joseph Wilbur, 


Private. 




Larnard Williams. 





Another company of Easton men did coast-guard duty at 
Plymouth, from September 26 to October 19. A copy of the 
pay-roll of this company was found among the papers of Elijah 
Smith, who was one of its lieutenants. Elijah Smith lived near 
the No. 8 schoolhouse. He was for many years the clerk of the 
Methodist Society on Washington Street, and a man of charac- 
ter and influence. August 21, 18 10, he was elected lieutenant 
of a company in the Fourth Regiment of Infantry in the Second 
Brigade, and received his commission September 20, the com- 
mission being still preserved. After the war, on the sixth day 
of June, 1 81 7, he received a captain's commission. 

The following is the " Pay Roll of Sam'i Cushman's Company 
of Infantry detached from the 4th R'gt, 2nd Brig., & 5th Divi'n 
of M. M., in obedience of Division orders, 17th Sept., 1814, & Sta- 
tioned at Plymouth, 28 Instant, under the command of Lieut- 
Col'n C. Howard." All but four were from Easton, the captain 
and two others being from Attleborough, and the fourth from 
Mansfield. The following are the names of the Easton men in 
this company : — 



Elijah Smith, Lieutenant. 
Thatcher Pierce, Sergeant. 
Andrew Blaisdal, Sergeant. 
Daniel Burt, Sergeaiit. 
Seth Tisdale, Corporal. 
Jonathan French, Corporal. 
Barnabas Randall, Corporal. 
Solomon Belcher. 
Josiah Bonney. 
Edward Capen. 
Charles Dean. 
Isaac Drake. 
John Drew, Jr. 
Israel Goward. 
Caleb Hammon. 
Asaph Howard. 

Greenfield WiUiams, 



Barnabas Howard. 
Oliver Johnson. 
Daniel Keith. 
Cyrus Lothrop. 
Sihon Morse. 
Amasa Phillips. 
Veranes Pratt. 
Alvin Randall. 
Caleb Randall. 
Nathan Randall. 
Moses Robbins. 
Nathan Snow. 
Enoch Thomas, Jr. 
David Thompson, 3d. 
Asa White. 
Willis White. 



THE WAR OF 1812. 



313 



By another list, kept by Lieut. Elijah Smith, it appears that 
John Willis, Jr., became a substitute for Israel Goward, Warner 
Downing for Willis White, and that Daniel Burt, named above, 
was a substitute for Thomas Britton. William Snow became a 
substitute for Edward Capen, Israel Randall for Daniel Keith, 
Tisdale Wetherel for Oliver Johnson, and Solomon Randall for 
Caleb Randall. 

For twenty-four days' service the captain received $32 ; the 
lieutenant, 1^24; the sergeants, ^11.20; the corporals, ^10.40; and 
the privates, ^8.8o. Lieutenant Smith had his copy of this pay- 
roll in a little note-book, in which he has the following notes : 

" Sept. 26th, 18 14. Capt. Samuel Cushman's company met at 
I. Kimball's in Easton and marched to Wd. Lazel's in Bridgewater. 
27. Marched to Plymounth. 28. Made return to the Col.; Benjamin 
King got his discharge. 29. Cyrus Lothrop got his discharge. 30. 
Barnabas Howard got his discharge. Oct 8. Sihon Morse and John 
Drew got a furlough for 4 days. Od. 12. Due for Brandy, Shugar, & 
Sigars, $1.35 ; Asaph Howard, Jonathan French, & Snow got a fur- 
lough for 5 days ; likewise Thatcher Pierce for five days. Oct. 13. 
Sihon Morse and Thatcher Pierce returned ; Seth Tisdal & Green- 
field Williams got discharged. 14. Warner Downing was furloughed. 
15. John Willis, Jr., was furloughed." 

It was thought necessary in those days for an officer to "treat" 
the company occasionally, and we are accordingly not surprised to 
find that Lieutenant Smith is charged in his note-book, Sep- 
tember 30, 181 5, with "rum and shuger for training," ^4.00. At 
that time a gallon of rum cost ^1.25, and sugar was twenty cents 
a pound. One year from that date he was commissioned cap- 
tain, and there was no doubt a still larger outlay for " rum and 
shuger for training " than when he was merely lieutenant. 

March 20, 18 15, the town "Voted to make up the wages of 
the soldiers L. Infantry company the same as Capt. Reed's men, 
without any deduction for their uniform." This is the last 
echo of any action of the town relative to the War of 181'' 



314 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 

Beginning of Methodism in Easton. — Jesse Lee, the Pioneer. — 
Isaac Stokes. — The Eccentric Lorenzo Dow. — The First 
Methodist Meeting-House. — The Rev. John Tinkham. — Cus- 
toms AND Innovations. — Successive Preachers. — Father 
Bates. — The New Meeting-House. — Universalist Preaching 
makes Trouble. — Great Revivals. — Later Preachers. 

THE Methodist movement in Easton dates its origin from 
the year 1792. At that time the Baptist Society was prac- 
tically dead, and the field was ready for a new occupant. Metho- 
dism came with a better prospect of success than the Baptists 
could command. The latter professed belief in a dark and 
hopeless Calvinism, whose doctrine of unconditional election 
tended to discourage hope and paralyze effort. " What is the 
use of doing anything about it ? " people said. " If we are 
elected to salvation we shall be saved ; if not, we shall be 
damned, and we cannot help it." But Methodism declared that 
everybody had a fair chance, and that if any one were lost it 
would be his own fault. " Salvation 's free ! " was the Methodist 
watchword. This brought unspeakable relief, after the old fatal- 
ism with which people were familiar. Moreover, the town min- 
isterial tax could be avoided by connection with the Methodists 
as well as with the Baptists, so that nothing would be lost on 
this ground by the change. 

John Wesley was born in 1703, and was sixty-three years old 
when in 1766, in New York City, a company of Irish immigrants 
established the first Methodist Society in this country. At 
the close of the Revolution there were 13,740 members of the 
Methodist Church in America, and 43 preachers. Up to this 
time they regarded themselves as only a reformed Episcopal 
Church ; but a separation from the mother church was inevi- 
table. Wesley assumed the function of a bishop, and ordained 
the Rev. Thomas Coke as bishop of the American churches, in 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 315 

1784. On Christmas day of that year Coke was recognized for 
that office in Baltimore, and he appointed Asbury as a coadjutor 
bishop. A separate church was then, with Wesley's permission, 
organized, and styled " The Methodist Episcopal Church in the 
United States of America." 

From this time the most earnest and zealous efforts were 
made to preach the gospel in this new way. Itinerant preachers 
scoured the country, penetrating to the remotest hamlets and 
rousing people out of indifference and sin. The accepted tra- 
dition in Easton is that not far from 1785 a pioneer preacher, 
supposed to be Jesse Lee, preached in Easton the first Metho- 
dist sermon under an apple-tree somewhere in front of the pres- 
ent site of the Methodist church in North Easton village. But 
Jesse Lee^ refers to his coming first to Easton in August 18, 
1792. His record is : " I rode to Brother Stokes's in Easton, and 
met the class at five o'clock." This class was no doubt newly 
organized, for in 1791 Mr. Stokes claimed on the Easton tax-lists 
to be a Baptist. Class-meetings continued to be held at Mr. 
Stokes's, perhaps at Thomas Willis's and at other houses, but 
the church was not yet organized. Jesse Lee visited Easton 
again in March, 1793. He thus writes ^ of a third visit to 
Easton in February, 1795 : — 

Monday, 16. I preached at Stokes's at i o'clock on ist Peter, 
iii. 9. Though we had a small company we had a melting season. 
Brother N. Chapin closed the meeting by prayer. We then consulted 
about building a meeting-house, and determined to begin to build it 
in the lower part of Easton, near Bridgewater, as soon as possible. 
The people seem to be in good spirits about it, though they are very 
poor. At night I preached at brother Churchill's in Bridgewater." 

By the " lower part of Easton " was meant the part towards 
Boston, this being, as the late Martin Wild informed the writer, 
what the phrase meant early in this century. About this time 
Jesse Lee writes ^ that " good prospects of a revival of religion 
[in Easton] cheered me exceedingly." 

It was Isaac Stokes to whom Jesse Lee refers. His house 
was on Main Street, where the house of Benjamin Russell now 

1 Life of Jesse Lee, p. 181. ^ ibid., p. 214. » ibid., p. 216. 



3i6 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



stands. Tradition has uniformly represented him as a local 
Methodist preacher, but this tradition is wholly incorrect. Its 
only basis is an orthographical mistake. Upon his tombstone in 
the cemetery at the corner of Elm and Washington streets he is 
spoken of as the first " Parson " buried in that place. It was not 
uncommon in those days to s,^.y parson iox person. In later days 
the word "parson" on the tombstone was understood to mean 
minister, and this not unnatural mistake is the sole foundation 
of the tradition alluded to. In fact Isaac Stokes was a nailer 
by trade, and not a parson at all. Before coming to this country 
he was a soldier in Ireland, His name first appears upon the 
Easton tax-lists in 1782, and ^he then claimed to be a Baptist. 
He was elected a member of the committee of the Baptist So- 
ciety in 1785. He was deacon of that church in 1789, and 
appeared as a Baptist again on the tax-lists of 1791. There is 
no record of his ever having preached at all. 

Another pioneer of Methodism who visited and preached in 
Easton before the Methodist Society was organized, was the 
eccentric Lorenzo Dow. The first time Dow appeared in Easton 
was April 3, 1796, when he preached near the house of Dwelly 
Goward in the west part of the town. He writes of this event 
in his journal as follows: " 3r^ [April, 1796.] This dav for 
the first time I gave out a text before a Methodist preacher ; 
and I being young both in years and ministry, the expecta- 
tions of many were raised who did not bear with my weakness 
and strong doctrine, but judged me very hard, and would not 
consent that I should preach there any more for some time."^ 
He speaks of preaching at Raynham, and writes that on the 
" 15th I rode twenty miles to the upper part of East town, 
where we had a solemn time." He was not much mistaken in 
the distance, for he probably went a round-about way, as the 
Great Cedar Swamp road was then unopened. He continues 
his journal thus : " Here lived a person who was esteemed 

very pious by the connection in general, by name Phily C ." 

He says that on the 17th he spoke to about two hundred atten- 
tive people. On page 58 he writes : " During my stay on the 

circuit, Phily C requested to know what it was that lay 

with such weight upon my mind, which I declined telling for 

^ See Life of Lorenzo Dow, p. 53. 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



317 



[notwithstanding] many importunities. At last, having ob- 
tained a solemn promise before God that it should not be di- 
vulged, I manifested it." He then confided to her that some one 
on account of his youth placed a temptation before him, and he, 
not recollecting any Scripture that forbade it, but one that he 
thought favored it, partly complied ; " but in my conscience 
immediately I felt such [agony] that for nine days I was almost 
in black despair for mercy, fearing I had committed the un- 
pardonable sin. Oh, my tears and groans ! But on the ninth 
day I found pardon." ^ The nature of his temptation is left to 
conjecture. But he had made a poor confidant, for the next 
time Jesse Lee came round she repeated the story to him ; and 
we hear of it in June, 1797, in Dow's journal as follows: 
" Met J. Lee, to my sorrow and joy. He mentioned some things 
he had heard concerning me in the east (by the treachery of 

Phily C ) ; and he began to question me very close, but 

got no satisfactory answers. As I perceived him upon the criti- 
cal order, I was cautious in my answers." 

It is easy to imagine Dow's indignation against Phily C . 

One who knew her has informed the writer that this was Phily 
Churchill, whose father, Ephraim Churchill, lived just over the 
Easton fine on the north road to Brockton, and that she was 
very far from deserving the reputation for piety which Dow re- 
ported that she enjoyed among "the connection in general." 

At the time of which we are speaking Easton was on what 
was called the Warren Circuit, which included Mansfield, Nor- 
ton, and other towns ; and Dow was a preacher on that cir- 
cuit. He was an exceedingly eccentric man, one of his oddi- 
ties being that of wearing a long beard. Beards were not the 
fashion then, and were especially esteemed much out of place 
on ministers. Dow became for this and other reasons a genuine 
notable, and was able to draw large crowds to hear him preach. 
After the Methodist meeting-house here was finished, he was an- 
nounced to preach in it one evening. When he arrived he found 
the church crowded, even the aisles being full. It was dimly 
lighted ; two candles were upon the pulpit and a few elsewhere. 
Crouching low, so that he might not be seen by the audience, 
Dow glided up the crowded aisle and suddenly rose like an 
1 See Life of Lorenzo Dow, p. 58. 



3i8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

apparition in the pulpit. His first act was to take one of the 
candles, hold it up to his face and turn from side to side, so 
that the audience might gratify their curiosity as to his looks. 
It was as much as to say : " You have heard of the full-bearded 
preacher, and now you see him. Having satisfied your eyes, 
perhaps you will attend with your ears." 

On one occasion, perhaps on the last one mentioned, the church 
was crowded, the windows raised, and people even sat upon the 
window-sills. Several young fellows seated in the rear of the 
church made considerable disturbance during the meeting. It 
was too much to bear patiently ; and suddenly Dow stopped, 
looked at them and said: "Those young men have come here 
to disturb the meeting ; they are like the dog in the manger, — 
they will neither hear themselves, nor let others hear. But let 
them alone ; they are only advertising their own characters." 

The Methodist Society was organized in 1795. A board of 
trustees was chosen, consisting of Ephraim Churchill, of Bridge- 
water, and George Monk, Nehemiah Randall, Isaiah Randall, 
and Thomas Willis, of Easton. October 13, 1795, they for five 
dollars purchased of Thomas Drake the land now occupied by 
the church on the corner of Washington and Elm streets and 
the old part of the cemetery.^ They were to hold it " upon 
special trust and confidence " for the sole benefit of the Metho- 
dist Episcopal Society, " and no other person to have and en- 
joy the free use of the premises," etc. These trustees were to 
be self-perpetuating. The church was soon built, but it was 
a rude affair, judged by modern standards. It was thirty by 
thirty-six feet, and was nine or ten feet high in the walls. It 
was unplastered, with no entries ; and as heating a church was 
then regarded as an unchristian luxury, it had no chimneys. 
The seats were oak slabs, the bark sides underneath, without 
backs, and with legs fitted into auger holes, as in the ordinary 
milking-stool. It was a long time afterwards, perhaps fifteen 
years, before there was any change in these appointments ; and 
then about twenty of the old-fashioned box-pews, with seats on 
three sides, took the place of most of the slab seats, some of 
which however remained. The building of this church was the 
cause of great rejoicing among the Methodists. Bishop Asbury 
1 See the deed, in Land Records of Bristol County, book 75, p. 383. 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



319 



was present at its dedication. It stood until 1830, when it was 
moved a little distance backward in order to give place to a new 
church, but was soon sold to an Englishman named Trimble, who 
moved it to the site now occupied by the Ames Free Library, 
where it eventually became a tenement house owned by Oliver 
Ames & Sons. It is now one of the row of houses owned by 
the Ames Corporation on the north side of Lincoln Street. 

Services continued to be conducted in the Methodist meeting- 
house by the preachers on the Warren Circuit for some years. 
Meetings were sometimes held also at private houses in other 
parts of the town. The Rev. Joseph Snelling and Solomon 
Langdon were preachers on this circuit in 1800. Mr. Snelling 
managed to come to Easton about once in three weeks. In his 
Memoir there is an interesting account of meetings held at the 
residence of Oliver Howard, which still stands on Short Street, 
east of the railroad track. Mr. Howard's wife was an ardent 
Methodist, his house was commodious, and large meetings were 
held there. Mr. Snelling relates that at one of these the house 
was full to overflowing, and in every part of it might be heard 
some praying for mercy, and others praising God for redeem- 
ing grace. The Congregational minister (the Rev. Mr. Reed) 
was present, and the meeting was continued " tmtil three d clock 
i?i the morning ! " A lady converted at this meeting arose, 
" and in a very solemn and eloquent manner told what the Lord 
had done for her soul." She was to have been baptized three 
weeks afterwards, but before that time Mr. Snelling was called 
to attend her funeral. Her last message to him was, " Tell 
Brother Snelling that I hope to meet him in heaven, when we 
shall have a better meeting than we had at Ohver Howard's." 
It was estimated that a thousand persons attended this funeral, 
which was conducted according to the Episcopal form. Meet- 
ings were continued to be held occasionally at Oliver Howard's 
until his wife's death, about 1825. 

A new circuit was organized in 1806, including eleven towns, 
of which Easton had the oldest society. According to the 
" Minutes of Methodist Conferences," vol. i. p. 394, Easton and 
Norton together numbered eighty church-members, and were 
ministered to by the same preacher. The first one under the 
new arrangement was Nehemiah Coye. This was the year 1806; 



320 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



and it is somewhat remarkable, that while the " Massachusetts 
Register" names this society in 1796, the first time it is men- 
tioned in the list of churches in the Methodist " Minutes," is 
ten years later, 1806. In 1807 Thomas Perry was preacher 
of Norton and Easton, and Mansfield was added to his charge. 
He was followed by Samuel Cutler in 1808. In 1809 Easton 
was fortunate in having John Tinkham sent to the Methodist 
church. 

Mr. Tinkham was the son of Abel Tinkham, of Middleboro. 
He was born June 4, 1782, in Thompson, Conn., and was the 
oldest of twelve children. He and Lewis Bates were both or- 
dained deacons in 1806, having been admitted on trial in 1804. 
They were elected and ordained elders in 1808 ; and that year 
Mr. Tinkham was stationed at Needham. February 3 of this 
year he had married Zerviah Blish, of Gilson, New Hampshire. 
Through 1809 Mr. Tinkham labored in Easton with great ac- 
ceptance. He was returned for 18 10, and decided to locate 
here, making Easton his permanent home, and preaching as oc- 
casion offered in the vicinity. Acceptable as he was, attention 
is arrested by the fact that almost no gains of church-members 
were made under his ministry. Vol. I. p. 394 of the Conference 
"Minutes" reported for 1806 eighty members for Norton and 
Easton. In 18 10 the number was one hundred and eleven (page 
484), and in 181 1 it was ninety-seven (page 518), — a loss of four- 
teen members in the last year, and an actual gain of only seven- 
teen members in the two churches for five years. So far as 
Mr. Tinkham was concerned this fact is easily explained. He 
was a man of clear, practical, common-sense, who believed that 
efficiency and success as a minister of Christ were not to be 
measured by the number of conversions so much as by raising 
the standard of morals, improving the conduct, and Christian- 
izing the average daily life of the people. He did not do much 
to increase the church membership ; but he did increase church 
attendance, and church matters prospered. 

Mr. Tinkham could not only preach admirably, — he could 
also lift as heavy stones, build as much stone-wall in a day, 
make as good a garden, and have as fine a nursery as any one. 
He was a man of popular gifts, and made friends of old and 
young. The general esteem in which he came to be held is 



iJ 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



321 



shown by the fact, that, though a Methodist minister living in 
one corner of the town, he was twice sent to the legislature as 
representative. This was in 18 12 and 18 13, when he went as 
associate representative with Calvin Brett, Easton sending two 
for several years. 

A few facts may here be stated that will illustrate the life and 
customs of that time. Few ministers would be satisfied to-day 
with either the quantity or quality of Mr. Tinkham's salary, — if 
the word " salary " can properly be applied to the desultory and 
miscellaneous payments he received for his ministerial services. 
His old account books are still preserved, and it is surprising 
to see how seldom the words " cash " and " money " appear on 
their pages. One man pays him eighteen pounds of veal at six 
cents a pound; another, twenty-nine pounds of beef for ^1.52. 
Wood, boards, shingles, hay, shoes, and even cider are among 
the items received for salary. One noticeable entry is "money 
and potash." In some cases no little dunning was necessary 
in order to get even these things. One afternoon, driving into 
his yard after such a parochial and business call, he astonished 
his little son Jason by drawing from beneath his blanket a small 
black pig, which was received, according to the cash-book record, 
"in payment for preaching the Gospel." 

Another incident will illustrate what minute personal super- 
vision the church exercised over the habits and conduct of its 
members. During Mr. Tinkham's ministry, while a " Love 
Feast" was being celebrated, two lady members presented them- 
selves for admission ; but they were not allowed entrance 
solely because they had bows on their bonnets ! Unsanctified 
ornaments like these, jewelry, useless ribbons and trimmings, 
were not merely discouraged, — they were openly condemned by 
ministers who thought nothing of calling attention to them in a 
sermon, and they were sometimes positively forbidden by Confer- 
ence votes. What would our Methodist fathers think could they 
see one of our city Methodist congregations to-day, worshipping 
in a costly and ornate church, with splendid organ, paid quar- 
tette music, and where even the church-members are arrayed in 
costly silks and adorned with expensive jewelry ! 

While writing of dress, we may allude to the conservatism 
of three male members, who were accustomed to come to meet- 



322 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



ing with their leather aprons on. Wearing them constantly 
during the week, they felt ill at ease without them, and they 
saw no inconsistency in appearing with them at the sanctuary. 
But they were objects of notice and occasions of merriment 
with the young people. These men were therefore waited 
upon and reasoned with. Two of them agreed to lay aside 
their aprons on Sunday ; but Ephraim Churchill, of whose 
daughter Phily we have already heard, was for a long time 
proof against opposition and ridicule. He continued to wear 
his leather apron to church even in winter, when he buttoned 
it under his overcoat. His answer to all criticism was that 
he did not discontinue it " for fear of taking cold," — the same 
excuse an old lady once gave for being unwilling to give up 
her apron. But even Mr. Churchill could not withstand the 
march of progress ; he agreed at last to concede so much to the 
demands of reform as to come to church with a new apron. 
This being known, there was a full attendance on the Sunday 
following this agreement ; but the lovers of fun were dis- 
appointed when Sunday came, to see him appear with no 
apron at all. And thus leather aprons disappeared from the 
sanctuary.^ 

Another change marks this time. It is the introduction of 
instrumental music. This proposed innovation met with violent 
opposition at first. To bring a bass-viol into church and profane 
the solemn worship by " scraping a big fiddle " was represented 
as tempting a righteous Providence. In vain its advocates main- 
tained that it was only a restoration of the good old Bible times, 
when men praised God with harp and timbrel and " with an 
instrument of ten strings." But here was no harp or timbrel ; 
and instead of the Biblical ten-stringed instrument, here was 



1 " Another principal bass-singer was old Joe Stedman, who asserted his demo- 
cratic right to do just as he had a mind to, by always appearing every Sunday in a 
clean leather apron of precisely the form he wore about his weekly work. Of course 
all the well-conducted upper classes were scandalized, and Joe was privately ad- 
monished of the impropriety, which greatly increased his satisfaction, and caused 
him to regard himself as a person of vast importance. It was reported that the 
minister had told him that there was more pride in his leather apron than in Cap- 
tain Browne's scarlet cloak ; but Joe settled the matter by declaring that the apron 
was a matter of conscience with him, and of course after that there was nothing 
more to be said." — Harriet Beecher Stowe's Oldtowii Folks, pp. 49, 50. 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



323 



an instrument with but four strings. Perhaps the conservatives 
feared that as the walls of Jericho went down before the blast of 
trumpets, so the walls of their Zion might collapse at the first 
twang of tlie viol-string. The bass-viol party prevailed, how- 
ever; the instrument was brought into meeting, but when the 
bow was first drawn across the strings some of the worshippers 
arose abruptly and left the house. This was several times 
repeated ; but it was not long before the opposition began to 
diminish, and the bass-viol soon came to be recognized as a 
necessary part of church furnishings. March 30, 181 5, in the 
society records there is this entry : " Voted to have the Base- 
viol used on such Days as the pulpit is supplied by the Rev. 
John Tinkham." 

There are no church records dating back of the division of the 
society in i860, as will be explained on another page, but the so- 
ciety records date back to about 18 10. After 18 12, Elijah Smith 
was the clerk of the society for some years. March 9, 18 12, 
it was voted to sweep the meeting-house once a month, and 
shovel away the snow in the winter ; and this service was sold 
to the lowest bidder, Ebenezer Bartlett, who agreed to do it 
for $1.75 a year. Two hundred dollars were raised this year 
for the support of the gospel. Until his death, Mr. Tinkham 
preached more than half the time in Easton. Sometimes the 
society engaged him for half the year, sometimes for three- 
fourths, raising as much as they thought they could afford. In 
1 8 14 they paid him $170 for his preaching one half the year. 
He did not disdain to do humble work, — as for example, in 1818, 
the society voted to pay Mr. Tinkham two dollars for washing 
the meeting-house once and sweeping it four times for the en- 
suing year! The great innovation of stoves was introduced in 
1 8 19, two or three years earlier than by the more conservative 
First Parish. In 1822, and for other years, to save the expense 
of a sexton, Calvin Marshall and others volunteered to sweep the 
meeting-house in turn. About this time there was quite a large 
membership in this society from surrounding towns, there being 
twenty-seven, for instance, from North Bridgewater. 

The Rev. John Tinkham while settled here as local preacher 
preached with considerable regularity in various towns in the 
vicinity, sometimes however going to quite a distance. Under 



324 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

his administration a class was formed in Stoughton, and eventu- 
ally a church was organized there, and a meeting-house erected. 
He died in Easton, greatly respected and beloved, January 24, 
1824, and his remains lie in the Washington Street Cemetery, 
near the site of the church where he labored, and of the home 
where he so happily lived. 

We have seen that Mr. Tinkham, after two years service as 
minister here, the longest time then allowed in one place, was 
made a local preacher. In 181 1 Artemas Stebbins was ap- 
pointed to have charge of Easton and Mansfield. In 1812 
Theophilus Smith had the same appointment. In 181 3 the 
" Minutes " state that Francis Dane and J, F. Chamberlain 
were sent to Mansfield ; and though Easton is not mentioned, 
it was no doubt included in their charge, F'rom this time until 
his death the pulpit appears to have been mainly supplied by 
Mr. Tinkham, who, however, gave only a portion of his time to 
preaching in Easton. There were a few irregular supplies also 
for the same period. 

In the June following Mr. Tinkham's death the Conference 
(1824) appointed Charles Virgin to this post, with Hiram Walden 
as colleague. They had both Easton and Stoughton under their 
charge. Quite a revival occurred at this time. Mr. Virgin was 
a very excitable man, just the man for the " protracted meetings " 
of those days. These meetings were assisted by Murray Jay, a 
powerful and magnetic exhorter and a stirring singer. He cre- 
ated great interest and much increased the excitement. Stories 
are told of gatherings in private houses where he was present, 
when a strong mesmeric influence would overcome many, and 
several would fall to the floor at once. Such abnormal magnetic 
power seems to have no necessary connection either with morals 
or religion, for persons of a low grade of morals sometimes pos- 
sess it, and in their hands it is a dangerous instrument. It was 
so in the case of Murray Jay. His character came under suspi- 
cion, so much so that the church was led to dispense with his 
services. He then endeavored to hold opposition meetings in 
the open air, but with little success, and finally departed for New 
Jersey. He was accompanied by a young lady of Stoughton, a 
good singer, who went, under the promise of becoming his wife, 
to assist him in his meetings. In two years she returned with 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 325 

a little child, feeling very bitter against Jay, who was already, 
as she had discovered, a married man. 

Charles Virgin was returned to Easton in 1825. He paid the 
natural penalty of indulging in extraordinary excitements, being 
finally deposed from the ministry because of insanity. Mr. 
Virgin was followed at Easton by Phineas Peck, who remained 
here one year. He was succeeded by Ebenezer Blake, with 
Elias Scott as colleague. This was at the time when there was 
a strong anti-Masonic movement. Mr. Blake was known to have 
once been a member of the Masonic order, and though he de- 
clared he had not attended its meetings for twenty years, his for- 
mer membership created disaffection, and he found it advisable 
to leave town a few weeks before his second year was completed, 
when for a few Sundays there was no preaching in the Metho- 
dist church. 

In 1829 Lewis Bates, familiarly known as Father Bates, 
was appointed for this station. The revivals increased the 
church membership. The Methodist " Minutes of Conferences" 
report for that year one hundred and eighty-four members for 
Easton and Stoughton, and this number was still further in- 
creased by a powerful revival which occurred under Father 
Bates's ministry, extending even to Northwest Bridgewater, now 
Brockton Heights. In the latter place a class was formed. At 
the close of the first year of his ministry the church was found 
to be too small to accommodate the large congregations that 
assembled, and a new church was talked of. The old one was 
moved back from the street, and the new one was erected on its 
site in 1830, and was dedicated in October, the dedication ser- 
mon being preached by George Pickering. Father Bates made 
the dedicatory prayer, and a full choir, assisted by a band of 
twelve pieces, made the occasion glorious. The Easton Metho- 
dists were very proud of their new church. The Northwest 
Bridsrewater Methodists also built a house of their own about 
the same time. During this year Sandford Benton was made 
colleague with Father Bates, who was returned for the second 
year. 

In the same year the Sunday-school of this church was first 
organized. James Dickerman was appointed superintendent, an 
office his son of the same name fills to-day, as for many years he 



326 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



has done. The society had been in existence for about forty 
years without a Sunday-school. 

Father Bates was a man of mark. He had great force of 
character, was physically very powerful, and had good natural 
talents. He made it his boast that he was not educated. He 
had a contempt for an educated minister who came from an "old 
Gospel shop," as he styled a divinity school. He claimed to be 
a " self-made man," and he certainly succeeded in doing a better 
piece of work than many people who make such a claim. But 
he was largely such a man as God made him, — a fact which 
" self-made men" sometimes forget. If the divinity school could 
have had a hand at finishing him, he would have been none the 
worse for it. 

It was not long before the new meeting-house became the 
occasion of serious trouble. In order to raise funds to build it, 
application for aid had been made to some of the village people 
who were Universalists and Unitarians. Among these were 
Oakes Ames and John Bisbee. They and others responded 
liberally to this application, with the understanding that they 
should be allowed occasionally to have preachers of their own 
faith occupy the pulpit of the new church, provided this were not 
done at any time that would interfere with the regular services. 
For a time this was permitted, and Universalist preachers some- 
times held services there. But, naturally enough, a strong oppo- 
sition was soon developed against the preaching of what the 
regular worshippers regarded as most dangerous doctrine, im- 
perilling the soul's salvation. The wonder is that they should 
originally have granted any such permission. Vigorous attempts 
were now made to prevent Universalist preaching in the pulpit. 
On one occasion the church-door was padlocked after the regular 
service, so as to prevent holding the Universalist service that 
had been announced for the evening. The padlock was however 
torn off and thrown under the church, where it was discovered 
years afterward. Locks were then screwed on the doors, but 
were easily removed with screw-drivers. The locks were then 
riveted on, but the rivets were cut or drilled out, and the locks 
demolished. Thomas Whittemore, a noted Universalist minister, 
was on one occasion announced to preach. The doors were 
fastened again, and his opponents stood on guard outside ; but a 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



327 



stout stick broke the fastenings, the doors were forced, and the 
crowd entered. One of the church-members, a tall, strong man, 
blockaded the approach to the pulpit ; but the preacher sprang 
lightly by him, reached the pulpit, and proceeded with his ser- 
vice without further molestation. Such contentions, however, 
soon became tiresome to both sides. The consent of the leading 
subscribers was finally obtained, and the church deeded to the 
Conference. This of course closed its doors to Universalism. 

In 183 1 John Lovejoy was appointed for this station, with 
D. S. King as colleague. Lemuel Harlow succeeded in 1832, 
followed in 1833 by Warren Emerson, after whom Mr. Harlow 
was returned for another year. In 1835 came Thomas Stetson. 
In 1836 Amos Binney received the appointment, and retained it 
for two years. The spiritual interest at this time is reported to 
have been at a low ebb. Judged by the accepted Methodist 
standard of success, the church membership, no progress had 
been made for twenty-five years. In 181 1 the " Minutes " re- 
ported ninety-seven members for Stoughton and Easton, and in 
1836 the number was but ninety. In 1829 the number reported 
for these towns was one hundred and eighty-four, and even this 
number was increased, as we have seen, by the revival under 
Father Bates. But seven years later, as just stated, there were 
only ninety members, — a loss of ninety-four. In 1838, how- 
ever, this number was increased to one hundred and twenty-nine. 
These great fluctuations in the number of church-members pre- 
sent an interesting study, and are calculated to make serious 
persons thoughtful. They are to be explained by the revival 
system. Extraordinary excitement would temporarily impress 
large numbers, who would pass through various phases of feel- 
ing, and believe themselves converted. Then the parable of the 
sower would be illustrated. Abundant seed would be sown, and 
would even take root ; but much of it would be in shallow 
ground, or among thorns, or by the wayside, and after periods 
of unnatural interest there would follow a reaction, a correspond- 
ing depression. Such proved to be the case after Father 
Bates's meetings. There were many " backsliders," who, as a 
rule, were harmed by their experience. The number of church- 
members declined, and a time of spiritual dearth and insensibility 
followed. 



328 HISTORY OF EASTOxN. 

This is merely a statement of facts based upon the figures 
of the Conference " Minutes," and is not offered as a criticism 
by the writer, though the facts themselves deserve attentive 
study. 

In 1839 John Bailey had the appointment for Easton and 
Stoughton, In 1839 ^^^ 1840 Nathan Payne was the preacher, 
and he was followed by Edward Lyons, who will be remembered 
for peculiarities not altogether ministerial. Under the last two 
men there were revivals which considerably increased the church 
membership. At this time a parsonage was bought. It was the 
house which, though remodelled, is now owned by Jonathan A. 
Keith, and is not far north of the meeting-house. 

In 1842 Joel Steel was appointed for Easton. This was at 
the time of the great Second Adventist excitement, then com- 
monly known as Millerism. Mr. Steel took strong ground 
against this doctrine, and it did not affect many in his church. 
The revivals of one and two years before were followed by a 
period of depression, and the society passed through discourag- 
ing vicissitudes, not being fortunate in some of its preachers, and 
losing some of its influential members by a division that occurred 
in 1843, which will be considered in its proper place. 

The next appointment after Mr. Steel was William Holmes ; 
but the more Mr. Holmes preached, the stronger the conviction 
grew in the minds of his hearers that he had mistaken his call- 
ing, — an impression they contrived to impart to him in so 
unequivocal a manner as to lead to his departure before the year 
was out. Stephen Palmer, a local preacher, was hired to fill out 
the year, and on the last day that he tried to preach made a most 
embarrassing failure. But his failure at preaching was as noth- 
ing to his failure to practise, and it will be as well to drop him 
here and forget him. 

In 1844 Mr. Fisk was appointed for Easton ; and he was fol- 
lowed by Nathaniel Bemis, whom, however, the society refused 
to receive, exercising upon this and some other occasions, not- 
withstanding their denominational rules, a sort of veto power 
upon the appointing authorities, — a power they could enforce 
by cutting off supplies. Various occupants filled the pulpit 
during 1845, among whom Mr. Worcester will be remembered 
for the scolding: and scathing: sermon with which he shook off 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



329 



the dust of his feet against the people. A new bell was pur- 
chased during the year 1845. 

For about eleven years after this time the church had almost 
no connection with the Conference. During these eleven years, 
according to the records of the Washington Street Society, " the 
church experienced rather turbulent times." There was a steady 
decline of interest. James Hall, an English Methodist preacher, 
was engaged, and occupied the pulpit until 1849. During this 
time he joined the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1849 John B. 
Clough took charge for a year, and he was followed by Lorenzo 
White. In 185 1 Paul Townsend, an old retired minister who 
lived in West Bridgewater, preached here, and continued to con- 
duct Sunday services for about three years. In March, 1856, 
the Rev. Mr. Sheldon, who in 1855 had retired from the active 
ministry of the Congregational Society at Easton Centre, was 
engaged to preach in this Methodist church, and did so until 
the autumn, when the keeper of the church records says : " The 
life of the Society became so nearly extinct that the house was 
closed for the winter." During this year Gurdon Stone, Avery 
Stone, and Joel Randall dissolved their connection with the so- 
ciety, though Avery Stone continued to act with it. 

In the spring of 1857 another rally was made, and the Confer- 
ence was applied to for a preacher. The result was the appoint- 
ment of John B. Hunt, who proved to be a very efficient minister. 
By his efforts a great revival began, which added many mem- 
bers to the church and placed it in a better condition than it had 
enjoyed for many years. This was for Easton the last of the 
great revivals that used to thrill whole communities, and which 
were carried on amidst excitements such as would astonish the 
young people of this generation. For this reason, we propose as 
clearly and truthfully as possible to describe it. 

To originate and promote this revival, strong preachers were 
engaged, who addressed the feelings, appealing to hopes and 
fears. They selected such themes as the dread certainty of 
death, the awfulness of hell, the amazing love of Jesus bleeding 
upon the cross for the salvation of guilty sinners ; and with 
flowing tears, violent gestures, and excited tones, preached with 
thrilling effect. From every part of the house responses of 
"Amen," "Glory," and similar ejaculations, mingled with groans 



330 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



and sighs, gradually wrought up the feehngs of the listeners. 
Stirring hymns were sung with kindling effect ; loud and frenzied 
appeals for mercy, as of those who were on the brink of an abyss 
that might at any moment open to receive them, were heard. 
And when this was over, or even while it was in progress, earnest 
Christians, themselves deeply moved, appealed to friends as they 
passed from pew to pew, urging them to flee from the impending 
doom and accept the gracious call that would open to them the 
gates of heaven. The effect was often indescribable. Sometimes 
persons were actually prostrated upon the floor in the intensity 
of their feelings ; it was only strong natures that could resist 
the influence. Many who went to scoff, would soon be seen 
kneeling at the altar to pray. At one of the very meetings 
we are speaking of, a woman prayed so loud and long as to be 
too exhausted to rise from her knees. Serious results some- 
times followed with sensitive natures. While Mr. Collier, of 
Cocheset, whose piercing black eyes seemed to threaten judg- 
ment to come, was preaching, a man was seized with a nervous 
spasm, his head thrown back, his limbs rigid, his face like death 
itself. He was supported by friends on either side, who were 
forced to stretch him out at full length upon a seat or the floor. 
Many of the audience were terrified and left the house ; but the 
preacher, accustomed to such scenes, perhaps elated with this 
evidence of his power as an exhorter, made the house ring with 
his shouts of "Glory" and "Hallelujah." Similar results oc- 
curred here and in South Easton village several times. Tempo- 
rary and even permanent insanity was not wholly unexampled. 
The entire work of conviction, repentance, and conversion was 
supposed to be compressed into an hour. Services sometimes 
began at nine o'clock in the forenoon, and with little intermission 
lasted until nine o'clock in the evening. We have already seen, 
by the testimony of the Rev. Joseph Snelling, that at Oliver 
Howard's, in 1800, the meeting lasted until three o'clock in the 
morning. These " four days' meetings," as they were called, 
sometimes lasted several weeks. 

All this is a simple statement of facts. They are not men- 
tioned for the sake of criticism. No criticism could be so telling 
now as the statement of the facts themselves ; but truth to his- 
tory demands that such a record be made as a picture of the 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 33I 

times. Great good was sometimes done to hardened natures 
that could not otherwise be aroused ; but many who rose on 
the flood-tide of feeling were carried back on the ebbing current 
and settled into their ordinary state of feeling. The number of 
"backsliders" was usually proportioned to the urgency and ex- 
citement of the revival that awakened them. 

There was one frequent accompaniment of such meetings that 
was painful to those earnestly participating in them, and dis- 
graceful to those causing it ; we refer to the rowdyish attempts to 
disturb these religious exercises. Young fellows often attended 
them solely to make disturbance. Copious quantities of dry 
beans were brought in their pockets and snapped singly or 
thrown by handfuls among the audience, or even at the preachers 
themselves. Their shouts and cat-calls added to the confu- 
sion, and altogether their disorderly conduct sorely vexed the 
brethren. Round bits of steel were punched out, polished, 
blasphemously marked, and dropped into the contribution-box. 
On one occasion several of these persons pretended to be under 
conviction, went forward for prayers, and were said to have 
passed a bottle of drink about while on their knees. Unruly 
fellows upon the outside sometimes added to the disturbance. 
All manner of derisive shouting was heard. At one time a team 
was driven so that it grated horribly against the side of the 
church. At another, wood was piled against the doors so as to 
prevent any one from coming out, and then the bell was rung 
furiously. Some of these disturbers were once arrested and 
taken before Justice Selee, but nothing was done to punish 
them ; it was difficult to make out a case against them. Happily 
these things are of the past. Religious meetings are so con- 
ducted now as to give no provocation for such gross misconduct, 
and if it should be attempted it would not be tolerated to-day. 

John B. Hunt, during whose ministry the great revival oc- 
curred, died while in service here, in October, 1858, and his 
remains were buried in the cemetery on the corner opposite the 
church where he preached. The pulpit was supplied by different 
persons during the rest of the year. 

The society records furnish us with one incident of this year 
which deserves to be noted here. In December, 1858, a subscrip- 
tion paper was circulated which was prefaced as follows : — 



332 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

" We the undersigned agree to pay the sum set opposite our names 
for the purpose of buying a pew to enlarge the free pew, so we can 
warm ourselves without being in danger of scorching our clothes." 

Twenty-seven ladies subscribed, and the space about the 
stove was thereby enlarged. When it is remembered that this 
was at the time when hoopskirts had attained a circumference 
which would be incredible now were the dimensions to be given, 
we can appreciate the desire of the twenty-seven ladies to en- 
large the standing-room around the stove, and thereby lessen 
the "danger of scorching our clothes." 

In the spring of 1859 Lewis B. Bates received the Confer- 
ence appointment to Easton. It was during the ministry of Mr. 
Bates that the division of the society occurred. The account of 
this division will be more appropriately given when we treat 
of the history of the Methodist Society in North Easton village, 
as this society originated in the division alluded to. Passing 
that interesting episode by therefore for the present, it is suffi- 
cient to state here that Mr. Bates, by order of the bishop, ceased 
preaching at the Washington Street church soon after his ap- 
pointment in i860. He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Spilsted, 
who was followed in 1861 by the Rev. Franklin Gavitt. The 
Rev. Abel Allton was appointed for 1862, and the Rev. H. S. 
Smith in 1863, the latter serving for three years. In 1866 this 
church united with the Northwest Bridgewater church, and 
the Conference sent the Rev. Freeman R3'der for that year, 
and the Rev. J. B. Washburn in 1868, each of them serving for 
two years. The interest of the religious services in the Wash- 
ington Street church was increased in 1866 by the purchase of 
an organ. 

In the year 1870 the church stood alone again, and it was 
served for three years with singular devotion by the Rev. Elisha 
Dunham. Mr. Dunham is now a minister in the Orthodox 
Congregational communion. The church was very fortunate 
also in its next minister, the Rev. M. M. Kugler, a man whose 
spiritual face was the index of a consecrated heart. He re- 
mained two years, from 1873 to 1875. The Rev. S. Hamilton 
Day was appointed in 1875, and was returned for a second year. 
He married a daughter of James Dickerman. The Rev. J. H. 



THE FIRST METHODIST SOCIETY. 



333 



Nelson was sent in 1877, and the Rev. M. F. Colburn came in 
1878. In the year 1879 i^ ^^^s deemed advisable to unite with 
the North Easton village church in supporting a pastor, who 
should preach half the time in each church and have the care of 
both parishes. The ministers under this arrangement have been 
the Rev. S. E. Evans, in 1879, ^^^^ has since joined the Ortho- 
dox Congregationalists ; the Rev. William Kirkby, a genial and 
friendly man who served for two years, and left many friends be- 
hind him ; the Rev. J. S. Thomas, who also remained two years ; 
and, in 1884, the Rev. Merrick Ransom, who is now serving for 
the third year, and who when he leaves will carry away with 
him the respect and good-will of all who know him. In the 
spring of 1885 it was deemed advisable to discontinue regular 
services in the Washington Street church ; and they have not 
yet been resumed. 



334 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE REV. LUTHER SHELDON, D.D., AND THE DIVISION 
OF THE PARISH. 

Mr. Luther Sheldon receives a Call. — His Youth and Educa- 
tion. — Kindness of the Parish to their Minister. — Diver- 
gence OF Theological Opinions among the Parishioners. — Mr. 
Sheldon ceases to exchange with Neighboring "Liberal" 
Ministers. — The Parish requests him to continue Fraternal 
Relations with Them. — He fails to respond to the Request. 

— An Ex-parte Council summoned by the Parish. — The Par- 
ish EXCLUDES Him from His Pulpit. — Mr. Sheldon's Friends 
organize and begin to build a Meeting-House. — An Exciting 
Controversy. — Lawsuits. — Mr. Sheldon re-enters his Pulpit. 

— Various attempts at Agreement. — A Settlement finally 
effected. 

DURING the year following Rev. Mr. Reed's death, August 
13, 18 ro, the church and parish extended a call to Mr. 
Luther Sheldon. They offered him a salary of four hundred 
and fifty dollars, and agreed to give him five cords of wood an- 
nually until he became "a housekeeper," when it was to be in- 
creased to twelve cords ; and it was to be cut and corded for him 
in the woods. Mr. Sheldon accepted the call in a well written 
letter, in which, however, he regrets the short acquaintance they 
have had, remarks upon the evils likely to result from precipi- 
tancy in such important affairs, is not willing to agree to the 
proposition made to him that the pastoral connection may be 
dissolved without a council, and asks for the privilege of "four 
weeks yearly for the purpose of visiting my friends at a distance," 
etc. The parish granted him the yearly vacation he asked for, 
and agreed with him that " in case any root of bitterness shall 
arise among us so that the minds of two thirds of the members 
of the parish shall be alienated from their minister, by giving 
him a year's notice that they do not desire his continuance with 
them as a minister any longer, he may be discharged with a 
mutual council." 



REV. LUTHER SHELDON. 



335 



In preparing for the ordination the church was repaired, the 
supports of the galleries strengthened, and a committee ap- 
pointed to wait upon strangers. "The Band" was invited to at- 
tend and furnish music, if they would do it with no compensation 
except the entertainment. It was voted that " all the council and 
their ladies, and all the gentlemen of Public Education and their 
ladies " may attend the entertainment. Joel Drake agreed to 
provide the collation for eighty dollars, provided not over sixty 
persons attended it. The Rev. Holland Weeks preached the 
ordination sermon. This was October 24, 1810. 

The Rev. Luther Sheldon, D.D. was born in Rupert, Vt., 
February 18, 1785. He was the fourth child of the Hon. David 
and Sarah (Harmon) Sheldon, the oldest son, Thomas, being 
the first child born in Rupert. David Sheldon in early man- 
hood, leaving a young wife and infant in Sufiield, Conn., had 
emigrated, axe in hand, alone and on horseback to the primeval 
forest, driving a couple of cows before him. There, at what 
is now Rupert, he made his clearing, built his log house, put 
in his crops, and then brought to this lonely spot his wife and 
infant son. Soon some of his former neighbors and relatives 
joined him, and a settlement was formed. He improved his 
land, and gradually made an extensive and beautiful farm in a 
pleasant valley between high hills, owning land nearly to their 
summits, where his large flocks found a cool retreat in the heat 
of summer. A beautiful trout-stream ran through the intervale, 
and furnished many a sweet morsel for the farmer's table. 

About three years after he settled here his son Luther was 
born. It was the desire and intention of the parents that this 
fourth son should inherit the farm and care for the " old folks," 
and his early training and education were directed to this end. 
He acquired a practical knowledge of every kind of farm-work, 
and developed a robust constitution and physical strength and 
endurance. But several years before he reached his majority he 
became particularly interested in religion, and urged his parents 
to give him a more liberal education in order that he might pre- 
pare for the ministry. They however did not feel willing to 
give up their cherished plans, and held him to the homestead 
until he was nearly twenty-one. At that age he began to fit for 
college under a private tutor ; and he applied himself with such 



336 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

diligence and enthusiasm that in a little more than a year he 
not only mastered the Preparatory studies, but also those of 
the Freshman and Sophomore years, and entered college in the 
Junior class, graduating with honor in 1808. Forty-three years 
after this his Alma Mater gave him the degree of Doctor of 
Divinity. 

He began the study of theology with the Rev. Holland Weeks, 
of Pittsfield, Vt., and was licensed by the Rutland Association 
May 30, 1 810. He preached his first sermon on the first Sun- 
day in June, in Rupert, the next on the second Sunday in 
Suffield, Conn., the home of his ancestors for several genera- 
tions, and his third sermon he preached in Easton, where, after 
preaching for about two months, he received a call, and where 
he was ordained in the following October, as already narrated. 
He at once purchased a small farm with a residence a few rods 
northeast of the church. September 26, 181 2, he married and 
brought to his parish and home Miss Sarah Johnson Harris, 
who was born in Canaan, New Hampshire, January 30, 1790. 
She had gained quite a reputation as a teacher, and afterwards 
materially aided her husband in the family school which he kept 
in his own house, to eke out the slender salary of four hundred 
and fifty dollars and twelve cords of wood. She was an intelli- 
gent. Christian lady, well read, entertaining in conversation, no 
mean opponent in argument, devoted to the interests of her 
home and the welfare of the parish. She became in the latter 
part of her life deeply interested in the abolition of slavery. It 
was at a day when " Abolitionist " was a term of reproach ; but 
she never shrank from declaring her sympathy for the down- 
trodden slave, and avowed her faith in his ultimate redemption 
from bondage. She died October 10, 1853, sixty-three years of 
age. Her funeral sermon was preached by Richard S. Storrs, 
of Braintree, from Acts ix. 36, 37. 

October 24, 1855, two years after the death of Mrs. Sheldon, 
Dr. Sheldon was married to Mrs. Elizabeth A. Keith, a widow, 
daughter of Bernard and Elizabeth Alger. She was an intelli- 
gent and estimable lady, an especial favorite of Dr. Sheldon's 
first wife, and greatly beloved by the family. There was con- 
siderable disparity in their ages, but this increased rather than 
lessened her endeavors to render his life pleasant and fruitful 



REV. LUTHER SHELDON. 



337 



of good. She endeared herself to his friends by her watchful 
care for his comfort as the infirmities of age came upon him. 
She died October 14, 1863. 

When the youthful pastor began his ministerial labors in 
Easton, his work was hard. The parish included all the town 
except those who belonged to some other society, and there was 
then no other society in town but the Methodist, which was 
small. Two written sermons must be prepared for Sunday, and 
there was a Sunday evening " lecture " expected, with occasional 
week-day services in schoolhouses or private dwellings in vari- 
ous parts of the town. There were extended religious services 
at funerals, and a good deal of parish work. All this made the 
life of the young minister full and crowded ; and here his vigor- 
ous constitution proved a great blessing. 

In 1 81 5 the subject of building a new church was agitated. 
January 29, 1816, it was voted "to set it north of the old meet- 
ing-house," and additional land was purchased of Capt. Oliver 
Pool. Josiah Copeland and Captain Pool were given the con- 
tract for building it, and they were not to exceed an expense of 
seven thousand dollars. Wade Dailey was the master carpenter. 
The frame was raised June 10, 18 16, the day after a great frost, 
when the frost could be scraped from the timbers. This was 
the " year without a summer," when there was a frost every 
month, and corn and vegetables were destroyed in August. 
The church was finished in 181 7, and was dedicated on the 
third Wednesday of September, Mr. Sheldon preaching the 
dedication sermon. The sheds were built the next year. 

At this time there were no stoves in church, though the now 
antiquated foot-stove, being a perforated tin or sheet-iron box in 
a wooden frame with a pan inside for receiving coals, was in 
general use, and was pushed from one person to another in the 
pew in order that at least the feet might have the chill taken 
from them for a few minutes. The cold was sometimes so in- 
tense that there would be quite a general knocking of the feet 
together and rubbing of the hands ; the minister's breath would 
be frosty, and one might suppose that his allusions to nether 
fires would lose their force upon those whose chattering teeth 
and shivering limbs made fire a welcome thought. Why it took 
our ancestors nearly two hundred years to discover that comfort 

22 



338 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

was not a sin, and that a stove might be a means rather than a 
hindrance to grace in our churches, it is difficult to understand. 
But it is quite certain that it was not until late in the winter of 
1822 that this innovation was timidly and not without protest 
introduced. Even then it was tried on the plea of merely mak- 
ing an experiment. In May, 1822, it was voted " to continue the 
stove in the meeting-house until the effects of it can be fairly 
proved." The "effects of it" appear to have been satisfactory, 
and we find that in 1826 the parish accepted the gift of a stove 
from Gen. Sheperd Leach. The spirit of innovation was abroad, 
and the parish, after setting up the new stove, voted to paint the 
meeting-house. It was also voted to procure a new bell that 
should weigh twelve hundred pounds. 

The cost to the worshippers for church expenses of every kind 
must have been quite small, as the parish fund had an income 
sufficient to pay the minister's salary, and other expenses were 
light. Mr. Sheldon was a prudent and careful manager, and 
was able by means of his farm and his family school, in addi- 
tion to his salary, to provide for and educate his children well, 
and to save money besides. The kindness and generosity of 
his people made many substantial additions to his income in 
various ways. General Sheperd Leach for years presented him 
with fifty dollars credit on his store account, a quarter of beef, 
a huge cheese, and various other articles as occasion offered. 
Many others were equally generous in proportion to their means. 
From the time of his settlement it was the custom of the people 
to make the minister and wife annually a " donation visit." At 
such times substantial presents of money and of many useful 
articles were freely bestowed. After a hearty repast the evening 
would be spent in pleasant social intercourse by the older ones, 
while the youth and children enjoyed a merry bout at their 
games. They were seasons of real old-fashioned social enjoy- 
ment, — the pastor, who was no gloomy ascetic, entering with 
much zest into the innocent pastimes of the children, greatly 
to their delight. These happy occasions were closed with hymn 
and prayer. All these things show the strong hold which Mr. 
Sheldon had upon the affections of his friends. The material 
aid which their generosity provided formed no small part of his 
yearly support. 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



339 



We come now to a consideration of the controversy which 
led to a division of the parish and church. A few of the par- 
ticipants still live, and many descendants of those who took part 
on either side have often heard the story of that long and dis- 
tressing contention. It is natural that they should justify the 
party which they or their parents and friends espoused. The 
stories and traditions that have come down to us need careful 
sifting because they were colored by strong feelings, which 
necessarily distort and misrepresent. The writer has availed 
himself of every means known to him to get at the exact facts, 
and, what is quite as important, to put upon those facts the cor- 
rect interpretation. 

It is well known that early in this century there had grown 
up a decided divergence of opinion among the ministers and 
people of the Massachusetts Congregational Churches. There 
was a silent, steadily growing modification of the extreme Cal- 
vinism that had been prevalent. This made two parties in 
nearly all the churches, — parties that came to be known as 
Orthodox and Unitarian. In many of the churches this diver- 
gence of opinion caused an open rupture and separation. When 
this occurred there was usually a secession of the minority from 
the parish, and the formation by them of a separate church. 
In most parishes the Unitarians were found to be in the 
majority when the division took place, and they therefore held 
the old churches and church property, and the Orthodox with- 
drew and built anew. In Plymouth County, for instance, all 
but one or two of the original Pilgrim churches were found to 
be Unitarian. A majority of the voters in these parishes sym- 
pathized with the new movement, and their votes controlled 
the issue. The church, strictly speaking, was the body of the 
church-members, a voluntary association not legally recognized, 
and having no separate voice in the control of the business 
affairs of the parish. Probably in most cases the majority of 
the church-members remained Orthodox. 

The division of most of the churches occurred during the 
early years of Mr. Sheldon's ministry. Of course there were 
two parties in Easton as elsewhere. There was the same fer- 
ment of opinions. It was less marked here because, notwith- 
standing an impression to the contrary, the Rev. Mr. Reed, the 



340 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



last minister, had not espoused the new views, and his preaching 
seems to have ignored all these controverted questions. Never- 
theless there was a steady growth of Arminian and Unitarian 
opinion in the parish. This was perhaps more marked because 
of the decided conservatism of the minister, Mr. Sheldon. " In 
his religious belief he was notoriously Evangelical, rigidly Or- 
thodox, as most would say from the present stand-point. He 
called himself a Hopkinsian, though he differed on some doc- 
trinal points from Hopkins, and coincided with those called Cal- 
vinistic." This is the statement of his son, the Rev. Luther 
H. Sheldon. 

The two parties in the parish ardently espoused their own 
particular views, and were gradually developing into decided dis- 
agreement. But it deserves especial notice that Mr. Sheldon 
had ministered to the parish for the long term of twenty years 
before there was any open contest. June 8, 1830, the first action 
was taken, according to the parish records, which recognized the 
existence of any trouble. It was then "voted that it is the wish 
of the Parish that neighboring Congregational ministers in regu- 
lar standing should minister with this society as was formerly' 
the practice." This vote needs explanation. When the division' 
of the Congregational churches into Orthodox and Unitarian 
took place, a considerable number of the neighboring churches 
took the Unitarian position. Taunton, Norton, and the Bridge- 
waters were examples. It was natural that Mr. Sheldon, regard- 
ing the views of the ministers of these churches as heretical and 
dangerous, should not wish to have these views presented in his 
pulpit, and hence that he should drop these preachers from his 
list of exchanges. It was equally natural that the majority of 
the parish who favored these views, or who at least desired that 
the old friendly relations between these parishes should be con- 
tinued, should be aggrieved by the position of Mr. Sheldon, 
The vote just noted had no effect. 

The parish waited for a year Snd a half, and then in Novem- 
ber, 1 83 1, voted "to request the Rev. Luther Sheldon to ex- 
change pulpit services with the neighboring Congregational 
ministers indiscriminately, agreeable to the practice that pre- 
vailed at the time of his settlement." Elijah Howard, Daniel 
Wheaton, and John Pool were appointed a committee to inform 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



341 



Mr. Sheldon of this vote, and to request an answer of him in 
writing. In a parish meeting held April 16, 1832, this com- 
mittee reported that they had served him with a copy of the 
vote alluded to, and "that he has not seen fit either to make the 
reply or the exchanges, agreeable to the vote of the parish." In 
their report they complain that by the course he has adopted, 
the society is "entirely cut off from all intercourse with a large 
majority of the societies with whom we have had connection." 
They complain that all communications with Mr. Sheldon on 
this subject " have been met only by studied neglect or taunting 
rebuke," and they thus continue : — 

" Upon a view of his whole conduct in relation to this subject, the 
Committee are fully convinced that it is his intention not to comply 
with the vote of the Parish. Under these circumstances, it becomes 
a question of importance what measures it is advisable for the Parish 
to adopt. That a refusal of Mr. Sheldon to conform to the known 
and long established customs and usages of all former ministers of 
this Parish is such a breach of his duties as will exonerate the Parish 
from the obligations on their part, there can be no doubt." 

This brings us to the gist of the whole controversy. The 
main point at issue was this : Did the refusal of a Congrega- 
tional minister to exchange with neighboring ministers at the 
request of his parish constitute a breach of his covenant, ex- 
onerate the parish from the payment of his salary, or form a 
sufificient ground for his dismissal ? The committee of the 
society answered this question in the affirmative. The Court, 
as we shall see, ultimately decided it in the negative. 

In regard to his complying with the request of the parish, it 
should be noted that a large minority of the parish and a de- 
cided majority of the regular church-goers joined with him in op- 
posing such exchanges. The contest waxed warmer. May 12, 
1832, a committee of twenty persons, representing both parties, 
were appointed to consider and report upon the situation ; but 
they could come to no agreement and made no report. June 4 
the parish instructed the trustees to propose to Mr. Sheldon 
that he continue to officiate as pastor, provided he would ex- 
change with Congregational ministers in the vicinity according 
to custom ; and in case he would not do this, to ask him to join 



342 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



in calling a mutual council to dissolve the connection between 
him and the parish ; and if he refused to join in calling a mutual 
council, the trustees were instructed to call an ex-parte council 
for that purpose. They were also authorized to supply the 
pulpit until further notice. 

June II the trustees informed Mr. Sheldon of the action of 
the parish ; he took no notice of their communication. July 
24 they requested him to join with them in calling a mutual 
council ; he paid no attention to their request. This persist- 
ent silence was, of course, exasperating; the trustees and their 
adherents interpreted it as an intentional slight. His silence 
was, however, maintained by legal advice ; but some notice 
might, it would seem, have been taken of such official commu- 
nications without compromising him in a legal point of view. 
This question also arises : Knowing that at least half the voting 
parish, among whom were many leading men, were decidedly 
opposed to him, why did not Mr. Sheldon consent to call a 
mutual council and dissolve the connection .-' This would have 
stilled the strife, and his friends might then have rallied about 
him and formed a new church. Several considerations help us 
to answer this question. Foremost of all, no doubt, was that of 
the parish fund. The adherents of Mr. Sheldon were members 
of the parish, and therefore had a claim upon this fund. If they 
withdrew from the parish to form another society they would 
lose this claim, and the fund would fall wholly under the control 
of their opponents. 

Mr. Sheldon's friends had, in fact, proposed a peaceable settle- 
ment in the May preceding. They proposed that the meeting- 
house and all the parish property should be sold, and the proceeds 
divided among the members of the parish corporation in propor- 
tion to the amount of taxes they severally paid. They suggested, 
if this plan failed, two other propositions: (i) That the income 
of the parish property should be annually divided among all the 
religious societies that were or should be organized in Easton 
and which should be provided with a place of worship ; {2) That 
the parish property should be sold and be divided among such 
societies. But these propositions were all voted down in parish 
meeting. This will answer the question, Why was not Mr. 
Sheldon willing to call a mutual council and accept a dismissal .-* 



1 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 343 

To do this, and form a new society of his adherents, would 
forfeit their claim to any share in the parish funds. The two 
parties were so nearly equal in numbers that Mr. Sheldon's 
friends might hope by holding on to gain a voting majority, 
when they would be able to control the parish organization 
and manage the fund. 

Another reason for this refusal was that the Orthodox Asso- 
ciation to which Mr. Sheldon belonged desired him to test, and 
thereby to settle, the question whether or not the refusal of a Con- 
gregational minister to exchange with certain other ministers 
at the request of his parish, formed a valid legal reason for his 
dismissal. The question of the non-payment of Mr. Sheldon's 
salary had not yet arisen, for this was in July, 1832, and June 4 
the parish had voted to pay him his salary to October 24. 

In August the trustees of the parish issued letters-missive, 
calling for an ex-parte council. Then Mr. Sheldon first broke 
the silence, sending a letter in which he declined to assist in 
calling a mutual council, and declaring that the trustees had no 
authority in the matter. 

September 6, 1832, the ex-parte council assembled. The 
specifications against Mr. Sheldon were read. They were, first, 
his refusal to comply with the request of the parish to exchange 
with neighboring ministers, by which "clergymen of the liberal 
denomination " were excluded from the pulpit ; second, that he 
had never deigned to answer any of the communications ad- 
dressed to him by the parish ; third, that he had endeavored to 
drive from the parish individuals opposed to him ; fourth, that 
he had neglected the duty of making pastoral visits ; fifth, that 
owing to want of confidence in him his usefulness as a pastor 
was impaired ; sixth, a want of confidence in his moral honesty 
and integrity by many in the parish. 

At this conference the Rev. Pitt Clarke, of Norton, was mod- 
erator, and the Rev. Mr. Farley, of Providence, Scribe. Mr. 
Sheldon was invited to appear, and he came and presented a 
paper objecting to the jurisdiction of the Council. This Council 
adopted a resolution to the effect that his refusal to exchange with 
neighboring ministers, his neglect to reply to the communications 
officially made to him by the parish, " and his loss of the confi- 
dence of a large portion of his parishioners in his moral honesty 



344 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

and integrity, having been substantiated by the evidence offered 
by the committee on the part of the parish, require a dissolu- 
tion of the ministerial connection now subsisting between him 
and the parish, there appearing to be no ground for a belief that 
peace and harmony can otherwise be restored to said parish." 

As justice is the highest of all considerations, it should not be 
forgotten that this was an ex-parte council, where evidence upon 
only one side was given. No proof of a " want of honesty and 
integrity " in Mr. Sheldon was declared to exist, but only of a 
"loss of confidence" by a part of the parish in his possession 
of those qualities. The Council resolved that the situation was 
such as to " require the dissolution ; " but they did not venture 
to pronounce the pastoral relation dissolved. Their word was 
advisory rather than decisive. 

The Council was held on the 6th of September, 1832. On 
the 8th the trustees reported the result to Mr. Sheldon, and no- 
tified him that after the following Sunday his services would be 
dispensed with. It is dif^cult to understand why the trustees 
committed so obvious an error as this. It would seem that 
they must either have misunderstood the action of the Council, 
which, while it resolved that the circumstances of the case " re- 
quired " a dissolution, did not venture to pronounce the pastoral 
relation dissolved, or they supposed the Courts would, if appealed 
to, confirm their action. Mr. Sheldon was neither ecclesiastically 
nor legally dismissed, and the action of the trustees therefore in 
dispensing with his services had no validity whatever, as they had 
no authority to dismiss him. He was still the minister, was en- 
titled to preach, to draw his salary, and to perform all the duties 
and claim all the rights and privileges of his position as minister. 

Sunday, September 16, 1832, the circumstances occurred 
which led to the open and final breach between the friends and 
the opposers of Mr. Sheldon. It was the second Sunday after 
the session of the ex-parte council. The trustees having noti- 
fied him that his services would be dispensed with, engaged 
another minister to preach. Perfectly confident of the validity 
of his position, Mr. Sheldon, with characteristic determination, 
prepared to maintain it. Accordingly, on the Sunday morning 
in question he entered the church fifteen minutes earlier than 
had been his custom, and took possession of the pulpit. He 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



345 



began the services early and conducted them to the end without 
interruption. But his opponents determined that he should not 
preach in the afternoon. They took care that the clergyman 
whom the trustees had hired was in the pulpit before the time 
of beginning service, and they prepared to- prevent, forcibly if 
necessary, its occupancy by Mr. Sheldon. It was understood 
that some one should guard the head of each aisle. When 
Mr. Sheldon appeared, Daniel Wheaton rose and told him that 
the pulpit was occupied. Paying no heed to this, he passed 
up the aisle ; whereupon Elijah Howard stepped in front of 
him and informed him that there was already a minister in 
the pulpit. The pulpit being so high as to conceal the occu- 
pant, Mr. Sheldon said, " I see no one there," and endeavored to 
force his way past. "The pulpit is occupied," rejoined Mr, 
Howard, and pushed him back. Another effort to pass v/as 
equally unsuccessful. Meantime great excitement prevailed. 
Loud murmurs were heard, and not a few women sobbed aloud. 
** Don't let them hurt my minister ! " one of them cried out. 
William Rotch, much excited, started up as if to take some part 
in the affair, but the towering form of Horatio Ames confront- 
ing him, made him feel that discretion was the better part of 
valor. From the singers' seats in the gallery rose the gigantic 
Solomon Leach, six feet, six inches in height. Looking down 
into the body of the church he shouted, " Look out what you 
do down there, or I '11 be amongst you." 

Finding that he could not gain his pulpit without violence, 
and that the excitement was increasing, Mr. Sheldon stepped 
back into his own pew and said, " If those who wish to hear me 
preach will retire to my grove, I will speak there." Immedi- 
ately a large majority of the church-members and of the audi- 
ence followed Mr. Sheldon out of the meeting-house and into 
his grove, one woman taking her pew cushion with her. 

After this he conducted services in the chapel until the new 
meeting-house, already begun, was completed, which was in June 
of the next year. This chapel was a small two-story building, 
standing near the meeting-house. Neither the upper nor the 
lower room was, however, large enough for the audience that 
gathered to hear Mr. Sheldon. To remedy this defect a novel 
expedient was adopted. About eight feet in front of the desk 



346 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

where he preached upstairs, a hole about six feet in diameter 
was cut through the floor ; this was surrounded by a Httle rail- 
ing. The male portion of his audience convened in the lower 
room, and the female, with the choir, in the upper. " Faith 
comes by hearing," not by seeing ; and the ground-floor audience 
might therefore hope for spiritual advantage, though they were 
deprived of the sight of their pastor's face. This building is 
now occupied as a shoe-factory by Lackey & Davie, but was 
for many years a barn and work-shop of the late Daniel Reed, 
behind whose house it now stands. 

After Mr. Sheldon and his friends had left the church, as be- 
fore narrated, a slim audience was left; but the services then 
proceeded. It is not, however, to be supposed that these ser- 
vices were very edifying, considering the excitement that pre- 
vailed. Henceforth the trustees supplied the pulpit by transient 
preachers, though a Mr. Damon served some time, and was 
much liked. Meantime through the week the sound of axe, 
hammer, and saw was heard, and a new church was steadily 
rising but a stone's throw to the east. Mr. Sheldon was not 
allowed to preach in the old church, though he was satisfied that 
he was illegally excluded from its pulpit. Party feeling ran high, 
and unpleasant things were said on both sides. 

Though the parish held out against Mr. Sheldon, it will be 
remembered that the church — that is, the organization of the 
church-members — adhered to him. It was therefore proper that 
he should retain the church (not the parish) records, and transmit 
them to his successors. But the church was not a business 
organization ; and as Mr. Sheldon's friends began, even before 
this rupture, to build a meeting-house, it was necessary for them 
to have some kind of business organization. They accordingly 
organized as early as May 7, 1832, choosing Lincoln Drake for 
secretary, — a position he held for many years. They called them- 
selves " Proprietors of the Easton new Meeting-house," and they 
began at once to make arrangements for building such a house. 
The land was purchased in the summer of 1832, subscriptions 
were received, shares taken, and the work proceeded with vigor. 
In about a year from its first inception, — that is, June 20, 
1833, — the new church was dedicated. This association of 
" Proprietors " continued its existence, holding and managing 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 347 

the church property. Prior to the organization of the " Evan- 
gelical Congregational Society of Easton," in January, 1839, the 
association did business like any other religious society. It 
voted concerning Mr. Sheldon's salary, negotiated as another 
organization with the old parish, and acted for the material and 
other interests of the new society, of which it was to all intents 
and purposes the business organization. Its existence continued 
down to 1882, when it transferred to the Evangelical Society 
its ownership and right to such property as was left after the 
burning of the church, its members being members of that 
society, and then dissolved. It was quite an anomaly in eccle- 
siastical arrangements, and arose out of the complications of 
the contention we are considering. 

Early in the controversy Shepard Leach, after consultation 
with Mr. Sheldon's friends, made this proposition to the other 
party, — to buy all the property of the latter in the church, 
pews, sheds, etc., and pay one hundred per cent on its value, or 
to sell out all the interest Mr. Sheldon's friends held in the same 
property for fifty cents on the dollar. But the parish who were 
opposed to the minister did not care, by thus selling, to turn 
themselves out of doors ; and it was no object to them to buy at 
any price, as they already had more room than they needed, if 
they were left to themselves. 

We come now to an exciting stage of the contest, and one 
that has been generally misunderstood. September 2, 1833, ^ 
parish meeting was held, and when the vote for moderator was 
taken, Elijah Howard, the clerk of the parish, refused to receive 
the votes of Lemuel Keith and others who were active in sup- 
port of Mr. Sheldon. This unexpected action caused intense 
excitement. These men had previously always voted, but now 
they were persistently refused the right. To their demands Mr. 
Howard said, " If you think I am wrong, you have your rem- 
edy at the law. You can sue me and obtain your rights." It 
has been represented that Mr. Howard saw that the majority 
of those present were Mr. Sheldon's friends, and that he arbi- 
trarily excluded enough of them from voting, to give the ma- 
jority to the opposing party. In the suit which Lemuel Keith 
entered against Mr. Howard, he charged him with " maliciously, 
fraudulently, and injuriously" intending to deprive the plaintiff 



348 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



"of his privilege of voting for the moderator of said meeting, 
and him to disfranchise," etc. But the facts show that Mr. 
Howard acted according to the instructions of the parish, and 
not on his own personal authority. The position taken by the 
parish proved to be illegal, but until so proved, he as clerk felt 
bound to maintain it. In the parish meeting of April i, 1833, 
the trustees were instructed "to revise and correct the list of par- 
ishioners ; " and before the meeting of September 2 they had at- 
tended to the work. From the old list were dropped the names 
of Lemuel Keith and others, active friends of Mr. Sheldon. Why 
was this done ? At first sight it appears to have been an arbi- 
trary and unjust proceeding, and has always been so regarded by 
Mr. Sheldon's friends. But the leading men in the parish had 
too much character to commit an act of obvious injustice, an act 
for which they did not suppose they had sufficient justification. 
The reader may judge for himself concerning the soundness of 
their position, but if he carefully attends to the explanation of 
their action in the following paragraph, he cannot help allowing 
that it must have seemed sound and honorable to them. 

In the Act of Incorporation of the parish it was provided that 
" all the inhabitants of the town of Easton, who now usually 
attend public worship with the Congregational Society of which 
the Rev. William Reed is the present minister," shall be made a 
corporation, etc. Now, however justified the adherents of Mr. 
Sheldon were in the course they were pursuing, it is evident that 
they did not at this time, 1833, "usually attend worship with the 
Congregational Society," that is, the First Parish ; they did not 
attend there at all. It was therefore natural that those who did 
thus attend should think that these non-attendants had forfeited 
their rights as parishioners according to the terms of the Act 
of Incorporation. Moreover, these non-attendants had actually 
formed another organization, which was substantially another 
religious society, or parish, though they carefully avoided calling 
it such. As before stated, they assumed for their organization 
the title of " Proprietors of the Easton new Meeting-house ; " but 
their opponents regarded this as a mere evasion, for they were 
doing business as a regular religious society, were building and 
furnishing a meeting-house, were raising money to support a 
minister, and were transacting all other business necessary to the 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



349 



maintenance of a religious society. Now, as the Act of Incor- 
poration did not allow any persons to belong to two religious 
societies at the same time, and as Mr. Sheldon's friends had not 
only absented themselves from the parish church, but had in 
fact, if not in form, organized a new society, it was natural 
that the majority should regard them as having forfeited the 
rights of members, or parishioners, of the old parish. It was for 
this reason that their names were dropped from the parish roll. 

That this is the true explanation of this transaction is proved 
beyond question by the fact that the revision of the list of 
parishioners adopted in September, 1833, consisted simply in 
erasing from the old list the names of the " Proprietors of the 
Easton new Meeting-house." They had all been omitted from 
the new list because they were members of the new corporation, 
which the parish committee naturally looked upon as a new so- 
ciety. What seemed to the committee to be a sufficient reason for 
dropping these names did not prove to be sufficient in law ; but 
the unbiassed reader will concede that Mr. Sheldon's opponents 
believed that their action was justified by the circumstances. It 
is at least perfectly evident that Mr. Howard's refusal to take 
the vote of Mr. Keith, and of others whose names had been 
dropped by order of the parish committee who had been author- 
ized to revise the list, was not, as has been alleged, the prompt- 
ing of the moment to secure a majority for his party, but was 
merely the enforcing of the decision made by the majority vote 
of the parish taken six months before. He simply did his 
duty as the parish clerk. 

By a lawsuit Mr. Keith established his legal right, and there- 
by that of the others whose names had been dropped, to vote in 
parish meetings. But the Court's opinion of the essential justice 
of his case may be inferred from the fact that while Mr. Keith 
sued for one thousand dollars damages, the verdict allowed him 
one dollar and costs.^ 

It is worth telling here that when the right to vote had been 
conceded to the excluded members, Joseph Hayward, familiarly 
known as " Deacon Joe," came forward holding up his vote to 
Mr. Howard, and in his piping voice, tremulous with triumph, 
said, "I guess you'll have to take my vote this time;" and the 

1 Superior Judicial Court Records, vol. v. p. 215, at the Court House in Taunton, 
Massachusetts. 



350 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



quick-witted clerk responded : "Yes, we've got short of deacon- 
timber, and thought we would let you in." 

An unprejudiced judgment will probably concede that both 
parties believed that their respective courses of action were 
justified by the situation, and will allow that in this, as in most 
similar cases, there is something to be said upon both sides. 
The men arrayed thus earnestly against one another were most 
of them men of too much character consciously or deliberately 
to do an act of injustice or unfairness. 

The excitement was now at a high pitch, and an incident 
soon occurred which did not tend to allay it. A short time after 
the parish meeting of September 2, 1833, the worshippers of the 
old society were amazed, on entering the meeting-house, to find 
that some of the pews belonging to Mr. Sheldon's friends had 
been securely fastened with padlocks. One afternoon of the 
previous week a blacksmith had come from the Furnace Village 
with an assistant, and called at Mr. Sheldon's house. He read 
a list of names of persons who desired to have their pews fast- 
ened up, and asked Mr. Sheldon to go to the church with him and 
point out their pews, which he did. It was easy, of course, for 
the men attending church the next Sunday to step over into the 
pews. It was also easy to unlock and remove the padlocks ; 
and this was done. 

But this was not the end of it ; for not long afterward a lad 
was driving his cows to pasture in the morning, and on return- 
ing, as he neared the meeting-house, he heard the clinking of 
tools within. Looking inside he saw two men at work appar- 
ently under the direction of Mr. Sheldon, this time fastening 
up the pews with iron straps, which were securely riveted.i 
Only a few pews had been fastened up in the first instance, but] 
now a large number, probably nearly all those belonging to thej 
friends of the minister, were thus secured. Though there is no 
evidence that Mr. Sheldon instigated this proceeding, his pres- 
ence at the church makes it certain that he sympathized with 
it. It was alleged as a reason for this transaction that one or 
two of the pews had been shamefully used ; but if so, it was by 
some rascal whose conduct was sure to meet the disapproval of 
all respectable persons. This second fastening was done very 
early in the day, for it was just at sunrise when the lad referred to, 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



351 



who is now living and whose memory is perfectly clear about 
this circumstance, stood and looked in at the door.^ Mr. Shel- 
don waved him away, and fastened the door behind him. This 
second pew-fastening greatly increased the excitement. It was 
not long, however, before the Furnace Village iron straps were 
cut away by North Easton cold-chisels, the head of the hammer 
used being covered with leather to prevent making any noise. 

January 13, 1834, the parish party appointed a committee 
consisting of Howard Lothrop, Daniel Wheaton, and Roland 
Howard, with whom any one might confer in the endeavor to 
bring about a just and equitable settlement of affairs. Howard 
Lothrop had contended from the first that in law Mr. Sheldon 
was entitled to his salary, and he desired that some accommoda- 
tion of differences might now be made. But Mr. Sheldon's 
friends at this juncture were in no mood to accept an overture 
of this kind. In April this committee "to receive propositions 
from the friends of Luther Sheldon for a settlement of all diffi- 
culties existing between him and said parish," reported that no 
propositions, either verbally or in writing, had ever been made by 
Mr. Sheldon or his friends. It was then voted that the trustees 
should be associated with this committee for the purpose already 
specified. Evidently, the parish felt that its position was legally 
weak, and hoped for some proposition for settlement. The other 
party knew that its position was legally strong, and were already 
taking steps to punish the parish for its blunder of September, 
1832. 

In the March term of 1834 Mr. Sheldon sued the parish for a 
year's unpaid salary, due October 24, 1833, including the twelve 

1 The impression has gained ground that this work was done by candlelight, 
before daybreak. But there is no good reason to doubt that it was done during the 
early morning by the two blacksmiths before mentioned, who finished it soon after 
sunrise. The impression referred to has been strengthened by a statement in a 
stanza of a satirical poem written during this controversy by the eccentric James 
Adams, — a poem which purports to be a " New Year's Address " of Mr. Sheldon 
to his parishioners. The statement that access was gained by the window is untrue, 
and the holding of the light may be regarded as a poetic license. The stanza alluded 
to is as follows : — 

" With iron plates some two, three score. 
With iron bolts as many more, 
We from the window gain'd the floor 

At dead of night ; 
Then firmly fasten'd each pew door : 
I held the light." 



352 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

cords of wood promised annually. The salary was $450, and the 
wood was rated at $36. The interest was carefully computed, and 
the claim for salary was $500.03. There was an additional claim 
for ;^500, the suit being for $1000. In the Court of Common 
Pleas Mr. Sheldon's plea was pronounced " bad and insufficient 
in law," and the Court awarded the parish the cost of the suit.^ 
Mr. Sheldon appealed, and the case was finally settled in the 
Superior Court of April, 1836. He sued for ;^ 1,000, but the 
Court awarded him $563.65 and the costs at $141.44.^ He in- 
stituted another suit in September, 1835, for his salary for 1834, 
including the twelve cords of wood and interest due, — the whole 
amounting to $500.59. This suit, like the first one, went against 
him in the Court of Common Pleas,^ but in the Superior Court 
in April, 1836, he recovered $546.27 and costs of suit at $46.95.^ 
These appear to be the only suits recorded in the Bristol County 
courts. The two suits for unpaid salary resulted in his favor ; 
the additional claim of $500 made in the first suit was not allowed 
him, the Court merely deciding that the parish was still bound to 
pay his salary. Incidentally, of course, it was decided that the 
refusal of a minister, for conscientious reasons, to exchange with 
neighboring ministers at the request of his parish was not a suffi- 
cient ground for his dismissal, and hence that Mr. Sheldon was 
neither ecclesiastically nor legally dismissed. 

The suits having been decided against the parish, Mr. Sheldon 
claimed the salary allowed by the Court. The parish declined 
to pay it, notwithstanding the Court's decision ; and here a sin- 
gular complication arose. It was obvious that if his salary were 
to be paid by a general parish tax, it would fall proportionally 
upon his friends who had already supported him during the time 
for which he sued. But the original contract provided that when 
the parish fund had an income equal to his salary, which was 
now $450, that income should be used for its payment. The 
income had once exceeded this amount, and Mr. Sheldon be- 
lieved that it did so at this time, especially as a large amount of 
wood had recently been sold from the parish land. If the parish 
could be forced to pay his salary from this income, then the 

1 Court of Common Pleas (Bristol County), vol. .xxxi. March term. 

2 Superior Judicial Court, vol. v. p. 214. 

3 Court of Common Pleas, September, 1S35. 
* Superior Judicial Court, vol. v. p. 220. 



DIVISIOxN OP^ THE PARISH. 



)53 



members of his society, already paying large sums for church 
expenses without a fund to assist them, would not have to share 
this additional burden. He therefore appealed to the Supreme 
Judicial Court, asking that the trustees of the parish be sum- 
moned to disclose the facts relative to the amount of annual 
income from this fund, and of the disposition made of the same. 
The appeal was allowed, and the disclosure ordered. But it was 
found that the annual income for the years in question was less 
than the amount of the minister's salary ; and this being the case, 
the salary was, according to the original contract, to be paid by a 
tax upon the parish. This the parish were in no mood to allow ; 
besides, it would have been burdensome to Mr. Sheldon's friends, 
who had already, as has just been stated, borne a heavy expense. 

What was to be done now .-' How could the Courts decision 
be enforced .-' Mr. Sheldon was obliged to avail himself of the 
law which made individual corporators liable for the debts that 
their corporation failed to pay. The individual selected to be 
levied upon in this case was Howard Lothrop. In theology 
Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Lothrop were in agreement. Moreover, 
Mr. Lothrop had assured the parish from the start that they 
would have this salary to pay ; he thought, however, that Mr. 
Sheldon did wrong to stay and divide the parish, and averred 
that he had heard Mr. Sheldon say that he would never be 
the means of dividing it. But the latter doubtless considered 
that circumstances alter cases ; that the divergence between 
the two parties was deeper than any personal question ; and 
that the changed condition of things justified a change in his 
decision. However this may be, Mr. Lothrop's property was 
sold under the sheriff's hammer in order to pay Mr. Sheldon's 
claim. Mr. Lothrop then, in order to recover what had thus 
been wrung from him, attached the property of two other mem- 
bers of the parish, Lemuel Keith and Bernard Alger, friends of 
Mr. Sheldon. Mr. Keith had instituted two lawsuits to prove 
that he was still a legal member of the parish ; and now Mr. 
Lothrop, in his practical way, reminds him of one of the re- 
sponsibilities of the situation. This unexpected counter-move 
by Mr. Lothrop created consternation ; it seemed to open an end- 
less vista of legal contentions. In fact the ball was kept roll- 
ing ; Mr. Lothrop having recovered of Bernard Alger, Mr. Alger 



354 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



instituted a suit against Alson Gilmore ; and if the difficulty had 
not been settled, Mr. Gilmore would have retaliated upon some 
one else, — he had, in fact, selected the next victim. If Mr. 
Sheldon's friends remained in the parish, therefore, they were 
liable to be taxed to defray the costs of defending lawsuits, even 
though these should be decided in favor of their party. The 
situation was very peculiar. There seemed to be no way out of 
the difficulty, no thoroughfare for either side. 

Here were two meeting-houses, side by side. Here were 
practically two societies. One of them wanted the minister, and 
the other did not. The courts had decided that under the pres- 
ent arrangement the society that did not want him must pay his 
salary. The question naturally arises here, Why did not Mr. 
Sheldon at this time make some proposition for settlement.^ 
The legal question, for the decision of which the Orthodox As- 
sociation had urged him to make a stand, had been settled, and 
settled in his favor. The courts had decided that he was entitled 
to his salary. He could no longer hope that his friends would 
get the control of the parish. What could be gained by delay .■* 
Perhaps he thought the parish were in no mood for propositions 
of settlement. Besides, he could afford to wait ; he was in a 
situation now to dictate terms. He might argue that it was as 
much their duty as his to make the first advance. Above all, 
they had persisted in refusing to pay his salary though the 
courts awarded it to him. Instead of any attempt at pacifica- 
tion being made at this juncture, the parish, April 21, 1837, in- 
structed its committee "to direct Luther Sheldon to supply the 
pulpit of the parish." 

This was an extraordinary measure. It was just four and a 
half years since the trustees had excluded him from the pulpit. 
It had now been decided by law that the exclusion was legally 
unsound, and that he was yet minister of the parish. But those 
who still worshipped in the old church did not wish to hear him 
preach ; they regarded his connection with them as a vexatious 
misfortune. Nevertheless, they directed him to come and preach 
to them. What could have been their reason ? Did they hope 
to break up the new society by taking its minister away .'' Did 
they expect the new society would follow him back to the old 
church .'' Or did they hope to weary Mr. Sheldon and his friends 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



355 



by this arrangement, so as to obtain more favorable terms of 
settlement ? If the latter, they underrated the staying and en- 
during power of the minister, and failed to see that if it were a 
question of wearying, he would under the new arrangement have 
the advantage, and would be sure to get the best of it in the 
end. Therefore their summons did not in the least intimidate 
Mr. Sheldon. One is filled with amazement, not unmingled with 
admiration, at the nerve and resolution which enabled him to 
face this unfriendly audience, knowing that they entertained to- 
wards him feelings of dislike and hostility, — and to do this, not 
merely on some one decisive occasion that might be met and 
soon passed, but week after week, for more than a year. How he 
could conduct religious services, preach and pray, in the presence 
of an unsympathizing congregation, is a problem difficult to solve. 
Not more than one minister in a thousand could have done it ; 
but the parish had yet to learn that in this regard Mr. Sheldon 
was this one in a thousand. It was, indeed, a critical and mo- 
mentous occasion when for the first time, after four and a half 
years, he stood up again in his pulpit in the old church to con- 
duct religious services. His sermon is foreshadowed by his text, 
which was from Acts x. 29 : " Therefore came I unto you with- 
out gainsaying as soon as I was sent for : I ask therefore for 
what intent ye have sent for me .-' " 

This new arrangement did not prevent Mr. Sheldon from con- 
tinuing to minister to his own flock, nor did any of his people 
follow him back to the old church. For a time he conducted 
services in both houses, — four services a day, besides evening 
meeting. In order to do this he shortened the services in the 
parish church. This provoked his unfriendly hearers, not be- 
cause they desired his long services, but because they did not 
wish the other society to profit even by what they might other- 
wise esteem an advantage to themselves. They therefore in- 
sisted that if they must pay his salary they were entitled to his 
full services, long sermons and all. They soon had cause to 
regret this demand. They were handling a two-edged sword, 
and were dealing with a man who could give as well as take. 
Mr. Sheldon's sermons thenceforth gave no cause of complaint 
because of brevity ; and his opponents soon found that they 
could not annoy him without equally annoying themselves. To 



356 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



accomplish their purpose, however, they were willing to submit 
to considerable discomfort. Daniel Wheaton, Sr., a tall man and 
not very well, used occasionally to stand during the latter part 
of a long sermon, not to show disrespect, but to rest his long 
legs, which were cramped by sitting through lengthy discourses. 
Some of the more impatient ones would take out their news- 
papers and letters and read them. Bernard Alger on the turn- 
pike, and Daniel Wheaton at the south end of the Bay road 
were postmasters, and they or their neighbors used to bring 
mail matter to church on Sunday mornings to distribute, — which 
explains the presence of papers and letters at church. 

Mr. Sheldon soon employed a licentiate from Andover Theo- 
logical Seminary to act as his colleague, who preached half a 
day in each church. The parish complained of this arrange- 
ment ; they renewed their demands for exchanges with neigh- 
boring Congregational ministers ; they also charged Mr. Sheldon 
with restricting his parish visiting to the members of the other 
society. He however insisted on his right to provide this sub- 
stitute for half the time; the matter of exchanges had already 
been disposed of ; and as for visiting them in their homes, he 
might urge that this could be pleasant and profitable neither to 
them nor to himself. But the parish even went so far as to vote 
to hire a man to come and do the parish work which they al- 
leged Mr. Sheldon neglected. Doubtless some of them found 
new cause for vexation in the fact that Mr. Sheldon under the 
new arrangement was actually having an easier time of it than 
before, in regard to the preparation for the pulpit at least ; for, 
preaching but half the day in each meeting-house, he had now 
but one sermon a week to write, instead of two as formerly. 
The weapon his opponents had used proved to be to them a 
boomerang. 

This state of things could not continue indefinitely. A meet- 
ing of the parish was called for April 7, 1838. It was known 
that important action relative to existing difficulties might be 
taken, and there was a full meeting. There were one hundred 
and ninety-six votes cast for moderator, of which Oakes Ames 
had one hundred and thirty-two. This was after the once ex- 
cluded members were again allowed to vote. It was proposed 
and voted that the parish were willing to leave the whole case 



^DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 357 

out to the arbitration of three disinterested persons, to be agreed 
upon by the two parties, whose award should be final. Five 
days after this the " Proprietors," acting as a society, at a meet- 
ing held in the chapel, appointed a committee "to carry the Rev. 
Luther Sheldon's communication to the parish trustees."^ The 
same Proprietors, May 7, proposed, if pending negotiations failed, 
that " we will all attend at the old house, and fill the house up 
and stick to them." This proposition was not adopted. They 
then proposed that " every person withdraw his name from the 
parish list, and Mr. Sheldon to leave the old house and preach in 
the new house, and in case the parish bring a suit against Mr. 
Sheldon for damages, we will defend the suit and leave him 
harmless." This proposition was " accepted by a small majority, 
but finally not put in practice until further consideration." A 
committee, consisting of Capt. Lewis Williams, Dr. Caleb Swan, 
Capt. Isaac Lothrop, Capt. Tisdale Harlow, Bernard Alger, Esq., 
Martin Wild, Joel Drake, and Lincoln Drake, was chosen to 
meet the trustees and make propositions for settlement. They 
proposed to be satisfied if the parish would pay Mr. Sheldon 
what was due on his salary. May 21 they voted "that in case 
the trustees will not accept of the proposition that is presented 
by the Committee by the last day of May, that we will attend 
meeting at the old house." 

The negotiations between the rival societies made very slow 
progress, and June 25 the Proprietors "voted to go back to the 
old meeting-house one week from next Sabbath." It seems that 
pending these negotiations Mr. Sheldon had not been required 
to preach there, for the Proprietors vote also to inform Mr. Shel- 
don " that negotiations are closed, and request him to notify the 
parish clerk that he shall resume preaching in the old house." 
The day proposed for going back to the old house was July 8. 
For some reason this intention was not carried out. On Mon- 
day the Proprietors held a meeting, at which "various subjects 
were discussed and much said about returning to the old house." 
Capt. Lewis Williams and Joel Drake were appointed a com- 
mittee to call on Daniel Wheaton and Oliver Ames, Esq., and 

1 This quotation and those that follow are taken from the Proprietors' records, 
now in the possession of L. S. Drake, by whose courtesy the writer was permitted to 
examine them. 



358 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



see if there was not some misunderstanding relative to the pro- 
position for settlement. The Proprietors met again the next 
day, and their committee reported " that the other committee 
would give three thousand dollars and no more." The Proprie- 
tors asked that in addition to this they should pay the "cost that 
has been made on account of Mr. Sheldon's claim." The parish 
would not agree to this. Subsequently Mr. Sheldon agreed to 
relinquish all claims of whatever kind upon the parish if the 
parish would pay to him the sum of three thousand dollars. 
November 19, 1838, Mr. Sheldon and Lemuel Keith signed an 
agreement releasing the Congregational parish from all charges, 
liabilities, contracts, etc., ** from the beginning of the world to 
this day." 

Neither in this settlement nor in the negotiations preceding 
it is anything said about any division of the parish fund. A 
large part of the three thousand dollars paid to Mr. Sheldon 
seems to have been due on his salary. It was almost six years 
since the parish had voted him any salary, and there is no record 
of his receiving any from the parish during that time. The 
parish, therefore, in this settlement did little if anything more 
than pay the salary due to Mr. Sheldon. The parish fund, 
moreover, was not divided ; the debt for salary was largely paid 
by sales of the parish land. The contest had cost both parties 
heavily. The parish, in addition to lawyers' fees, had the court 
costs to pay, which in the two suits of Mr. Sheldon amounted 
to 1^188.39. They had also paid for the supply of the parish pul- 
pit while Mr. Sheldon was preaching in the new meeting-house. 
But of course the pecuniary expense was far more burdensome 
to Mr. Sheldon's friends than to the parish, because the latter 
could pay charges with the parish fund, while the former must 
pay from their own pockets. Their willingness, however, to 
bear so heavy a burden is sufficient indication of their earnest- 
ness and devotion to their position. It was one of great 
sacrifice, involving not only the payment of the legal charges 
referred to, but also the erection of a new meeting-house at a 
cost of about six thousand dollars. As the new society had 
since October, 1832, been paying Mr. Sheldon a salary, they 
had a just claim to the three thousand dollars paid him by 
the old society. 



DIVISION OF THE PARISH. 



359 



And thus ended the memorable controversy. It dates from a 
vote passed by the parish June 8, 1830, and continued over eight 
years. It awakened a strong party spirit, caused hard feeUng, 
separated friends, and divided families. Its unhappy effects were 
felt for many years. Outsiders and thoughtful young persons 
were heard to say, "If this is what churches come to, we will 
get along without them." There can be little doubt that the 
cause of true religion would have been the gainer if either party 
had yielded enough at the beginning to prevent this unfriendly 
strife. 

In the account of this controversy the writer has done his best 
to place the exact facts before his readers, only indulging in such 
comments as seemed necessary to the elucidation of the facts. 
His statements are based mainly upon the parish and court 
records, the records of the " Proprietors of the Easton new Meet- 
ing-house," and upon such personal testimony as appeared, after 
careful sifting and comparison with other sources of informa- 
tion, to be entirely trustworthy. Nearly fifty years have elapsed 
since the settlement of the contest. Most of the contestants 
have passed away, and those who remain can talk calmly together 
about those exciting events of long ago. Before his death, 
Dr. Sheldon was a welcome guest and friend in the families of 
those who once were arrayed against him. Many unfounded or 
distorted traditions have grown up regarding the controversy 
in question, which do injustice to both parties. It is hoped that 
this account may do something to silence such traditions, to pro- 
mote a better understanding, and thus to serve the interests of 
justice and charity. 



360 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XXL 

EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. — SPIRITUALISM. 

The First Congregational Parish after the Division: Successive 
Pastors, — William H. Taylor, Paul Dean, William Whitwell, 
George G. Withington; Services Discontinued; The Meeting- 
house Burned. — The Evangelical Society : Rev. Dr. Shel- 
don's Resignation; his Character; The Celebration of the 
Fiftieth Anniversary of his Settlement in Easton; Succes- 
sive Pastors of the Evangelical Society ; The New Meeting- 
house ; Sunday Schools. — Spiritualism in Easton: its Origin; 
its Patrons; The "First Spiritual Society of Easton;" The 
"Easton Society of Progressive Spiritualists." 

THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL PARISH. 

XT 7HEN the Rev. Mr. Sheldon was notified in September, 
* ' 1832, that his services would be dispensed with, the par- 
ish made arrangement for the supply of the pulpit. No new 
minister of course was settled, but supplies were provided prob- 
ably for most of the time until Mr. Sheldon, having by law es- 
tablished his right to the pulpit, was directed to occupy it, 
which was in April, 1837, ^^^^^ ^"^ ^ ^^^^ years after he had 
been excluded from it. In November, 1838, affairs were ad- 
justed between the contending parties, as we have seen, and 
both societies were henceforth entirely independent of each 
other. On the 29th of April, 1839, the parish voted "that the 
committee for supplying the pulpit be instructed to employ some 
person, if practicable, who will not make doctrines or sectarian- 
ism a leading feature in his discourses, but will insist mainly on 
the moral duties and obligations of his hearers." 

June 8 they extended a call to the Rev. William H. Taylor to 
become their minister, at a salary of five hundred and fifty dol- 
lars. Their past experience led them to make it a condition 
that after the first year the connection of minister and parish 



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 361 

might be dissolved by a three months notice being given in 
writing by either party. Mr. Taylor accepted the call in a letter 
written the next day after the call was given. He came here 
from Lynn, the parish paying the expense of his moving. It 
was immediately voted to build a parsonage, which was done at 
an expense of about a thousand dollars, and it was situated a 
few rods west of the church. Mr. Taylor did not long remain : 
he was thought to be more interested in phrenology than in re- 
ligion ; and he excited considerable amusement in the course of 
a lecture at North Easton by examining the head of the ingen- 
ious and witty rhymster James Adams, and pronouncing him 
decidedly deficient in the poetic faculty. But he had the grace 
afterward, when some of Adams's stanzas were recited to him, 
to acknowledge that they had a true poetic ring. 

About this time the pulpit was supplied for a few months 
each by the Rev. Stephen A. Barnard and a Rev. Mr. Dudley. 
There was some disposition to hear Universalist preaching ; and 
at a parish meeting in April, 1841, a vote to engage such preach- 
ing was passed, but it was so strenuously opposed by the minority 
that it was reconsidered. In April, 1843, with a glance back at 
the past, the parish instructed their committee to have any min- 
ister who may supply for more than four Sabbaths exchange 
pulpits with ministers of societies in adjoining towns. This 
remained a sensitive matter with the parish, and was made 
prominent at various times. In 1845 the meeting-house under- 
went thorough remodelling. A second floor was built, making 
a church-audience room above, and a hall below. This hall was 
hired by the town, and was used for town-meetings until the 
building was destroyed by fire. The church was re-dedicated 
on the 24th of December, 1845, and at the same service a newly 
chosen pastor was installed, of whom mention will now be 
made. 

In April, 1845, the parish expressed a wish that the Rev. Paul 
Dean be employed to supply the pulpit. He was accordingly 
engaged by the parish committee, and continued pastor for five 
years. Mr. Dean was a man of character, refinement, and ability. 
He was born in Barnard, Windsor County, Vermont, on the 28th 
of March, 1783. He had been connected with the Universalist 
denomination, but was so disgusted with the ultra opinions of 



362 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



the then dominant wing of that sect, — who denied any future 
retribution, and affirmed the immediate salvation of all men at 
death, and were therefore styled " death-and-glory " Universal- 
ists, — that he with Adin Ballou and others left them and be- 
came known as Independent Restorationists. His theology was 
more conservative than that of the conservative Unitarianism of 
to-day, and except in his pronounced restorationism he stood on 
fully as conservative ground as that which gives promise of be- 
coming the dominant Orthodoxy of this time. He was eminently 
a Christian gentleman, dignified and courteous, of comely figure 
and pleasant countenance, and was noted for a graceful and per- 
suasive pulpit oratory, making practical piety and morality the 
substance of his preaching, and treating other denominations 
with candor and charity. Mr. Dean became well known and 
highly respected, preaching numerous occasional discourses, in- 
cluding an annual Election sermon before the General Court in 
1832 ; he also left a volume of lecture sermons on Universal 
Restoration. His connection with Masonry is well known in 
this town, as the Masonic lodge is named for him, — Paul Dean 
Lodge ; in the lodge-room may be seen an excellent crayon pic- 
ture of him. He died at Framingham, Massachusetts, on the 
18th of October, i860. 

Soon after the Rev. Paul Dean left Easton, which was in 
April, 1850, the parish engaged the services of the Rev. William 
Whitwell, who remained as an acting pastor for about seven 
years, his ministry being quiet and uneventful. He was a good 
man and a cultivated scholar. He was afterward settled at 
Chestnut Hill. At the conclusion of Mr. Whitwell's ministry 
the Ames families discontinued attendance upon the First Parish 
Church, as a Unitarian Society had been formed at North Easton 
village, where they resided. A proposition was made to unite 
with the latter society in the support of a minister who should 
supply both pulpits, but the proposition was not carried into 
effect. 

In May, 1858, the parish extended a call to the Rev. George G. 
Withington, who accepted it and remained as pastor for over 
twelve years, retiring from the parish and from the active minis- 
try in November, 1870. Mr. Withington was the son of George 
R. Withington, Esq., a lawyer in Bolton, and afterwards in Lan- 



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 363 

caster, Massachusetts, and was born in Bolton on the 26th of 
July, 1 83 1. He graduated at the Meadville Pennsylvania Theo- 
logical School in the class of 1854, and for the succeeding year 
was engaged in the West as a missionary, acting under the 
auspices of the Western Unitarian Conference. He was or- 
dained at Hillsboro, Illinois, as pastor of the Unitarian society 
in that place in 1855, remaining there two years, and afterward, 
as already stated, settling in Easton. On the 22d of January, 
i860, Mr. Withington married Ellen Jeannette, daughter of the 
Hon. Elijah Howard, of Easton. In the years 1868 and 1869, 
besides attending to his ministerial duties, Mr. Withington was 
master of the High School in Easton. 

Since his retirement from the ministry, Mr. Withington has 
engaged in the druggist business in North Easton. He served 
the town as a member of the school committee from 1859 to 
1 87 1, and has held the office of town clerk and treasurer for ten 
consecutive years, discharging its duties with exceptional ability, 
his clear head and painstaking thoroughness giving him a special 
aptitude for such work. He has been Master of Paul Dean Ma- 
sonic Lodge, and now holds the office of Justice of the Peace. 

The Rev. Mr. Withington was the last settled pastor of the 
First Parish of Easton. Preaching was discontinued after his 
resignation. As there seemed to be considerable doubt about 
the parsonage being any longer needed, it was sold in 1872, and 
was bought by Albert A. Rotch for one thousand dollars. Dur- 
ing the summer months of 1874 and 1875 the church was opened 
for afternoon services, the pulpit being supplied by the Rev. 
Edward C. Towne, who was then living at North Easton. For 
another season it was opened for afternoon services, the preacher 
being the Rev. Mr. Beal, of Brockton. The society is at present 
quite small, and perhaps owes its continued existence to the 
parish fund, which however is not large. On the morning of 
January 27, 1886, the meeting-house of this old First Parish of 
Easton was destroyed by fire. The town subsequently bought 
the parish lot of land on which it stood, and has erected upon it 
a town hall, — a building which, though not especially orna- 
mental, is likely to be useful. 



364 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



THE EVANGELICAL CONGREGATIONAL SOCIETY. 

When the First Congregational Parish, as before narrated, 
had made a settlement with Mr. Sheldon, forty-one members 
withdrew from it. Others soon joined them, and on the 28th 
day of January, 1839, these friends of Mr. Sheldon formally 
organized themselves into a religious society, adopting the name 
of the Evangelical Congregational Society of Easton. April 8, 
the society entered into an agreement with Mr. Sheldon in re- 
gard to his becoming their permanent minister. Some such 
agreement was necessary, because his connection with the old 
parish had terminated and a new society had been formed. He 
was given a salary of five hundred dollars payable semi-annually, 
was allowed a vacation of four weeks, and it was agreed that in 
case a dissolution of the pastoral connection were desirable it 
should be effected by means of a mutual council. It was further 
agreed that an installation was unnecessary. There is nothing 
of special interest to record during the remaining years of Mr. 
Sheldon's active ministry over this society. 

In March, 1855, it was voted that a committee be appointed 
to confer with Mr. Sheldon in regard to a dissolution of the con- 
nection between him and the society. It had for some time been 
thought desirable that this change should be made ; and after 
a conference of two committees with him, on the 3d of May, 
1855, he> resigned his connection as active pastor of the society, 
which resignation was accepted. Subsequent to this action there 
was some doubt as to the precise nature of the relation which 
Mr. Sheldon sustained to the church and society. He always 
maintained that he resigned merely his active charge and labors 
and salary, but still stood in the relation of senior pastor. This 
gave rise to some discussion. His successor, before accepting 
a call, desired the opinion of the committee " as to whether Mr. 
Sheldon does or does not stand in any connection with this 
church or society which might render the position of another 
minister embarrassing." The committee replied " that so far 
as the society was concerned, all connection with him had been 
dissolved." This was obvious, as the society had entered into a 
business contract with him which was now cancelled. Whether 
or not Mr. Sheldon retained the connection of senior pastor to 



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 365 



the church is an interesting problem. The church had origi- 
nally, in 18 10, joined with the parish in settling him : the church 
had taken no action to dissolve its connection. The church 
committee, when asked for " information respecting his pastoral 
relation to the church," answered ambiguously "that all matters 
relating to Mr. Sheldon's connection with the church might and 
would be amicably adjusted, so that there would be no occasion 
for anything to arise that would be unpleasant." Mr. Sheldon's 
own mind was clear upon the subject, and in the church records 
he states that "by mutual understanding, also, the relation of 
pastor and minister, with its appropriate privileges, was to remain 
unchanged." 

Thus closed an active and eventful ministry of forty-five years. 
The account that has been given of the great controversy has 
shown us one side of Mr. Sheldon's character, — his conserva- 
tism, his unwavering adherence to his principles, his strong will 
and inflexible resolution. But his conservative views did not 
prevent his manifesting a cheerful disposition. His prayer- 
meetings he tried to make social and cheerful. He was accus- 
tomed to say, " If any person in the world ought to be happy, it 
is the Christian." Mr. Sheldon was very fond of children, and 
might often be seen chatting pleasantly with them, or allowing 
them to " catch a ride" in his wagon as he drove along the road. 
He could engage in a hearty laugh as well as any one, and even 
the " Minister's Wooing " was not too heretical for him heartily 
to enjoy reading. He had a fondness for pets; and in addition 
to the usual fowls of the homestead, one might see upon his prem- 
ises turkeys, guinea-hens, peacocks, pigeons, rabbits, and dogs. 
Sometimes gray squirrels having a home in his attic would sit 
on his shoulder, pry into his pockets, or run about his grounds. 
The noisy martins were comfortably provided for, and the air 
was vocal with the hum of honey-bees, many swarms of which 
he delighted to keep in the latter part of his life. 

Mr. Sheldon never lost his love for farm-life, and enjoyed 
grappling with the roughest labor of the season. He was very 
skilful in the use of farming-tools, as the following statement of 
his son will show : — 

" I shall never forget a laughable incident which I witnessed in 
my boyhood, which will illustrate his activity and cleverness in this 



366 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

respect. The neighbors, some eight or ten of them, had generously 
turned out to cut his grass one hot July morning. Among them was 
a young giant, who boasted of his ability to cut any one of them out 
of his swath. Said an old resident who lived across the road from 
the minister, — 

" ' I can give you a man who can cut a neater and wider swath than 
you, and do it quicker too.' 

" ' Bring him on ! ' said the young boaster. 

"Just then Mr. Sheldon came into the field with his study-gown on, 
and the neighbor handed him his scythe, saying, — 

" ' You have not forgotten how you used to mow ; now give the 
boys a lesson.' 

" Mr. Sheldon laid aside his robe, put an edge on the scythe, and 
started in. Turning to Argyle, Mr. D. said, — 

" ' There 's your man ; now let us see you mow around him.' 

" All stood by to see the fun ; soon the young man was left far in 
the rear. He complained bitterly of his dull scythe ; it would not cut, 
although he vigorously applied stone and rifle. Mr. Sheldon came in 
many rods ahead, amid the shouts of the lookers-on." 

In the winter of 1853 Mr. Sheldon w^as sent by the citizens of 
Easton to Boston as their delegate to the Constitutional Conven- 
tion ; for eleven years he served upon the board of school commit- 
tee. July 14, i860, he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his 
settlement in Easton. In the little grove at the foot of his garden, 
surrounded by his children and two or three hundred friends 
who were seated at well-loaded tables, he recalled with them the 
events of the past, and they sang together the hymns of the olden 
time. On that occasion he stated that he had preached six 
thousand written sermons, solemnized four hundred marriages, 
and declined eight calls to other parishes offering larger salaries 
than Easton. In speaking of the trying times through which he 
had passed in conflict with men whom he honored, he said that 
he did not now recall one who if alive would not welcome him to 
his home and hospitality ; they had outlived and outgrown their 
hostility. He expressed his strong affection for the home of his 
life-ministry, and said that though often solicited to go and live 
with his children, he preferred to spend the remnant of his days 
here, and to have his body laid at rest beside those of his friends 
in the cemetery near at hand. Mr. Sheldon died September 16, 




Rev. Luther Sheldon, D.D. 



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 367 

1866. He was really one of the strongly marked characters of 
Easton, and has made a permanent impression upon its life and 
institutions. 

In preparing this sketch of his life in Easton, the writer has 
labored under the great disadvantage of never having any per- 
sonal acquaintance with Dr. Sheldon ; and therefore to those 
who did know him and who read what is here written, this ac- 
count may seem inadequate. The writer, however, has endeav- 
ored to give as faithful a narrative as the circumstances of the 
case admit, and in the account of the parochial controversy he 
is conscious of having written without bias. 

October i, 1855, the Rev. Lyman White received and ac- 
cepted a call to settle as minister of the Evangelical Society. 
He was voted a salary of seven hundred and fifty dollars, and it 
was agreed that if either party desired a dissolution of the con- 
nection, a three months notice from that party would be suffi- 
cient to accomplish it. In October, 1862, the society gave such 
notice to Mr. White, assuring him, however, that the only reason 
for their action was their inability to raise a sufficient sum to 
pay the present expenses of the pulpit. Mr. White was very 
highly esteemed as a minister. His resignation was given Feb- 
ruary 19, 1862, a council being called to dissolve the connection. 
It was found difficult at this time to pay the necessary expenses. 
The Ladies' Benevolent Society rendered generous assistance, 
and instead of depending entirely upon subscriptions for the 
support of worship, the society voted to raise about two thirds 
of the needed amount by a tax upon the pews. 

June 3, 1863, the Rev. Charles E. Lord was installed pastor 
of the society on a salary of five hundred and fifty dollars ; the 
Rev. Lyman Whiting preached the sermon of installation. Mr. 
Lord remained less than two years, resigning March 26, 1865, 
because his wife's health demanded his removal to a dryer 
climate. He was the last minister of this society regularly 
settled by a council with an installation service. Since his time 
the society has been ministered to by " acting pastors." The 
Rev. Charles L. Mills served from December 8, 1865, to Feb- 
ruary 24, 1868. The Rev. D. W. Richardson, in October, 1869, 
accepted the offer of preaching for an indefinite time to the 
society for one thousand dollars a year, either party to close 



368 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



the engagement by a two months notice. Mr. Richardson re- 
signed in 1872, his resignation taking effect the last Sunday in 
November. 

The Rev. M. B. Angier then preached for a few months. 
The Rev. A. S. Hudson served as acting pastor from Septem- 
ber 4, 1873, to April, 1875. He was followed by the Rev. 
Luther H. Sheldon, son of Dr. Sheldon, who served with great 
acceptance from August, 1875, until October, 1878, when he was 
called to be the superintendent of the State Reform School at 
Westboro.' Rev. S. D. Hosmer supplied from October, 1878, 
to July, 1879. He was succeeded by Rev. L. H. Angier, who 
had charge until April, 1881. The Rev. W. H, Dowden was 
acting pastor from July, 1881, to December, 1884. The society 
in voting him a call also voted to settle him with a council. 
On being conferred with concerning a council, Mr. Dowden 
postponed the matter to a more " convenient season," which 
season never arrived. 

The parsonage of the Evangelical Society was built in 1879, 
and stands nearly opposite the church. On the evening of Sep- 
tember 6, 1882, the meeting-house was entirely consumed by 
fire ; there was no insurance upon it. The society henceforth, 
until the vestry-room of the new church was ready for occu- 
pancy, worshipped in the Unitarian church at Easton Centre. 
September 27, 1882, it was authoritatively pronounced a legally 
organized corporation by the Secretary of the State. A new 
church building was begun in the autumn of 1883, and was 
completed in March, 1885 ; it was erected at a cost of about 
^11,500. The organ, built by Mr. Holbrook, of East Medway, 
cost $1500, and the furnishings $700. The audience-room will 
seat about three hundred, and a gallery affords accommodation 
for about fifty more. There is a convenient vestry under the 
audience-room. The new church was dedicated March 19, 1885, 
the Rev. Luther H. Sheldon preaching the sermon. Besides 
the Orthodox Congregational ministers invited to assist in these 
services, the Rev. Merrick Ranson (Methodist) and the Rev. W. 
L. Chaffin (Unitarian), both of North Easton, took part in the 
exercises. 

July I, 1885, the present acting pastor, the Rev. F. P. Chapin, 
began his work here, and still continues. He is the son of 





The Evangelical Congregational Church, Easton Centre. 



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 369 



Ebenezer and Sarah Chapin, and was born in Gill, Massachu- 
setts, August 14, 1827; he graduated at Amherst College and 
Bangor Theological Seminary, was settled ten years in Camden, 
Maine, three years in the East Parish of Amherst, Massachu- 
setts, and twelve years at North Weymouth. Mr. Chapin was 
first married to Sarah S. Wallace, of Hadley, Massachusetts, 
December 3, 1857. She died at Amherst, January 14, 1868, 
leaving four children, three sons and one daughter. He was 
married the second time to Margaret Macfarlane, of Camden, 
Maine, January 12, 1871. She died at North Weymouth, Octo- 
ber 25, 1882, leaving one child. 

There have been three Sunday-schools connected with this 
church. Until recently there was but one, which appears to 
have been organized by Mr. Sheldon about 181 5 ; it was held 
at the Centre. But this arrangement was so inconvenient for 
many of the children of the parish that it was thought best 
to organize a Sunday-school in two other sections, — one at 
South Easton, and one at the Furnace Village. 

White's Village Sunday-school was organized in White's Hall 
by the Rev. A. S. Hudson, June 14, 1874, assisted by members 
of the Evangelical Congregational Church, of which he was the 
pastor. It began with seven teachers and fifty-three scholars. 
Francis Homes was superintendent of the school for the first six 
years. In 1850 Deacon J. O. Dean took charge of the work till 
the building was destroyed by fire in 1884. The success of the 
work is indicated by a few statistics: the record for 1878 gives 
the total membership as one hundred and five, average attend- 
ance fifty-five, largest number on any one Sunday seventy-four ; 
families represented, forty-two. A library of several hundred 
volumes was in constant use. Papers, both weekly and monthly, 
were supplied to every family. A temperance society called 
the " Anti Society" was organized in 1876, which received the 
written pledge of nearly all the members. 

The Furnace Village Sunday-school was organized in Harmony 
Hall by members of the Evangehcal Church, November 18, 1877. 
Andrew Hamilton was the first superintendent. In 1884 he 
was succeeded by George Sylvester, who is still in charge. The 
school began with sixty members, and has now about eighty. 
Nearly every Protestant family in the vicinity is represented in 

24 



370 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

it. Papers of different grades are given to each family, and all 
the members have access to a library of nearly five hundred 
volumes, — a privilege which they highly prize. 

SPIRITUALISM IN EASTON. 

Although the Spiritualists are not, strictly speaking, a religious 
denomination, they represent a certain phase of speculation up- 
on religion and some of its related topics, and it is desirable 
that there should be some record of the various efforts made in 
Easton by Spiritualists to form some permanent organization 
of those holding their views. The central idea of Spiritualism 
is that there is a vital connection between the seen and the 
unseen worlds by which communication between the two can 
be maintained, and that departed spirits can manifest themselves 
by means of what are usually termed " mediums." It is not 
claimed that this idea is new ; it is indeed generally admitted to 
be one that in some form has been entertained by many persons 
in all Christian denominations, who have fondly believed that 
their departed friends did not lose sight of them, and that in 
times of special need they might influence them for good. This 
comforting belief is still held by multitudes of persons who can 
conscientiously entertain it without renouncing their present re- 
ligious and denominational connections. 

In this country modern Spiritualism dates from the " Roch- 
ester knockings " in the village of Hydesville in Rochester, New 
York, in 1848, where the Fox sisters attracted so much notice 
by the strange phenomena alleged to take place by their raedi- 
umship. In Eastdn, interest in this subject first appeared on 
the Bay road. In 1850 Asahel Smith, Amos Hewett, Willard 
Lothrop, and others became much interested in the matter. 
Several Easton people soon displayed mediumistic powers. Cir- 
cles were held. There were knockings and table-tippings and 
experiments in the production of musical sounds, etc. It was 
not found necessary to import trance speakers, for native talent 
in that direction was soon developed. Much attention was given 
to this subject in nearly all parts of the town. There were strong 
believers and equally strong disbelievers in the theory offered to 
explain the phenomena produced. Lectures were given upon 
the subject by persons who claimed to be trance-speakers con- 



SPIRITUALISM. 371 



trolled by disembodied spirits. In 1852 or 1853 the Protestant 
Methodist Church in North Easton village was opened for such 
a lecture, and in 1854 there were several given in White's Hall, 
South Easton, attracting great attention. In 1859 a-"<i i860 
public meetings were held in Ripley's Hall, North Easton, and 
about the same time in Harmony Hall at the Furnace Village. 
Meetings for the same purpose were held in 1862, and for several 
years afterward, in No. i Schoolhouse. Public interest then 
flagged for several years. But after a series of meetings in 
White's Hall an organization was effected in November, 1872, 
and was known as the " First Spiritual Society of Easton," — 
N. W. Perry, President; Fred C. Thayer, Vice-President; Ellen 
F. Thayer, Secretary. Meetings were held in the Easton Uni- 
tarian Church in the afternoon, and at White's Hall in the eve- 
ning. These meetings continued for only a short time, and but 
little notice was taken of the subject for several years. 

In District No. 8, in the year 1877, there was a revival of in- 
terest. Private circles were held, and in January, 1878, another 
organization was effected. It was called "The Easton Society 
of Progressive Spiritualists." Its total membership was twenty- 
two. Its first president was Charles R. Dickerman ; its vice- 
president, William B. Webster ; and its secretary, Mrs. David 
Wade. Mr. Dickerman resigned in a few weeks, and was suc- 
ceeded by F. G. Keith. A few public meetings were held, 
private circles met weekly for about four months, when this 
transient interest died out, and the " Easton Society of Pro- 
gressive Spiritualists " vanished from sight. 

March 31, 1880, there was at the G. A. R. Hall in South 
Easton village a celebration of the thirty-second anniversary of 
the birth of modern Spiritualism. The exercises consisted of a 
lecture by Mrs. N. J. Willis, of Cambridgeport, music, recitations, 
tableaux, a free supper and dancing, and was attended it is said 
by about five hundred persons. Since that time no public meet- 
ings have been held in Easton. 

One of the most intelligent Spiritualists in Easton assigns 
as the reason why these organizations here are so short-lived, 
that " there is some expense and some sacrifice to be made, 
and no pne is willing to assume the leadership and take the re- 
sponsibility." If this be true, it would appear to indicate a lack 



ZT^ 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



of sufficient inspiring power in the cause itself to prompt the 
requisite sacrifice. It seems plainly evident that there is a basis 
of fact beneath the so-called " manifestations," that a belief in 
the occasional presence and influence of the departed gives great 
comfort to many sorrowing hearts, and that it has saved many 
souls from making shipwreck of their faith in immortality. 
Spiritualists have, however, as we have already intimated, no 
monopoly of this belief in spiritual influence from the unseen 
world. It is held by many Christians of every name, and is as 
old as belief in immortality. How many Spiritualists there are 
now in Easton cannot be accurately estimated. 



LIBRARIES. 



373 



CHAPTER XXII. 

LIBRARIES, 

The First Social Library. — The Washington Benevolent Socie- 
ty AND Library. — The Second Social Library. — The Metho- 
dist Social Library. — The No. 2 District Library. — The 
Agricultural Library. — The North Easton Library Associa- 
tion. — The Ames Free Library, 

THE FIRST SOCIAL LIBRARY. 

A LIBRARY association with the above name existed in 
Easton as early as 1800. It was located in the south- 
east part of the town. The books were kept at the house of 
Roland Howard, who appears to have been the librarian. An 
informant speaks of the strong impression made upon her mind 
by the reading of the " History of Cain," one of the books of 
this library. About fifty of the books are still at their old 
headquarters in the Roland Howard house, now Mr. Collins's 
home. They are mainly of an agricultural character, and are 
of course considerably dilapidated. 

THE WASHINGTON BENEVOLENT SOCIETY AND LIBRARY. 

At the time of the War of 18 12 the country was divided 
between the Federalist and Anti-federalist parties, the latter 
being sometimes called Republican. Party feeling was intense 
and bitter. In New England the opposition to the war was 
very strong on the part of the Federalists. The latter were 
in a minority in Easton, and felt the need of union for sym- 
pathy and counsel. They therefore organized themselves into 
a society with the name given above. The name of Washington 
was used because he had sympathized with Federalist principles, 
and because his name was held in high honor. But why the so- 
ciety was called "Benevolent" does not appear. There seemed 
to be no better reason for its adoption than that it sounded well ; 



374 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



it certainly laid the society open to the ridicule of the Republi- 
cans, who did not spare its members. This society was more 
like a political club ; it had meetings for political purposes, 
addresses sometimes being given upon subjects in which its 
members were interested. Melvin Gilmore gave one address in 
the meeting-house. He felt it to be a momentous occasion, and 
therefore fortified himself for it in a way customary in those days. 
He had engaged a friend also to watch him and give him a sign 
of warning if anything went wrong. When in the full tide of 
his speech, which was written, he accidentally turned two leaves 
of his manuscript at once. His friend noticed the mishap and 
endeavored to signal him ; but it was in vain, for Mr. Gilmore 
was under too great momentum to be checked in his course. 
Afterward he asked, " How did it go .'' " " Go ! " responded his 
friend, "you made an outrageous blunder; you turned two leaves 
at once." Somewhat chagrined, Mr. Gilmore said, " Well, I 
thought there was one place where it did n't hitch on very well, 
but I did n't know what the trouble was." 

As the name indicates, this society owned a library, which 
was doubtless composed principally of political works and peri- 
odicals. The society appears to have been organized about 1812, 
and it continued in existence nearly ten years. The members 
were charged an initiation fee of two dollars each. As it may 
be of interest to their descendants and others to know who were 
the Federalists of that day in Easton, their names are appended 
here: — 



Thomas Britton. 
Alpha Grossman. 
James Dean. 
Bartholomew Drake, 
James Drake. 
Simeon Drake. 
Thomas B. Drake. 
John Gilmore. 
Joshua Gilmore, Esq. 
Melvin Gilmore. 
Joseph Hayward. 
Joseph Hayward, Jr. 
Nahum Hayward. 
Solomon Hayward. 



Asa Howard. 
Edwin Howard. 
Elijah Howard, Esq. 
Elijah Howard, Jr. 
Nathaniel Howard. 
Roland Howard, Esq. 
Isaac Kimball. 
James Lothrop. 
John Lothrop. 
Solomon Lothrop, Jr. 
Ichabod Macomber. 
Nathaniel Perry. 
John Pool, Esq. 
Capt. Oliver Pool. 



LIBRARIES. 



375 



Ziba Randall. Daniel Wheaton, Esq. 

Calvin Seaver. Alanson White. 

Wendell Seaver. Capt. Joshua Williams. 

Asa Waters. Capt. Lewis Williams. 

Otis Williams. 

This list does not include the names of all the Federalists of 
Easton. Oliver Ames was an ardent Federalist, but his name 
does not appear here, perhaps because he was living in Plymouth 
when the society was organized. After the War of 1812 was 
over, and when the Hartford Convention had given the Federal 
party its death-blow, this Washington Benevolent Society and 
Library languished. Its affairs were not entirely settled, how- 
ever, until 1823. Lewis Williams was then its treasurer, and from 
a carefully written paper which he prepared we learn that its 
membership was thirty- seven ; its amount of fees, ^73.00 (one 
member paying only a half fee) ; the amount realized from the 
sale of books, $25.25 ; the amount of assessments all told, 
i^33-75 ; ^1^^ that the total amount finally disbursed among exist- 
ing members was $70.65. 

Should a descendant of any member of the Washington Be- 
nevolent Society and Library chance to find among the relics 
of olden times a small black cockade, he will then behold the 
emblem by which these members distinguished themselves ; for 
they all wore a black cockade, so fastened as to reach above the 
crown of the hat on the left side. 

THE SECOND SOCIAL LIBRARY. 

Before 1823 there was formed a Library Association in Easton 
named as above. In order to form themselves into a "legal so- 
ciety " as they termed it, a meeting was regularly called at the 
request of five members, and was held February 6, 1823, "at 
the chapel near the Congregational meeting-house," where it 
was legally organized. Israel Turner was made clerk ; Daniel 
Reed, librarian ; and Welcome Lothrop, treasurer. Dr. Samuel 
Deans, James Dean, and John Pool were chosen to inspect and 
superintend the concerns of the library. Among the members 
were Joseph Hayward, Sr., Lewis Williams, Dr. Caleb Swan, 
Alanson White, Sheperd Leach, Oakes Ames, Lincoln Drake, 
and twenty-five other citizens of Easton. At the second quar- 



376 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

terly meeting a share (which included membership) was pre- 
sented by the proprietors to the Rev. Luther Sheldon. The 
first book in the little catalogue was the " Theory of Agreeable 
Sensations." Then came Bacon's Essays, Burns's Works, Plu- 
tarch's "Lives," the "Scottish Chiefs," Hume's "England," and 
a few other standard works. But most of the books are no 
longer read and are seldom heard of. This library existed until 
about 1840. 

THE METHODIST SOCIAL LIBRARY. 

In 1 83 1 a Library Association similar to the one last men- 
tioned was organized in the northeast part of the town. It was 
called the Methodist Social Library. Its first meeting for or- 
ganization was held May 3, 1831. Dr. Zephaniah Randall was 
chosen president ; Joel Randall, vice-president ; William Sawyer, 
clerk ; Henry R. Healey, treasurer ; and John A. Bates, librarian. 
The standing committee were Phineas Randall, Oakes Ames, 
John Bisbee, Francis French, and James Dickerman. A closet 
was built in the then new Methodist meeting-house to hold the 
books of the library. There were fifty-six shareholders. The 
first book on the list was Wesley's " Sermons," and the next the 
" American Constitution." Then followed " Pilgrim's Progress," 
Opie on " Lying," Hervey's " Meditations," etc. A large propor- 
tion of the books were theological and religious. It was not, 
however, a long-lived society, its last meeting being held May i, 
1837. Its records are still preserved. 

THE NO. 2 DISTRICT LIBRARY. 

In 1838, as Guilford White informs the writer, the Rev. Mr. 
Upham, of Salem, a member of the Board of Education, lectured 
in schoolhouses, with a view to establish district libraries. Such 
a library was formed by individual subscription in District No. 2, 
and about one hundred books, some of them excellent in charac- 
ter, were collected. After about twenty-five years there was very 
little interest taken in it, and when the Sunday-school in White's 
Hall was organized, such books of the district library as re- 
mained, — about forty or fifty, — were turned into the Sunday- 
school library. This school collected at last about three hundred 
volumes, but when the hall was burned, August 25, 1884, they 
were all consumed. 



LIBRARIES. 



377 



THE AGRICULTURAL LIBRARY. 

In i860, under the direction of John Raynolds, of Concord, 
Massachusetts, who was connected with the " New England Far- 
mer," an agricultural library was organized in Easton. Its first 
president was Oliver Ames, Jr. ; its vice-president, George W. 
Hayward ; its secretary, Henry Daily ; and John R. Howard was 
chosen its treasurer and librarian. The committee for the selec- 
tion of books was Charles B. Pool, Oliver Ames, Jr., and David 
Hervey. There were one hundred and thirty-five very carefully 
selected books, besides duplicates. These books treated of the 
various branches of agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, and 
kindred subjects, and they were well studied and of great service. 
After the death of the librarian the books were removed to Mr. 
Manahan's, where most of them remain to-day. The associa- 
tion is now practically dead, however. 

THE NORTH EASTON LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. 

January 25, 1869, the above named association was organized 
at North Easton village. Joseph Barrows was chosen president ; 
Cyrus Lothrop, vice-president ; F. L. Ames, secretary and treas- 
urer ; and A. A. Gilmore, Reuben Meader, Michael Macready, 
W. L. Chaffin, and P. A. Gifford, were elected directors. Per- 
sons became shareholders by the purchase of one or more shares, 
each costing five dollars. There were fifty shareholders, and 
ninety-five shares were sold. Any one might become a subscri- 
ber and have the use of the library and reading-room by paying 
at the rate of two dollars per year. There was an annual assess- 
ment of one dollar on each share. This library was located in 
the same building with the post-office, and George B. Cogswell 
was chosen librarian. A convenient reading-room was fitted up 
there, papers and magazines provided, and it became for eleven 
years a place of pleasant resort which will long be remembered 
by those accustomed to frequent it. In 1880, in anticipation 
of the opening of the Ames Free Library, the association voted 
to appraise and sell its property, to close up its affairs, and to 
dissolve. This it did about the end of the year. 



378 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



THE AMES FREE LIBRARY. 

The Ames Free Library of Easton, Massachusetts, originated 
in a bequest of the Hon. OHver Ames, the second of that name, 
who died March 9, 1877. The following is the bequest copied 
from the will : — 

" Clause 10. I give and bequeath to my executors hereinafter 
named the sum of fifty thousand dollars, in trust, for the construction 
of a library building and the support of a library for the benefit of 
the inhabitants of the town of Easton. The building is to be located 
by my executors at such place in School District No. 7 in Easton as 
will in their judgment best accommodate its users. Not more than 
twenty-five thousand dollars of the above sum of fifty thousand 
dollars shall be expended in the purchase of the land and in erecting 
the library building, and ten thousand dollars only shall be in the first 
place expended for books, maps, and furniture for the library; and the 
remaining fifteen thousand dollars shall constitute a permanent fund 
to be invested in stock of the Old Colony Railroad Company, the in- 
come of which shall be devoted to increasing the library and keeping 
the building and its appurtenances and contents in repair. When the 
building is completed and the library purchased as aforesaid, I direct 
my executors to convey the same, by a suitable deed of trust securing 
the purposes above set forth, to five trustees, to be appointed by the 
Unitarian Society at North Easton ; and the said trustees shall have 
charge and control of the building and land under and belonging to 
the same, and the library and its funds. Any vacancy in the board of 
trustees shall be filled in the same manner the original appointment 
is made." 

The amounts for the several purposes named in the bequest 
were largely increased by the heirs of Mr. Ames. The cost of 
the building, books, appurtenances, the cataloguing of the books, 
etc., up to the date of the opening of the library, was upwards 
of eighty thousand dollars. The permanent fund was increased 
from fifteen thousand dollars to forty thousand dollars by a gift 
of Mrs. Sarah L. Ames, widow of the donor. The library was 
opened to the public March 10, 1883. 

In accordance with a condition prescribed by the will, a board 
of five trustees was chosen at a meeting of the Unitarian Society 
of North Easton, held February 17, 1883. The following persons 



•t«4j 




LIBRARIES. 



379 



were chosen trustees: Frederick L. Ames, William L. Chaffin, 
Lincoln S. Drake, Cyrus Lothrop, and George W. Kennedy. 

There are now over eleven thousand books in this library, 
which were very carefully selected in order to form the basis of a 
first-class collection. The catalogue is thoroughly and elaborately 
prepared. A large number of papers and periodicals supply the 
needs of the beautiful reading-room. The library is an inesti- 
mable advantage to the town, furnishing the means of extending 
and elevating the knowledge and increasing the rational enjoy- 
ment of its residents, by whom it is liberally patronized. The 
library building is a handsome edifice, built of sienite from a 
quarry a stone's throw distant, and has red sandstone trimmings. 
It is elaborately finished inside, the waiting-room and reading- 
room being of black walnut, the latter having a massive and 
beautifully carved fireplace of red sandstone, the stone-work on 
each side of and above the fireplace reaching to the ceiling, 
with a medallion of Mr. Ames in the centre. The library-room 
proper has two tiers of alcoves, and the exquisite wood-work is 
of pohshed butternut. In the second story of the building is a 
tenement for the librarian. The accompanying picture of this 
building makes further description of it unnecessary. H. H. 
Richardson was its architect. 

Charles R. Ballard was appointed librarian on the opening of 
the library, and he still occupies this position. 



380 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 

School Management of the last Century. — The School-Committee 
System. — Superintending Committee since 1826. — Men and Wo- 
men Teachers. — Teachers' Wages. — The High School. — The 
Perkins Academy. — The History of the Schoolhouses of all 
the Districts. — The Oliver Ames Fund for Support of Schools. 
— The Oakes Ames Fund for North Easton Village. — Late 
Statistics. 

THREE children of the Rev. Matthew Short were unable to 
write their names when far along in their " teens." Quite 
a number of the early settlers of Easton, especially of the wo- 
men, had to "make their mark." This appears not only in wills 
which might have been signed in sickness when the signer had 
no strength to write, but also in deeds, surveys, etc., made in 
full health. Our early ancestors were much more interested in 
churches than in schools, and were far more liberal in providing 
for the former than for the latter. The importance of education 
was however recognized by the General Court. Section 2 of the 
Act of Incorporation of the town of Easton reads as follows : — 

" And that the inhabitants of the said town of Easton do, within 
six months from the publication of this Act, procure and maintain a 
schoolmaster to instruct their youth in writing and reading ; and that 
thereupon they be discharged from any payments for the maintenance 
of the school at Norton." 

This was December 21, 1725. No notice was taken of this 
requirement until fifteen months after Easton became a town. 
Attention was then called to it, and the people felt that some- 
thing must be done. The town voted for a schoolmaster ; but 
some opponent of the scheme, evidently wishing to defeat it, 
proposed a salary for the master equal to that of the minister. 
The following votes on the subject will illustrate the animus of 
the voters in this matter : — 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 381 



"Easton, March the thirty-first clay, 1727, at a Leagall meeting of 
the Inhabitants of said town for to make choice of a schollmaster, and 
to rais money to pay him, and to appoint a place for the school to be 
Keept, . . • , — 

" I. We made choice of Josiah Keith, moderator for said meeting. 

" 2ly. A vote was called for to give fourty pounds to a schollmaster 
for one year to keep schoU, but not voted. 

"3ly. A vote was called for to give twenty pounds to a schollmas- 
ter to keep scholl one year, but not voted. 

" 4ly. A vote was called for to give ten pounds to a schollmaster to 
keep scholl for one year, but not voted. 

" 5ly. A vote was called for to give five pounds to a schollmaster 
to keep scholl for one year, but not voted. 

" 61y. Voted and agreed to give three pounds to a schollmaster for 
one year to teach youths to Read and to write, and to keep it at his 
own House, and to find himself diete." ^ 

This action illustrates the sentiment of the small community 
of early settlers on the subject of education. Yet this vote of 
three pounds for the salary of the schoolmaster, who must use 
his own house for a schoolhouse and board himself, was the 
most liberal school appropriation made in Easton for thirteen 
years ; in fact, it was the only one. This was in March. The 
people talked the matter over, and the opposition even to so 
small an appropriation increased. It seemed a useless waste of 
treasure, and the town repented such extravagance. In the 
next November in town-meeting they "Voted and Dismissed 
paying the Schoolmaster." This vote seems ambiguous ; it 
looks like a refusal to pay the master. There is no subsequent 
record of any payment having been made, and Thomas Pratt, 
Jr., the first schoolmaster, dropped the birch rod, and quietly 
accepted the situation. 

For the next nine years nothing was done toward maintain- 
ing a school in Easton. One might conjecture that for love or 
money the minister might have done some teaching, were it not 
that several of his own children, as before stated, could not 
write their names. Of course, some private attention must have 
been given in the homes of the more intelligent to reading and 
writing and arithmetic ; but no public action was again taken 

1 Town Records, vol i. p. 5. 



382 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

until March, 1736, when, no doubt fearing that a legal fine 
would be imposed for such neglect, it was " voted and agreed 
that the Town shall be provided with a schoolmaster." But no 
appropriation was made to cover expenses, and nothing was 
done to carry the vote into effect. In 1740 it was again voted 
to have a schoolmaster, and it was "voted to raise fourty pounds 
for to support and uphold a school in Easton in ye 1740." Ap- 
parently this appropriation lasted two years ; for the next action 
was in March, 1742, when, seized with another economical spasm, 
the town "voted not to raise any money to support school." 

But the remissness of Easton in regard to education had been 
made a subject of complaint, and in 1743 an action was begun 
in the Bristol County Court of Common Pleas against the town 
for not providing for the instruction of its children according to 
law. Now, at last, a stir was made, a town-meeting called, and 
it was " voted to Raise money for ye support of a school for ye 
Instructing of children in Reading and writing one quarter of 
a year." A schoolmaster was immediately hired, and then 
Benjamin Drake, one of the selectmen, hastened to Bristol 
(now of Rhode Island, but then our county seat), assumed an 
innocent manner, and stated that there waz a schoolmaster in 
Easton. The fine was therefore remitted, the town however 
paying the costs of the prosecution. But, alas ! in November of 
the same year, though voting money for a school for one quarter, 
the town also voted " not to keep any school for the present ; " 
and foreseeing the penalty, but knowing that it was cheaper to 
pay the fine than to pay the schoolmaster, it was " voted to Raise 
teen shillings in money to pay Mr. Benj.' Drake for His paying 
ye fine yt ye town was likely to pay for want of a schoolmaster." 

Prosecutions of this kind were brought against the town in 
1747, 1750, and 1756. Either being thus so sharply looked after 
by the law, or, let us hope, being more alive to educational needs, 
the town henceforth showed more regard for the maintenance 
of schools. Until 1746 there had been but one school for the 
whole town at any time, and in some years, as we have seen, 
none at all. But at this date it was decided to keep school in 
three parts of the town, — the southwest, southeast, and north- 
east parts. Evidently the same master had charge of them all, 
teaching alternately in these several localities. In 1754 the 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 383 



town was divided into four school quarters, and we see the be- 
ginning of the district system, in the fact that at this date the 
town voted that the inhabitants of each of the four quarters 
should determine where their school should be kept. The town 
then voted to pay for the boarding of the schoolmasters. No 
schoolhouses were as yet erected. In 1768 the plan of 1754 
was still further developed. Each quarter of the town was to 
draw its proportion of the school money, the whole amount 
raised being thirty pounds. This was to be done by a person 
chosen in each one of the four quarters of the town. This was 
for Easton the beginning of the prudential committee plan that 
so long prevailed in New England towns. There was no super- 
intending committee then, as in later years. In addition to the 
four quarters alluded to, there was set apart in 1768 a centre 
district or "school rick," as it was called, which centred at 
Benjamin Pettingill's (now L. K. Wilbur's), where had been 
erected "the monument," — a stone post that indicated the exact 
centre of the town. 

Ten years before this there was established a Grammar 
School, which was independent of the common English schools. 
This was in accordance with an old law of 1647, which required 
that every town of one hundred families, in addition to the 
elementary schools, should establish and maintain a Grammar 
School, where pupils might fit for Harvard University. This 
was in fact a High School, where at least the Latin and Greek 
languages might be studied. From 1759 the Grammar School 
is frequently referred to on our town records. For many years 
of its early history it was taught by a Mr. Joseph Snell, of 
Bridgewater, a Harvard graduate. Jn the arrangement of 1768 
the selectmen were instructed to draw from the appropriation 
for schools the amount needed to support the Grammar School, 
and the amount left was to be divided among the five " school 
ricks " in proportion to the amount of the school tax respec- 
tively paid by these districts. Only thirty pounds were appro- 
priated ; as a result schools were kept for a short time only, 
and the pay for teachers was very small. Mr. Snell received 
six pounds per quarter, and the masters of the English schools 
rather less. The town usually paid their board. Widow Mary 
Kingman, who kept an inn a few rods northeast of Ebenezer 



384 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Randall's house on the Bay road, received five shillings a week 
for boarding Schoolmaster Webb ; and the town also voted her 
" four shillings for finding him an hors to ride to meating," so 
careful were they to have their schoolmasters set the good ex- 
ample of church-going. The inn alluded to was, by the way, 
the same in which General Washington stopped over night 
when he journeyed between Boston and New York during the 
Revolutionary War. 

As already indicated, under the new system of 1768 each dis- 
trict chose its own committee. The first prudential committee 
ever chosen in town were Benjamin Pettingill for the Centre, 
Henry Howard for the southeast quarter, Joseph Grossman for 
the northeast, Silas WiUiams for the southwest, and Joseph 
Gilbert for the northwest. For a time the Grammar School 
seems to have been under the charge of the selectmen. In 
1772 the northeast quarter, which extended south to the Green, 
was divided into two school districts by a line running east and 
west. In 1779 the district now called No. 3 was made. Before 
1800 there were eleven districts ; but their numbers did not in 
all cases correspond to the numbers as finally settled, and the 
limits frequently changed, because families were set from one 
district to another for convenience' sake. About this time also 
the name " school rick " was changed to " school wards." In 
April, 1790, it was voted to have the Grammar School kept 
in the four quarters of the town, and it was put in charge of 
a special committee, — Elijah Howard, Abisha Leach, Macy 
Tisdale, and Samuel Guild. This was a general committee ; 
but it did not have charge of the district schools, and after some 
years this committee was jiot chosen with much regularity. 
The arrangement was in consequence of a law passed in 1789. 

In the year 1810 the town began the practice of choosing one 
committee-man for each district. These men were probably 
nominated by the districts to which they severally belonged, 
.each district managing its own school affairs. The system of 
having a superintending school-committee was adopted in con- 
sequence of an Act of the Legislature passed in 1826, requiring 
towns to choose a school committee of not less than five persons 
to " have the general charge of all the public schools in their 
respective towns." They were to examine and approbate teach- 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 



385 



ers, visit schools, and have a general oversight ; they were also 
required to make an annual report to the Secretary of the Com- 
monwealth. They were not required to make any report to the 
town until after 1838, at which date a law was passed making 
this also a part of their duty. All the business details, such as 
hiring teachers, care of schoolhouses, etc., were managed by the 
district committees. This plan continued until the district sys- 
tem was abolished in 1869, when the entire management of all 
school matters was put into the hands of the superintending 
committee. The number of this committee was at first not less 
than five ; but the law was subsequently changed, making the 
required number either three, or some multiple of three. In 
Easton the number continued to be five until 1840, when it was 
changed to three, and remained so until 1875 ; it was then in- 
creased to six, but after four years it was restored to three. 
The following is the list of members of the superintending school- 
committee of Easton, the first being chosen in 1827 : — 



Rev. L. Sheldon, 1827, 1841-1847, 

1852-1855, 1857, — eleven years. 
Daniel Wheaton, 1827-1832, — five 

years. 
Dr. Caleb Svi^an, 1827-1840, 1841, — 

fourteen years. 
Cyrus Lothrop, 1827-1837, — ten 

years. 
Dr. Samuel Deans, 1827-1838, 1840, 

1S43-1846, — fifteen years. 
Perez Marshall, 1828-1S36, — eight 

years. 
Oliver Ames, Jr., 1833-1840, 1841, 

1842, — nine years. 
Joshua Britton, 1837. 
Jonathan Pratt, 1837. 
Tisdale Godfrey, 1838. 
George W. Hayward, 1838-1841, 

1844, 1846, — five years. 
Tisdale Harlow, 183S-1841, -- three 

years. 
H. B. W. Wightman, 1842. 
William Reed, 1843. 
Rev. Paul Dean, 1845, 1846, 1848- 

185 1, — five years. 



Isaac Perkins, 1845. 

Eugene W. Williams, 1847, 1848, - 

two years 
Thomas F. Davidson, 1847, 1850, 

1S56, — three years. 
Joseph Barrows, 1847, 1854, 1856, — 

three years. 
Hiram A. Pratt, 1848. 
Amos Pratt, 1849-1852. 1855, — four 

years. 
George L. Torrey, 1849. 
Guilford H. White, 1851. 
Erastus Brown, 1851. 
Rev. William A. Whitwell, 1852- 

1855, — three years. 
Rev. Lyman White, 1852, 1857, 

185S, — three years. 
Charles E. Keith, 1853. 
Daniel H. Pratt, 1855, 1S58, 1861- 

1864, — five years. 
Anson E. York, 1855. 
Harrison Pool, 1856. 
L. S. Greenleaf, 1857. 
Oliver Ames, 3^; 1858, 1 866-1869, 

1870-187S, — twelve years. 



25 



386 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Rev. G. G. Withington, 1859-1871, — 

twelve years. 
Rev. L. B. Bate-s, 1860-1862, — two 

years. 
H.J. Fuller, 1862-1866,— four years. 
Rev. C. C. Hussey, 1864-1867, — 

three years. 
E. R. Hayward, 1 867-1 870, — three 

years. 
Rev. William L. Chaffin, 1869 to 

date, — eighteen years. 
Oliver Howard, 1S71. 
A. A. Rotch, 1872-1S77, — five years. 



Sarah W. Barrows, 1873, — elected, 

but resigned. 
Rev. Francis Homes, 1875-1878, — 

three years. 
J. O. Dean, 1875-1880, —five years. 
L. S. Drake, 1875 to date, — twelve 

years. 
George C. Belcher, 1875-1879, — four 

years. 
Rev. L. H. Sheldon, 1878. 
James Rankin, 1879-1886, - seven 

years. 
E. B. Hayward, 1886. 



In early days in Easton the teaching was done only by 
men. It was not thought possible that women could maintain 
discipline. Those were more unruly times, and large, rough 
boys attended the winter sessions, who were supposed to respect 
the authority of no one who had not a strong arm to wield the 
rod. Not until 1762 is there any mention of hiring a lady to 
teach school. The proposal was then made that permission 
so to do be granted, if a sufficient number of persons asked for 
it. But the matter was not felt to be of sufficient importance 
to be acted upon, and we merely have the record, " Nothing 
done on the article relating to hiring a scool-dame." Another 
allusion is made to the subject in 1768 ; but no school-mistress 
is yet employed, though the experiment was soon tried. When 
women came to be regularly employed it was only for the sum- 
mer terms. During the winter terms, when grown-up young 
men often attended in order to learn reading, writing, and a 
little arithmetic, the schools were taught by masters. As late 
as 1845 the school-committee of Easton refer to the employ- 
ment of female teachers for winter schools as having been 
tried only " within a few years past," and state that the experi- 
ment had met considerable opposition, though it had become 
a decided success. At the present time women are not only 
very generally en-<ployed in our schools, but they are continued 
throughout the year, thus avoiding the constant change of 
teachers in summer and winter as under the old system. 

It is difficult to realize the changes that have occurred in all 
matters pertaining to schools since those olden times of which. 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 



387 



we have spoken. Then the schooling was frequently confined 
to a few weeks in the winter, and sometimes there would, in 
some districts, be no school for many months. The instruction, 
save in what was called the Grammar School, was almost 
entirely confined to reading, spelling, writing, and sometimes 
" ciphering to the rule of three." Occasionally enough grammar 
was taught to burden the minds of the few older children with 
technical and unfruitful definitions ; but this was exceptional 
and comparatively modern. There was not work enough with 
text-books to fill the whole time of school sessions, so the girls 
brought their sewing and knitting and fancy work, in which 
the teacher, if a woman, sometimes gave assistance. It was 
not thought of much importance to teach arithmetic to girls. 
The teachers tried to fill the spare time of the boys with long 
" sums." The text-books were very few, and as a rule, com- 
pared with present standards, poor and uninteresting. Brains 
however are better than text-books, and intelligent teachers 
often taught with marked success within their limited range of 
instruction. 

The pay of the teachers was, of course, small. Before the 
Revolutionary War schoolmasters received the equivalent of 
about one dollar and a half a week, besides their board, which 
was paid for by the district. In 1776 Samuel Randall's "school 
rick " hired Solomon Randall to teach school at six dollars a 
month, and "ye said Sol'n Randell to bord himself." In 1808 
the pay of a lady teacher was not over a dollar and a quarter a 
week, besides board, which was seventy-five cents a week ; and 
in one case a lady taught for a dollar a week and boarded her- 
self ! A. A. Gilmore began his teaching about forty-five years 
ago on twenty dollars a month and board. It is to be noted, 
however, that expenses are very different now from what they 
were then ; and the whole method and style of living are so 
much more costly, that the difference of wages between the 
old time and the present is much less than the figures seem 
to indicate. 

THE HIGH SCHOOL. 

The Easton High-School was established by a vote of the 
town in November, 1867, and the school-committee were then 



388 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



instructed to open such a school on the first Monday of March, 
1868. The first term was held at Easton Centre, the second at 
South Easton, the third at Furnace Village, and the fourth at 
North Easton village, being terms of ten weeks each. For the 
first three terms the teacher was the Rev. George G. Withington ; 
and for the fourth, which was held in the hall over the Ames 
store, Edward H. Peabody was teacher. Mr. Withington taught 
this school through its second year, two terms being at North 
Easton, one at South Easton, and one at the Furnace Village. 
The disadvantage of this system of having the High School on 
wheels as it were, holding its different terms in localities so dis- 
tant from one another, was very apparent; and it was seen that 
only by establishing it permanently in one locality could it be- 
come a success. In 1870 it was voted to have it so established 
at Easton Centre ; but this vote was rescinded at a subsequent 
town-meeting, when, after a warm discussion, it was decided to 
establish it at the new schoolhouse at North Easton for twenty- 
six weeks, and at the Furnace Village for fourteen weeks. This 
was accordingly done ; but the masters hired for each place 
were continued through the year there, so that the studies could 
be pursued without interruption in both places. This system 
practically furnished the town with two High Schools. At the 
Furnace Village, when scholars desired to graduate, the same 
course of study was pursued to the end as at North Easton, 
and some scholars graduated there, receiving their High School 
diplomas. Latterly, however, this plan has not been continued. 
The scholars now prefer, when wishing to complete the full 
course, to attend the regular High School at North Easton. 
C. M. Barrows taught this school two terms in 1870-1871, and 
C. C. Sheldon taught the spring term in 187 1. In September 
of that year Charles R. Ballard, a graduate of the University of 
Vermont, accepted the position of master here, holding the po- 
sition for six years, when he resigned on account of defective 
hearing. He was succeeded in 1877 by Maitland C. Lamprey, 
a Dartmouth College graduate, who still remains. 

The High School of Easton is well equipped with apparatus 
and means of instruction. Besides mechanical and chemical 
apparatus it has an excellent skeleton and a costly manikin im- 
ported from Paris. It has also a cabinet of increasing interest. 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 389 



This school has been of great service in the education of the 
children of Easton. That its advantages are appreciated is evi- 
dent from the fact that in few towns is there so large a propor- 
tion of High School graduates as here. 

SCHOOLHOUSES. 

Tradition has located the first schoolhouse in Easton at 
South Easton village ; but this tradition proves to be three 
years too late. There is documentary evidence going to show 
that the first schoolhouse in South Easton village was built in 
1773. But a document written by Timothy Randall, long a 
selectman of Easton, narrates some account of a school trouble 
in the southeast part of the town, and contains this statement : 
" The S. E. Quarter raised their schoolhouse near Mr. Seth 
Lathrop's on ye 14th day of December, a.d. 1770." Other docu- 
ments confirm this statement. This schoolhouse was located on 
the north side of Purchase Street, a little east of where William 
Henry Lothrop now lives, and just west of the site of Isaac Lo- 
throp's house. Prior to this the school had been kept in the 
house of Mark Lothrop part of the time, and at Nehemiah How- 
ard's part of the time. As this district was a very large one, 
another building was erected farther south, on the west side of 
the turnpike, a little below where Robert Ripner now lives. This 
appears to have been built somewhat before 1808, for at that 
date it was called the " new schoolhouse." These were not re- 
garded as two separate districts, nor were schools kept in these 
two schoolhouses at the same time. The money for the whole 
quarter was divided, and the terms of school were kept alter- 
nately in the two schoolhouses. This arrangement better ac- 
commodated those living in the extreme north and south parts 
of the whole quarter ; but scholars who chose so to do were 
allowed to attend school in both schoolhouses in turn. This 
arrangement continued until 18 18. June i of that year, Asa 
Howard sold land for a schoolhouse where the Branch Turn- 
pike intersects the Taunton and South Turnpike, the site now 
occupied by the present building. The schoolhouse first erected 
there was superseded in 1869 by the present building. 

The second schoolhouse in Easton was built in i773. ir* what 
is now South Easton village. An assessment was made August 



390 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



14 of that year, when the building was nearly done ; and the 
statement is made in the assessors' document that "The School 
House cost Twenty pounds & three shillings lawful money." 
It was not however finished at that date, and not until No- 
vember 7, 1774, was it decided to complete it. The building 
was very near or upon the spot now occupied by Copeland's 
store. It was very small, with a hip roof, and very low in the 
walls ; and if it was like the other schoolhouses that were soon 
afterward built, it had high windows to prevent the children's 
attention from being attracted by anything that occurred out- 
side, and the seats were parallel to the sides of the building, 
with the aisle running through the centre. After this house 
was discontinued as a schoolhouse it was occupied as a dwell- 
ing by " Old Bunn," or Benjamin Benoni, who is spoken of in 
another chapter, and who seems to have lived in nearly all the 
deserted and tumble-down buildings of this date. The second 
schoolhouse built in South Easton was quite near the location 
of the present No. i schoolhouse, but not so far from the road. 
It was built in 1794 on land then owned by John Randall, and 
was superseded about 1821 by a brick schoolhouse built on 
about the same spot. Dr. Caleb Swan, September 13, 1821, 
sold a piece of land to enlarge the school lot, and Nathaniel 
Guild sold an additional piece for the same purpose in 1825. 
The tax for this new brick building was levied on the district 
in 1822. This schoolhouse stood until 1848, when the present 
building was erected. 

The third schoolhouse built in town appears to have been 
erected in 1783, in North Easton. A paper still preserved 
begins as follows : — 

" We the subscribers, Inhabitence of the Town of Easton, do each 
of us Volentarily agree to build a School House in our Rick, which 
was formerly called Samuel Randall's School Rick, and to build said 
house about fifteen feet squar, and to set said house near the corner 
where one Road leads to Mr. Ferguson's and the other Road to the 
Widow Stacey's," etc. 

They agreed " to go about building said house forthwith." 
This was February 8, 1783. The agreement was signed by 
William Manley, Isaac Stokes, John Mears, Solomon Randall, 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 



391 



and nine others. The place named was not far from the present 
site of Unity Church. The Widow Stacey lived where Simeon 
Randall now lives ; and the old road to George Ferguson's left 
the other road alluded to, now Main Street, south of where Can- 
ton Street intersects it, so that the corner alluded to could not 
have been far from Unity Church. This little schoolhouse, 
"fifteen feet squar," was perhaps too small in 1795, because, 
February 16 of that year, fourteen persons " belonging to the 
Middle School Rick in the north part of said Easton" agree to 
build a schoolhouse, and " to go on with the Building said house 
fourth with." Ephraim Randall, Capt. Elisha Harvey, Caleb 
Carr, Sr., and other familiar names are appended to this agree- 
ment. The house was to stand on its old site. It was not built 
at once, however, for two years afterward only the frame had 
been erected. Perhaps the old house was still in use. Some 
difference of opinion had developed as to the best place for the 
new house to stand, and in a meeting of the district, held Feb- 
ruary 17, 1797, it was "voted to move the school-house frame. 
Voted to have the frame at the corner by the button-wood tree." 
This was just in front of the house where Ziba Randall now 
lives. The "button-wood tree" has left successors on the same 
spot to testify of its former presence. Caleb Carr, now living 
(1886), remembers attending school in this little schoolhouse. In 
1808 the northwest district was divided ; and that part of it that 
was on the Bay road and on the west end of Lincoln Street was 
" set to the Randall district (so called)," now No. 7. This change 
excited much hard feeling. The Bay-road people and those near 
that road counted it a hardship to have their children go so far 
as the old schoolhouse at the north end of the village. After 
much discussion it was voted to move this building to the centre 
of the district. It was accordingly taken to Lincoln Street, and 
at first was carried to the middle of the plain on the south side of 
the road opposite Lincoln Spring ; but after considerable alter- 
cation it was moved to the side of the road near where Mr. 
Mahony now lives. Its location is still observable, and there 
are several persons now living who remember attending school 
there. It was finally purchased by Oliver Ames, was hauled 
by oxen to the hill-side where Lewis Smith lives, was let down 
the hill, the oxen holding it with ropes from above to prevent 



392 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



its sliding clown too fast, was then moved to the corner opposite 
the old Lockup on Pond Street, an addition made to it, when 
it was occupied as a tenement house by a Mr. Barlow, ■ — a very 
pious man, who charged Mr. Ames for handling more shovels 
in a given time than Mr. Ames had in that time manufactured. 
The third schoolhouse built in North Easton village stood at 
the lower part of the open space in front of the Cairn. It was 
built in 1 8 19, was subsequently moved to the place where it 
now stands, next east of Ripley's store, and has since been oc- 
cupied as a dwelling-house. A little above the old location of 
this schoolhouse a new building was erected in 1844, ^^ ^ cost 
of twelve hundred dollars, which is referred to in the elaborate 
school-report of the next year as "an honor to the district, and 
well worth the imitation and rivalship of other districts in town 
and out of town." How strange it would seem to-day to hear a 
small one-story schoolhouse thus spoken of! Some years after- 
ward the increasing population of the district made it necessary 
to provide more room, and it was voted to raise up this building, 
turn it around, and add a new story to it. The matter was 
left to the discretion of a committee, who added a furnace and 
" Boston desks," and who created much excitement by spending 
double the amount appropriated. Some of the tax-payers for 
a time refused to pay their assessments, one of them on the 
ground that they had voted to turn the schoolhouse around, and 
the committee turned it only half aronnd ! But all of them were 
soon grateful to the committee, who saw so much better than 
they what was needed, and were not afraid to take the responsi- 
bility of providing it. This two-story building was in use until 
1869. It was then moved next north of the shoe-factory close 
by, and became a tenement house. 

In 1868 work was begun on the three-story schoolhouse that 
now crowns the hill in the centre of the village, a conspicuous 
object for miles around. The Ames Company agreed to erect a 
large and well appointed building, provided the district would 
purchase the land and build the cellar, the Company paying 
their proportion of the same. This proposition was accepted 
by the district. The expense of the cellar was heavy, owing to 
the amount of blasting necessary to be done. The building 
was only partially completed, when by the close vote of one 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 393 



hundred and one to ninety-nine the district system was abol- 
ished, and it was no longer possible to make what had been 
District No. 7 the owner of the property. 

Here an interesting complication occurred. The law pro- 
vided that when the district system was discontinued in any 
town, that town should take possession of all the school property 
of the several districts which the districts might lawfully sell 
and convey. The property so taken was to be appraised, and 
a tax levied upon the whole town equal to the amount of said 
appraisal, and from the tax of each district was to be deducted 
the appraised value of its own school property. Two simple 
statements will show how the matter was arranged, so far as the 
gift of the new schoolhouse was concerned. 

1. It was no longer possible to fulfil the original purpose 
of presenting the schoolhouse to District No. 7, since there 
no longer was any such district. But the intent of that agree- 
ment was fully carried out by the Ames Company paying such 
a proportion of the assessment of the tax-payers of No. 7 as 
would cover their part of the cost of the new building above 
the underpinning. 

2. When the town assessment was made to pay the districts 
for the school property which the town had taken, it was found 
that the appraised value of the school property of No. 7 exceeded 
the tax due from No. 7 by $7,304. This amount would therefore 
have to be paid to No. 7 by the tax-payers in other parts of the 
town, unless some other arrangement was made. It was natural 
that those living in other parts of the town should feel it a burden 
to help pay for an expensive building at North Easton. Fore- 
seeing this, the Ames Company, August 21, 1869, volunteered 
to pay this amount, so that no one outside of No. 7 should pay 
anything towards the expense of the school property in North 
Easton village. The following is the text of the Ames Com- 
pany's proposition : — 

North Easton, August 21, 1869. 
To the Selectmen of the town of Easton : 

Gentlemen, — It being our desire that no portion of the cost of 
the new schoolhouse in District No. 7 should fall on any other part of 
the town, we hereby authorize you to remit the sum of seventy-three 
hundred and four dollars ($7,304) on the tax assessed on all persons 



394 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

residing in Easton outside of School District No. 7, said sum being the 
surplus which would otherwise come to District No. 7 over and above 
the tax assessed on said district, on account of the appropriations 
made by the town for schoolhouse purposes. 

Yours respectfully, 

Oliver Ames & Sons. 

For some reason, accountable only on the supposition that 
it was wholly misunderstood, this proposition was rejected at 
the town-meeting where it was first proposed. A subsequent 
meeting was held, when the Hon. Oliver Ames, in clear and 
forcible language, showed the town that they were simply refus- 
ing a gift of $7,304. When thus explained, the town decided 
by unanimous vote to accept the proposition. The double 
effect of the whole transaction was that no one outside of 
No. 7 was taxed to pay for the school property of this district, 
and no one in No. 7 was taxed to pay for school property out 
of this district. 

The fourth schoolhouse built in Easton was probably the one 
southwest of the Furnace Village, on the site afterward occupied 
by the "old brick schoolhouse," now destroyed. September 21, 
1790, James Perry deeded to the southwest "school rick" a 
quarter of an acre of land as a site for a schoolhouse. A small 
wooden building was put up and served for a schoolhouse until 
about 1820, when it was removed to the brook west of the old 
Nathaniel Perry place, where it served as a tack-mill and paint- 
shop, and then being moved again, became a shed or carriage- 
house, as elsewhere described. About 1820 four brick school- 
houses were erected in town, and one of them was on the site 
of the old one just described. This served as the schoolhouse 
for most of the children in the Furnace Village, then a part of 
District No. 5, which reached to the Norton and Mansfield line. 
School was discontinued in this building in 1869, and after re- 
maining unused for some years, this "old brick schoolhouse," 
as it was called, was torn down. 

The first schoolhouse in District No. 8 stood close to the pres- 
ent site of Augustus Bird's house, on the east side of Washington 
Street. It was probably built about 1793. This was the date of 
the erection of several of the schoolhouses in town, and their 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 395 



being built about the same time seems to be explained by the 
following vote in town-meeting, passed April i, 1793: — 

" Voted to appropriate eighty pounds of this Town's unappropri- 
ated property for the use of an English school in this Town the 
present year, and that each School Rick shall have the liberty to 
appropriate a part or the whole of their proportion of the said eighty 
pounds for building Schoolhouses as they shall agree." 

Several of the districts availed themselves of this privilege, and 
spent the money raised for keeping the school to help pay for their 
school buildings. This first little schoolhouse in District No. 8 
was used until 1822, when the brick schoolhouse was built a few 
rods north of Abijah Buck's house on the east side of Washing- 
ton Street. The yard in which it stood may yet be seen, as the 
stone wall that surrounded it is still standing. This school was 
open to scholars from that part of Stoughton near the town line 
in this section, and was supported in part by both towns. This 
arrangement, however, no longer exists. The present school- 
house at No. 8 was built in i860. 

June 6, 1793, Job Randall, "yeoman, for the consideration of 
six shillings paid by the inhabitants of the Westerly English 
School District in the Southeast Quarter of the town of Eas- 
ton," sold " a lot for a Schoolhouse lot," containing five rods of 
land. This was in what was afterward known as District No. 3. 
June 17 of the same year, fourteen residents of that district had 
begun a subscription paper and had raised about twenty-five 
pounds, or in the then value of money about eighty dollars, for 
the purpose of building a schoolhouse, " said House to be set on 
the land of Jobe Randall on the westerly side of the Rode, Near 
the North corner of the old Sixty-acre lot formerly belonging to 
Israel and Ephraim Randall." This location was a few rods 
south of the present schoolhouse and on the opposite side of 
the road. The schoolhouse was therefore built here in I793» 
about the same date as others in different parts of the town. 
The second and present schoolhouse of this district was built 
in 1845 on the site where it now stands, at a cost of five hundred 
dollars above the underpinning. 

About 1793 it was decided to build a schoolhouse in Poquan- 
ticut, a few rods north of the house of Thomas E. Williams. 



396 HISTORY OF EASTON. 



Work was begun, and the schoolhouse frame was hewed out, 
when a division arose. It was thought more convenient for the 
whole district to have the building located farther to the west. 
Accordingly the site just named was exchanged for one about 
a quarter of a mile westward. The timbers were carried there 
and the house built. But after thirty years the centre of popu- 
lation had somewhat changed, and it was determined to locate 
the house farther northwest. Land was bought October 6, 
1827, of Archippus Buck, and not long afterward the old school- 
house was moved across the fields to the new school lot. An 
addition of about ten feet was made to the building, and though 
in its last days it was in a dilapidated condition, it continued in 
use until 1871, when a new one was erected better suited to the 
needs and comfort of the scholars. The old one was purchased 
by Solomon Foster, and moved to the so-called Solomon Foster 
road, where it now serves as the dwellin:r-house of Cornelius 
Harvey. 

The Centre district, now No. 9, was different at first from 
what it is now. It extended farther west and not so far east, 
having its centre at Benjamin Pettingill's, now L. K. Wilbur's. 
It was however afterward changed so as to make the meeting- 
house the central location. The first schoolhouse in this district 
stood about two rods northeast of the present site of Charles 
Reed's barn. It was a small wooden building, and was probably 
erected about 1793. It stood until 18 18, when a brick school- 
house was built upon the same spot. The new building was 
thought to be a grand affair, as were probably the other brick 
schoolhouses built about the same time. It had a central aisle 
running lengthwise from the door to the teacher's desk ; on 
either side of this were several rows of desks, each row being a 
step higher than the one in front. The boys sat on one side, and 
the girls on the other, directly opposite each other, thus facili- 
tating the interchange of such facial expressions as school boys 
and girls from time immemorial have been happy to indulge in. 
The fireplace of olden times had given way to a stove, which 
occupied the centre, before whose red-hot sides the scholars 
roasted their cheeks, scorched their clothes, and burned the toes 
of their boots and shoes. The older scholars sat in the " back 
row " of desks, which were high enough to enable their occu- 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 



397 



pants to look out of the high windows, where the glances they 
stole at the outside world excited the envy of the small scholars, 
who considered it a rare treat to be occasionally allowed to visit 
"a big scholar" in a back seat. About 1845 this house was 
sadly out of repair, the floor being so decayed that there was 
danger of its falling through. The building was thoroughly 
repaired, and new desks provided, all facing the same way ; and 
with its new coat of paint inside, the house outshone its ancient 
glory. It continued in use for a score of years afterward. In 
1856, after several exciting district meetings, and some dissatis- 
faction with the town, the district built the schoolhouse now 
standing opposite the Evangelical church. 

It has already been stated that the arrangement and number- 
ing of the districts was different at different times. So late as 
1825 the north half of what is now District No. 10 was a sepa- 
rate district by itself, being known as No. ii. In 1803 $65.64 
was raised by taxation, and this with the lumber and labor fur- 
nished by the district was sufficient to build a small schoolhouse. 
It was situated at the junction of Lincoln Street and the Bay 
road, on the northeast corner, the small cleared space where it 
stood being still visible. In the summer the school was taught 
there for some time by a daughter of Ebenezer Kinsley, who 
lived a little north of this corner. In 1808, as previously stated, 
the Bay-road section of this district was united with No. 8 (now 
No. 7), and this school discontinued, though not without exciting 
much hard feeling. 

The limits of District No. 10 have varied at different times. 
At the time of the building of its first schoolhouse it extended 
south to the Furnace Village, and did not take in the north part 
of the Bay road. Its first schoolhouse was built in 1806, and 
was located on the east side of the road between the present 
houses of Charles E. and Thomas Keith. Like others built 
about that date, it was of wood, and very small. It remained 
at the above mentioned location until 1840, when the district 
bounds were made to extend farther north ; at which time it 
was moved to where the present schoolhouse now stands, and 
an addition made to it. There it remained for thirty years. In 
1869 an attempt was made to unite districts No. 6 and 10, and 
to have a schoolhouse near James Britton's house. But the plan 



398 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

was not carried out ; and in 1870, after the abolishing of the dis- 
trict system, the town voted to move the old schoolhouse from 
the Furnace Village to the school lot in No. 10. The old No. 10 
house was moved to Day Street in North Easton, where it is 
now used as a dwelling-house. The Furnace Village schoolhouse 
was moved to take its place, and still does service for the Bay- 
road scholars. 

The old District No. 4 was in the Williams neighborhood. It 
had no schoolhouse until 1828 ; previous to that time school 
had been usually kept in private houses when kept at all. In 
1827 there stood west of Daniel Wheaton's, and on the west 
side of the stream, a small house probably built by Joshua 
Williams. Daniel Wheaton then owned it, and he volunteered 
to present it to the district if the district would move it and fit 
it up for use as a schoolhouse without taxing him therefor. This 
they agreed to do. In the winter of 1827-28, this house was 
moved over the snow and set upon the east side of the Bay road, 
south of where Edward D. Williams's saw-mill now stands, but 
for nearly a year was not made into a schoolhouse. The first 
school was kept in it in 1829. This building was enlarged in 
1850, and continued in use twenty years longer, at which time 
school was discontinued there, as it was at No. 5, and the schol- 
ars sent to the school in Furnace Village. This old building 
was then purchased, moved to North Easton village, and located 
on Day Street, where it degenerated from a school of knowledge 
to a school of vice, having been used for years as an unlicensed 
groghouse. 

The district lately known as No. 11 was set off from No. 5, of 
which it had long formed a part, in 1846. Previous to this time 
most of the Furnace Village scholars had tramped out to the 
Four Corners to the brick schoolhouse, or in earlier days to 
its predecessor. After considerable contention the division was 
made, and a school for the village was held in Harmony Hall 
for a time. In 1869 a schoolhouse, then the largest in town, 
was erected, standing north of Lincoln Drake's house. March 
I, 1869, districts No. 4, 5, and ii were consolidated under the 
name of the Union District ; and during that year the two-story 
building now in use was built, and the scholars were graded into 
two schools, answering to primary and grammar grades, though 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 



399 



for some years High School studies were taught by competent 
teachers, and several scholars regularly graduated from it after 
completing substantially the same course of study as that pur- 
sued in the Easton High-School. 

SCHOOL FUNDS. 

In pecuniary means for educational purposes Easton probably 
ranks first among the towns of the State. By the will of the Hon. 
Oliver Ames, who died in 1877, the town was endowed with a 
bequest of fifty thousand dollars, the income of which is to be 
appropriated for the support of schools. In order that such a 
fund might not tempt the town to reduce its own appropriations 
for schools, the terms of the will provide that the bequest shall 
be forfeited unless the town shall every year appropriate for the 
support of schools an amount per scholar equal to the average 
amount per scholar appropriated for the preceding year by the 
towns of the State. The income of this fund is at present four 
thousand dollars annually- This with the regular appropriation 
enables the school-committee to hire teachers of exceptionable 
ability, to provide supplementary books and apparatus, and fur- 
nishes means for conducting the schools in the most efficient 
manner. The following is the text of Mr. Ames's bequest: — 

•' I give and bequeath, upon the conditions hereinafter set forth, to 
the town of Easton, to be held in trust as a permanent fund for the 
purposes herein named, $50,000 of the 'eight per cent sinking-fund 
bonds of the Union Pacific Railroad Company,' at their par value, the 
income of which shall be used for the support of the public schools of 
the town of Easton, as follows : Three fourths of said income shall be 
appropriated to the support of the common schools and High School 
kept in the schoolhouse built by Oliver Ames & Sons, in North 
Easton, or any schoolhouse built on the same site designed to accom- 
modate the scholars of School District No. 7 in North Easton, or High- 
School scholars ; and the other quarter of said income for the support 
of the other public schools of said Easton. Provided, however, that if 
said town of Easton shall in any year fail to raise by taxation, for 
the support of its public schools, an amount of money per scholar 
equal to the average amount per scholar raised by the several towns 
in the State of Massachusetts in the preceding year for the same pur- 
pose, or if the amount appropriated by said town from its money raised 



400 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



by taxation for the schools kept in said schoolhouse, or other build- 
ing on the same site, shall in any year be less per scholar than the 
average amount per scholar appropriated by said town from its money 
raised by taxation for the support of all its schools, then the said 
bonds, or other proceeds constituting said fund, shall revert to and 
become the property of my heirs-at-law, to be by them donated to some 
charitable purpose, one half of the amount to be given for the support 
of the above-named schools in North Easton." 

Eminent legal authority has decided that by the word "tov^^ns" 
in the bequest may be meant either towns exclusive or inclusive 
of cities, either definition being legally admissible. The execu- 
tors and school-committee have agreed upon the first definition, 
as this gives an appropriation adequate to the school needs of 
the town. The conditions named in the bequest have been 
found to be eminently wise and just. It became available in 
1878, and has been of very great benefit to the schools. 

Besides this, there is another fund of fifty thousand dollars be- 
queathed by the Hon. Oakes Ames. This bequest was written 
before the district system was abolished, and it was intended, 
and can only properly be used for, the benefit of the children of 
No. 7. The following is the text of the bequest : — 

"I give Fifty thousand dollars in seven per cent Railroad Bonds, 
the income of which shall be used for the support of schools in, and 
for the benefit of the children in, what is now School District No. 7, 
in North Easton." 

It will be observed that the income of this fund is not all 
necessarily applied to school purposes. It may be used tor 
whatever is " for the benefit of the children " of North Easton 
village, and it furnishes an opportunity of good which is deserv- 
ing of careful study. It has been used for various purposes 
hitherto. By means of it, illustrated and scientific lectures are 
given weekly through the winter months in Memorial Hall, in- 
tended more especially for the children, but open to all without 
admission fee. Magazines have been subscribed for and sent, 
one to each family of all North Easton scholars ; and one of the 
executors of this fund, Lieut.-Gov. Oliver Ames, in order that all 
the scholars of the town may have magazines, has sent them tor 
several years at his own expense to the school children of Easton 



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 401 



outside of No. 7. Besides lectures and magazines, supplemen- 
tary books have been furnished and apparatus has been bought, 
including the skeleton and manikin already spoken of. The 
teachers of industrial classes, including sewing for the girls and 
the use of wood-working tools for the boys, and latterly mechani- 
cal drawing, are paid by this fund. A Kindergarten school is 
also supported by it in North Easton. It opens a field of use- 
fulness which will be occupied as time goes on and the best way 
to use it becomes clear. 

There are now in Easton nineteen schools, including the High 
School, seven of these being mixed or district schools. Two, 
those at Furnace Village, are partially graded. The ten at 
North Easton village are thoroughly graded, and include four 
Primary, four Grammar, one High School, and also the Kinder- 
garten school just alluded to. There are about eight hundred 
children in town between five and fifteen years of age. Nearly 
nine hundred and fifty different scholars are annually enrolled 
upon the school registers, and nearly nine thousand dollars is 
annually appropriated for support of schools, besides an appro- 
priation for repairs. In attendance of scholars, Easton ranks 
considerably above the average of towns in the State. 

The liberal means applicable to educational purposes and for 
the benefit of the young in this place ought to make Easton, and 
particularly North Easton village, in some respects a children's 
paradise. Its exceptionally low taxes, its excellent public library, 
beautiful residences and grounds, together with the school ad- 
vantages already described, render it a desirable place for those 
who have children to educate. In 1886 the town, in order that 
nothing might be wanting to raise the schools to the highest 
point of efficiency, wisely voted to employ a superintendent. 
The committee appointed William C. Bates, who is also super- 
intendent for Canton, and our schools were never so well con- 
ducted as now. Mr. Bates is a graduate of Harvard College, and 
has had excellent success as a teacher in Hingham, Massachu- 
setts, and as a school superintendent in Canton and Walpole. 

THE PERKINS ACADEMY. 

There have been in Easton a few private schools, but none 
that require special notice. The Rev. Dr. Sheldon at one time 

26 



402 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



had such a school. Miss Sarah Barrows kept a private school 
for small scholars in North Easton village for some time, and 
was succeeded by Miss Alice Lynch. The private school best 
known, however, was the Perkins Academy. In 1844 Isaac 
Perkins, who had kept Day's Academy at VVrentham for many 
years, went to Easton Centre and opened a term of school in 
the Chapel. It was managed like the old-time academy. He 
had at one time about forty pupils, among whom was the 
Hon. Edward L. Pierce. A certain number of town pupils was 
guaranteed to Professor Perkins. The school was never in a 
very flourishing condition, and at the end of the first year the 
number of town pupils decreased and continued to do so until 
1847, when the Academy closed.^ 

1 These facts are kindly communicated by Miss M. E. Perkins, of East Walpole, 
Massachusetts, daughter of the above named principal of the Academy. 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 403 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 

Methodist Protestant Society. — Methodist Episcopal Move- 
ment ; Its Failure. — Division of the Washington Street 
Methodist Society. — Formation of the Main Street Metho- 
dist Episcopal Society ; Reuben Meader and others build a 
Meeting-House for it. — Lewis B. Bates and Successors. — 
Origin of Unity Church; C. C. Hussey, its first settled 
Minister ; He is succeeded by William L. Chaffin ; Hon. 
Oliver Ames builds a new Church and presents it to the 
Society. — The Church of the Immaculate Conception. — The 
Swedish Church. — The Adventists. — Denominational Statis- 
tics of Easton. — Statistics of Church-going. 

'"T^HE population of North Easton village steadily increased 
-1- after the building up of the shovel business in its midst. 
It seems, at first thought, surprising that no religious society 
should have sprung into existence here until more than fifty 
years after the old Baptist Society had disappeared. The 
reason for it was, that societies were already established in 
other parts of the town, and many of the North Easton village 
people had become connected with them. Some of them at- 
tended the Unitarian Society and some the Orthodox Society 
at the Centre, and many were in the habit of worshipping at 
the Methodist Church on Washington Street. But this con- 
dition of things became in time very inconvenient, and it was 
found necessary to establisTi societies in this village. 

THE METHODIST PROTESTANT SOCIETY. 

In 1843 there developed in the Washington Street Society 
much dissatisfaction with the form of government of the Metho- 
dist Episcopal Church. One cause of this dissatisfaction was 
the fact that several unsatisfactory ministers had been sent to 
this society, and some of its members believed that the laity 
ought to be represented in the Conference, thus giving them 



404 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

some influence in the selection of ministers and in the govern- 
ment of the Church. The most prominent man in the society, 
James Dickerman, Sr,, asked the privilege of having some 
Methodist Protestant preaching in their meeting-house at such 
an hour in the afternoon as would not interfere with the regular 
services. Much as he had done for this church his request 
was refused. Thereupon he withdrew from the society, and 
invited Methodist Protestant ministers to preach during pleas- 
ant weather in the grove behind his house. 

When the weather became unfavorable for open-air meetings, 
services were held at Torrey's Hall in the village. This hall 
stood just west of Ripley's store, and was destroyed many years 
ago by fire. During the winter of 1 843-1 844, services were 
conducted by the Rev. Mr. McLeish. He was a fluent, rhetori- 
cal speaker, and is described as having " a remarkable flow of 
words." Before coming here he was minister and doctor at the 
same time, and thus both preached and practised, which some 
ministers fail to do. But it was medicine rather than religion 
that he practised, for he went to California, fell into dissipated 
ways, and became a wretched drunkard. He was succeeded 
by the Rev. N. R. Parsons, an excellent preacher and a Chris- 
tian gentleman. The Rev. Thomas Latham was the next min- 
ister, his services beginning in 1845. 

The need of a church building was now felt, and it was 
thought that the erection of one would secure the permanent 
success of the society. Liberal aid was contributed by the 
village people, and work was at once begun. In the spring of 
1845 the corner-stone was laid with appropriate exercises. The 
Rev. Stephen Lovell, editor of the Boston " Olive Branch," 
preached the sermon, and a full band, composed of citizens of 
the place, furnished the music for the occasion. It was built at 
a cost of ^2,200. The Rev. Mr. Latham preached here for about 
two years. In 1847 the Rev. John M. Mills of the New York 
Conference, who had previously preached at Milford, New York, 
and Carver, Massachusetts, was minister here for a time. He 
soon ceased preaching, and took up the practice of medicine in 
town, and died here May 17, 187 1. A Rev. Mr. Shedd tried 
the experiment next, but with poor success. He was suc- 
ceeded by the Rev. Stephen Lovell, who gave general satisfac- 




NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 405 

tion. While he preached here there was trouble in the choir, 
— a not wholly unprecedented event in ordinary church life. 
On the Sunday following this trouble only one singer was in 
the gallery. Mr. Lovell rose, announced and read his hymn, 
closed the book and laid it upon the desk, saying, " When the 
choir is ready to sing, I shall be ready to preach, but not 
before." He then sat down with the air of one who meant to 
abide by his word. An awkward silence ensued, which every 
moment grew more oppressive. Finally Edwin Russell came 
down from the gallery, and beckoned to three young girls, one 
of them his daughter. They followed him to the gallery, and 
with this extemporized choir the hymn was sung. The oldest 
of these girls was but eleven years of age. Mr. Lovell paid 
them a well deserved compliment for their courage. He re- 
mained here until the summer of 1850, when the interest in the 
Protestant Methodist movement was found to be so feeble that 
it was abandoned, and services were discontinued. 

THE CENTRAL METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH. 

After the failure of the Methodist Protestant Society, the 
church in which it had worshipped was for a year or two seldom 
used. At last the people in the village, thinking it too far to 
go to Washington Street to church, took measures to have 
Methodist Episcopal services in the meeting-house now vacant. 
The Rev. A. B. Wheeler, then of North Bridgewater, a man of 
more ability as a preacher than integrity or at least ability as 
a financier, conducted services for about two years, long enough 
to get considerably in debt to some of his too confiding fel- 
low-worshippers. The latter used to meet him at annual Con- 
ferences, and were sometimics able by various species of pressure 
to extract from him small portions of the debts he owed them. 
After he left, a Rev. Mr. Harlowe supplied the pulpit for a few 
months ; but little is remembered of him, except that in making 
parish calls at certain dwellings on the Bay road he was ac- 
customed, when about to pray, to spread his handkerchief under 
his knees upon the floor, — a practice that did not put the 
housekeepers he visited in a very devotional mood. 

These two preachers did not serve to make the cause of 
Methodism prosper in the village, and most of those who had 



406 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

hoped to form a society here returned to the Washington Street 
church. Nothing further was done about forming a Methodist 
Society in North Easton village until 1859. This was the first 
year of the Rev. Lewis B. Bates's appointment for Easton. The 
village members of the Washington Street church, still dis- 
satisfied to go so far to attend services, began once more to 
agitate the question of having a preacher sent to them. Before 
the Conference of i860 assembled they quietly consulted 
together, and decided to send a committee to the Conference 
to say that if Mr. Bates could be returned to them and preach 
in the village, they would guarantee the payment of his salary. 
With this movement it soon appeared that Mr. Bates and the 
presiding elder were both in sympathy. But the Washington 
Street people, learning what was on foot, despatched a com- 
mittee of their own to ask that the preacher be returned to 
them, as before ; and they also guaranteed that he should be 
paid. The Conference made a compromise between the con- 
testing parties, and returned Mr. Bates with the understanding 
that he should preach half the time at one place, and half at 
the other. But this arrangement, like most compromises, had 
the effect of not being agreeable to either of the two parties 
for whom it was made. The question immediately arose as to 
the manner of dividing the ministerial service. The village 
people proposed that Mr. Bates should preach six months in 
one place and six months in the other. This plan was not 
accordant with the wishes of the rest, who preferred preaching 
half a day, each Sunday, at each place. A meeting was held 
immediately after service, on the first Sunday following the 
return of Mr. Bates to the old church, at which the question 
was discussed ; and as the village people had the majority in 
the Board of Stewards, they carried the day, and it was de- 
cided to hold the services six months in one place and six 
months in the other. It was then agreed by the stewards to 
canvass the town for subscriptions to support the preaching. 
South Easton agreed to raise twenty-six dollars ; North Easton 
village four hundred and thirty-three dollars, provided the ser- 
vices could be held six months continuously there, as voted. But 
the people on Washington Street objected " to the smallest sub- 
scription under the present arrangement for division of services," 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 407 

that arrangement being made in opposition to their wishes. 
Thereupon the presiding elder, who was in sympathy with the 
village people, without informing the other party of what he was 
about to do and thereby giving them an opportunity to explain 
their position, wrote to the Bishop concerning the result of the 
subscription. The Bishop at once ordered the removal of Mr. 
Bates to the village to preach there all the time. On the third 
Sunday after his return to the Washington Street church, Mr. 
Bates exchanged with a neighboring minister, who after the ser- 
vice read the letter of the presiding elder ordering the change 
aforesaid. This action came upon the Washington Street 
people with stunning effect. They were ignorant of what had 
been going on, and could therefore take no measures to prevent 
it. But the order of the Bishop must be obeyed, and those 
who were discontented were forced to submit. Mr. Bates 
henceforth preached at the village ; but though a popular man 
and a good preacher, he did not succeed in drawing after him 
the Washington Street people, who determined to sustain wor- 
ship and keep their own church alive. They accordingly ob- 
tained supplies for the rest of the year, — among the ministers 
preaching for them being Mr. Winchester and Mr. Spilsted. 

At first both parties claimed to be the old church, and to have 
a right to its property, under which claim the village portion of 
the society removed some of the church property. But the 
Washington Street party continued the old organization, elected 
new officers, and went on as before. At the Conference of 1861, 
the Rev. Franklin Gavitt was appointed to the old church and 
the Rev. W. V. Morrison was appointed for the village ; and 
Mr. Morrison was informed by the bishop that if the village 
people wished to go on with preaching, it would be necessary 
for them to form a new church organization. Disliking to 
relinquish their claim to be the old church, the village people 
for a while declined to receive Mr. Morrison. Their objections 
to this they finally withdrew, however, and the organization of 
a new church was completed by Mr. Morrison. At the Quar- 
terly Conference at North Easton, August 31, 1861, he reported 
as follows: "I have completed the work of organizing the church 
on the plan proposed by the Bishop." It was called the North 
Easton village Church. In 1872, at a Providence Conference, 



4o8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

the name was changed to the Main Street Church. Two years 
before that, the name of the old society had been changed to 
the Washington Street Church. 

After the division under Mr. Bates, the village people wor- 
shipped in Ripley's Hall until 1864, when Messrs. Reuben 
Meader, Joel Randall, and others built the Main Street church, 
now owned and occupied by the Swedish Society. It was dedi- 
cated July 8, 1864, and was occupied by the Methodist Society 
for twelve years. In 1875 the Unitarian Society began to wor- 
ship in the new church built and presented to them by Oliver 
Ames, and in 1876 Mr. Ames made a present of the meeting- 
house vacated by that society to the Methodist Society, on 
condition that they would move it and fit it up without running 
into debt by so doing. This condition they gladly complied 
with ; and in November the house was moved to its present 
convenient location, where it was reopened December 28, the 
sermon being preached by the Rev. L. B. Bates. The name 
of the church was changed after occupying this building, and 
it is now known as the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. 
The ministers of this society since its organization have been 
as follows: the Rev. Lewis B. Bates in i860, one year; the 
Rev. William V. Morrison in 1861, one year; the Rev. Charles 
Hammond, the Rev. C. C. Adams, the Rev. F. A. Loomis, each 
serving a year. In 1865 the Rev. Edward Edson came, and in 
1867 the Rev. J. B. Husted, each serving two years. In 1869 
the Rev. George H. Bates was appointed, and stayed three 
years. He was followed in turn by the Rev. J. H. Humphrey, 
the Rev. Charles W. Dreese, the Rev. Joseph Hammond, the 
Rev. John Faville, the Rev. John Jones, and the Rev. W, J. 
Hodges, each serving a year. From October 11, 1878, until 
April 21, 1879, the Rev. J. S. Davis acted as a supply. At this 
time, as noticed in a previous chapter, it was thought best to 
unite with the Washington Street Church under the ministry 
of the same preacher. The Rev. S. E. Evans was the first 
preacher under this arrangement. The Rev. William Kirkby 
followed him in 1880 and remained two years, as also did the 
Rev. J. S. Thomas, who came in 1882. The present pastor, the 
Rev. Merrick Ransom, was appointed in 1884, and still remains 
pastor, but of the village church alone. 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 409 



THE UNITARIAN SOCIETY : UNITY CHURCH. 

It has already been shown that an attempt was made prior to 
1855 to establish a Methodist Protestant Society, and also a 
Methodist Episcopal Society, in North Easton village, and that 
both attempts failed. The church building erected for the 
former society was now unoccupied, and the field was open. 
Accordingly it was agreed by numbers of the village people that 
they would hear candidates from several denominations; and that 
when these had been heard, those interested should take a vote 
and sustain the kind of preaching desired by the majority. 
They further agreed to support such preaching for a year, the 
minority setting aside all personal preferences so far as possible. 
This was certainly a democratic method of establishing religious 
worship. After hearing several preachers a meeting was held, 
and a vote was taken, first, upon a Rev. Mr. Farnum, Orthodox, 
who failed to have a majority. A vote for Methodist preaching 
shared the same fate. A. A. Gilmore then moved that inasmuch 
as the Rev. Mr. Farnum had had the largest number of votes, 
they should agree to ask him to preach for a year. The motion 
prevailed. But it is easier voting to spend money than it is to 
raise it ; and a subscription paper proved to be a touchstone, 
which showed that while the people were not unwilling to 
listen to uncongenial preaching, they were not quite ready to 
pay for it. 

A sufficient amount could not be raised to pay for Mr. 
Farnum's services, and this plan was therefore abandoned. 
John H. Swain then said to Oliver Ames, Sr., " Why can we not 
have Unitarian preaching ? How much will you give towards 
it .'' " Mr. Ames, who had been giving a hundred dollars a year 
to assist in carrying on worship in the village church, responded, 
"I will give three hundred dollars." This was the beginning of 
the movement that resulted in the formation of the North Easton 
Unitarian Society, now known as Unity Church. A subscrip- 
tion paper was passed about, and a sufficient sum was guaran- 
teed to support Unitarian preaching, which from that time to 
the present has continued without interruption. This was in 
the autumn of 1855. The first Unitarian preacher who offi- 
ciated under this arrangement was the Rev. Charles Brooks. 



4IO 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



He supplied the pulpit for about a year. The Rev. Joseph 
Angier preached nearly a year; and for the rest of the time 
previous to i860 the pulpit was occupied by transient supplies, 
during which time many of the most gifted Unitarian ministers 
brought their choicest intellectual and spiritual treasures to the 
worshippers who gathered in the little church from week to 
week. As many as eighty different preachers were heard in 
this way. Among others, the Rev. Charles Briggs was a fre- 
quent and welcome supply. 

But it was evident that this method of pulpit supply was not 
for the best interest of the people, and an attempt was made to 
settle some one permanently as minister. The result of this at- 
tempt was the engagement, in i860, of Christopher C. Hussey as 
pastor. There being then no society organization, Mr. Hussey 's 
call was made by a unanimous vote of the congregation taken 
on Sunday, He was installed by services in which the Rev. 
James Freeman Clarke preached the sermon, and the Rev. 
Messrs. Withington of Easton, Brigham of Taunton, and Water- 
ston of Boston took part. 

Mr. Hussey was born June 19, 1820, on the island of Nan- 
tucket, and was of Quaker ancestry through several generations. 
He was descended from Christopher Hussey, who came from 
Dorking in Surrey, England, in 1632. He began his public 
life as a minister among the Quakers, but afterward became 
a Unitarian. His ministry at North Easton was successful. 
One especial feature of it was the inauguration of the Vesper 
Service, which, being then a novelty, attracted many from 
Easton and the surrounding towns. In 1866 he removed to 
Billerica, Massachusetts, where he became pastor of the First 
Parish, a position he still holds. In 1874, under the adminis- 
tration of his parishioner Governor Talbot, he was made a 
member of the State Board of Education, serving a term of 
eight years. April 16, 1843, Mr. Hussey married Lydia C, 
daughter of William B. and Deborah Coffin of Nantucket. 

After Mr. Hussey's departure the North Easton Unitarian 
Society was without a pastor for nearly two years, when it ex- 
tended a call to William L. Chaffin. Mr. Chaffin was the son 
of William Farwell and Louisa (Shattuck) Chaffin, and was 
born in Oxford, Maine, August 16, 1837, but early removed to 



i« 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 411 

Concord, New Hampshire. He graduated at the Meadville 
(Pennsylvania) Theological School in 1 861, married August 12, 
1862, Rebecca Huidekoper, daughter of Michael Hodge and 
Margaret (Hazlett) Bagley, of Meadville. He was pastor for 
about three years and a half of a Unitarian Society in Phila- 
delphia. His engagement at North Easton began January i, 
1868, and he still continues the minister of the Unitarian 
Society in that place. 

In 1874 the Hon. Oliver Ames, the second of that name, be- 
gan the erection of a new and beautiful church for this society. 
It is located on the gentle slope just north of where Mr. Ames 
himself lived, is Gothic in design, cruciform in shape, has a 
chapel connected with it which is used for the Sunday-school, 
and has rooms for social purposes below the auditorium. Its 
walls are of the native sienite from the quarry west of the 
schoolhouse, much of the stone having a warm pinkish hue. 
The rear walls are mainly built of the hard, dark trap-rock 
taken from a wide dike a few rods southwest of the same 
quarry. The trimmings came from Randolph. The spire is 
built of bluish sienite from a quarry in Storey's Swamp, west 
of Long Pond, and is surmounted by a large stone cross. The 
beautifully finished wood-work of the interior of the church 
is of black walnut, and of the Sunday-school room it is of 
cherry. The organ and choir are at the right of the pulpit as 
one faces it. 

The window at the right, in the east transept, — a large and 
beautiful one designed by John A. Mitchell, the architect of the 
church, — is in memory of the Hon. Oakes Ames. This window 
is in three vertical sections. The central and main section has in 
it a representation of the archangel Michael at the moment of his 
victory over Satan. The side sections are composed of geomet- 
rical figures, which both in form and coloring produce an excel- 
lent effect. The window opposite, in the west transept, which 
is most exquisite in its design and workmanship, is in memory 
of Helen Angier Ames, There are three figures in the lower 
part of the window. The central one is standing, and represents 
the angel of Help. The other two figures are seated ; the one at 
the right of the central figure personating Want, and that at 
the left, Sorrow. To both of these the angel of Help is kindly 



412 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

ministering. Above these figures angels are pointing to a beauti- 
ful urn, upon which are inscribed the words " In Memoriam." 
No words can fittingly describe the graceful symmetry of form 
and grouping, and the richness and harmony of color in this 
window. It is the work of Lafarge, and is regarded as his 
masterpiece. 

A large white marble tablet in the transept at the left, near 
the window, perpetuates the memory of the founder of the 
Society, the first Oliver Ames, and was placed there by his 
son, the builder of the church. After the death of the latter, 
a marble bust with a large and exquisite tablet of Mexican 
onyx, appropriately inscribed, was placed by his family near 
the memorial just named, and it will not cease to remind the 
worshippers who gather there of their generous benefactor. 
The church was dedicated August 26, 1875, the Rev. Rush R. 
Shippen, then Secretary of the American Unitarian Associa- 
tion, preaching the sermon. The Revs. C. H. Brigham, Joseph 
Osgood, John Snyder, and the pastor also took part in the 
exercises. At the following annual meeting in January, 1876, 
Mr. Ames presented the church to the society, — a generous 
gift, costing not far from one hundred thousand dollars. At 
the same meeting the society, which though its existence dates 
from 1855 was not organized until the beginning of the min- 
istry of the present pastor, assumed the name of Unity Church. 
By his will, Mr. Ames bequeathed money for the erection of a 
parsonage, which was completed in 1878. It is built of stone, 
and of a style to harmonize with the church. He left a sum of 
money sufficient to keep the church and parsonage in repair. 
The accompanying picture will give the reader some idea of 
the beauty of the church and its surroundings. 

The Sunday-school of this society was organized in 1856 under 
the Rev. Charles Brooks. Its first superintendent was Joseph 
Barrows. William Higginbottom was chosen for that office in 
1865, and served with great constancy and fidelity for twenty 
years. He then resigned, respected and beloved by all who^ 
knew him. John H. Swain was appointed his successor. The 
library of this Sunday-school has been selected, and is managed, 
with great care. It contains over fifteen hundred books, and has 
a printed catalogue. 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 413 



THE CHURCH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. 

In 1840 there were only a few Roman Catholics in Easton. 
The first audience that gathered numbered fifteen. The first 
Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Father Riley, an American 
convert. Services were held for a time in private houses ; but 
soon the dining-room of the "Boarding-House" owned by the 
Ames Company was ofiered and used for services, which how- 
ever were only occasionally held, as the missions were large and 
the priests few. This boarding-house stood where the coal pile 
for the shovel works is now located. Its dining-room was spa- 
cious enough for a good audience, so that it was sometimes 
occupied for lyceum meetings and lectures. In 1849 the 
audience of Roman Catholics had increased to forty-five; in 
1852 it was one hundred and fifty; in i860 it numbered four 
hundred; and at this date (1886) the Roman Catholic Church 
in Easton embraces within its fold nearly fourteen hundred 
members, including children. 

Among the earliest officiating priests, besides Father Riley, 
were the Rev. John O'Beirn and the Rev. Richard A. Wilson. 
They are all dead, — the first dying in Providence, the second in 
Boston, and the last in Cuba, whither he had gone for his health. 
About 1848 the Rev. Thomas Fitzsimmons had charge. The 
audience was fast increasing, and it became necessary to provide 
better accommodations for holding services. In 1850 the Ames 
Company gave the Roman Catholics a piece of land near the 
Shovel-shop Pond, and work was begun upon a chapel. It was 
completed and occupied in 185 1 under the direction of Father 
Fitzsimmons. He continued in charge of the church for about 
five years from the time of his first coming here, and was fol- 
lowed by the Rev. A. F. Roach, who stayed three or four years. 
In 1856 the Rev. T. B. McNulty, of North Bridgewater, took 
possession, and was in charge for fourteen years. They were 
years of rapid increase in the Roman Catholic population. 
Father McNulty put an addition to the chapel, bought the lot 
and established the Roman Catholic cemetery, and in 1864 
bought a lot on Main Street and began the erection of the 
church which was finished and occupied in 1865. His labors 
closed here in 1870. In January, 1871, the Rev. Francis A. 



414 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Quinn was sent to take charge of the church, and he was the 
first parish priest of Easton. He purchased the homestead 
place of Elbridge G. Morse, had the house remodelled, and 
occupied it as a parsonage. Father Quinn, in 1872, caused 
the church to be thoroughly remodelled and decorated at con- 
siderable expense. He was here until the beginning of 1873, 
being subsequently stationed at Fall River and elsewhere, but 
finally dying in France, whither he went for the benefit of his 
health. Father Quinn's successor in Easton was the Rev. 
Michael Fitzgerald, who came in January, 1873, and remained 
until June. Though here for only a short time he gained the 
respect of all who knew him, as also the sincere affection of 
his own people. He was followed by the Rev. Thomas F. 
Carroll, who held the office until October 25, 1882, when he 
was succeeded by the present priest, the Rev. William J. 
McComb, who took charge November i of the same year. 

From 1840 to 1850 Mass was held in Easton but once in 
three months. From 1850 to i860 it was conducted every 
second Sunday ; and from that day to this it has been held 
every Sunday. There are several services on Sunday in this 
church, all of which are very fully attended. There is an early 
Mass at eight o'clock, which is followed by instruction to the 
children at nine o'clock. At half-past ten the principal Mass 
is held; and in the afternoon is the Sunday-school, which is 
followed by Vespers, — making Sunday a day of hard work for 
the officiating priest. There are also many occasional services 
in celebration of holy days and festivals. 

THE SWEDISH EVANGELICAL EBED MELECH CHURCH. 

There is a steadily increasing Swedish population in Easton, 
and they make a welcome addition to our inhabitants. In 1880 
their number was one hundred, but it is considerably more now. 
Until recently there was no Swedish church nearer than Brock- 
ton, but on the 29th of December, 1883, a meeting was held for 
the organization of a church in North Easton village. John 
Rhoden was chosen president; Augustus Anderson, vice-presi- 
dent; C. A. Larson, secretary; A. B. Anderson, Charles Sand- 
gren, Andrew Anderson, Charles Dahlborg, and William Borg, 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 415 

trustees ; and Charles Dahlborg was made treasurer. This 
church is regularly incorporated according to the laws of the 
State. January 16, 1884, they bought the Main Street meeting- 
house, once occupied by the Methodist Society, paying for it 
fourteen hundred and fifty dollars, being helped by liberal sub- 
scriptions from North Easton people. The Swedish church 
called the Rev. Axel Mellander to their service as minister, 
and he came here to reside September i, 1884. The Rev. Mr. 
Mellander left on account of ill health in April, 1886, and was 
succeeded by the Rev. Emil Holmblad, who came to Easton 
May 15. He preaches to this church every other Sunday, and 
on two Wednesdays of each month. 



THE ADVENTISTS. 

For the last fifteen years a small but earnest and faithful 
band of Adventists have held meetings with more or less fre- 
quency in North Easton village. Adventist meetings were 
held at an earlier time on the Bay road ; but regular meetings 
began to be held about 1871 in the ante-room of Ripley's Hall, 
where they continued for six or seven months. In 1873 ser- 
vices were conducted in Good Templars Hall for a little over 
a year. Since that time they have been occasionally held in 
private houses and in the ante-room above mentioned. About 
fifteen or twenty different preachers have at various times 
officiated here. The Adventists are feeble in numbers but 
strong in faith, and some of them set examples of a good life 
which their critics might profitably imitate. 



RELIGIOUS STATISTICS OF EASTON. 

Care was taken during the collecting of the census statistics 
of May, 1885, to ascertain the denominational connections of the 
families of Easton. The results, which are given below, are not 
a part of the authorized State census, but they have been care- 
fully gathered by our accurate census-taker, and may be trusted 
as approximately correct. The statistics are of families, and are 
as follows : — 



4l6 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Number of Roman Catholic famjlies . 274 

,, „ Orthodox Congregational families 103 

„ „ Unitarian 96 

„ „ Methodist 77 

„ „ Swedish ^ 42 

,, „ Adventist 6 

„ „ Non-Churchgoing* 302 

Total number of families May I, 1885 900 

STATISTICS OF CHURCH ATTENDANCE. 

In the statistics just given most readers will be surprised at 
the large proportion of non-churchgoing families among the 
Protestant^ portion of our population. The Roman Catholics 
are nearly all church-goers ; they are therefore not included in 
the following estimates. In May, 1885, there were 626 Protes- 
tant families in Easton. Of these, 302 families were non-church- 
goers. This is forty-eight per cent of the entire Protestant 
population. If we deduct from the total 626 the 42 Swedish 
families, we have a total of 584 native American families. Our 
statistics show that over half of the latter, or nearly fifty-two 
per cent, are non-churchgoers, are connected with no religious 
society, and seldom if ever attend church. 

Even these figures do not give us the full proportion of non- 
churchgoers, because many of the families classed as church- 
going are inconstant in their attendance upon worship, and 
some of their members never attend. A careful canvass made 
some years ago throughout the southern half of the town 
elicited the fact that only about one third of the people in that 
section were in the habit of attending public worship. The 
proportion of church-goers among the Protestants is larger in 
North Easton village than it is elsewhere in town. A careful 

1 Part of the Swedish families are Lutherans, and part are members of the two 
branches of the Swedish Evangelical church, — the progressive and the conservative. 
At least one of the families is Unitarian, and a few should be classed among non- 
churchgoers. 

^ Including some Spiritualists. Many church-goers, however, believe in occa- 
sional spiritual communications from departed friends, and they are not the less 
Orthodox, Unitarian, or Methodist on that account. 

3 Many families are Protestants only in the negative sense of not being Roman 
Catholics. They are not Protestants in any positive religious or even denomina- 
tional sense. 



NORTH EASTON VILLAGE CHURCHES. 417 

canvass which the writer, assisted by one of the town-assessors, 
made of this village in 1878 resulted in finding 421 families, — 
of whom there were 242 Roman Catholic, 68 church-going Uni- 
tarians, 34 church-going Methodist, 7 Second Adventists, and 
70 non-churchgoing families. (These figures do not include 
the Swedish families.) Just about forty per cent of the Prot- 
estant families were non-churchgoing. But in the so-called 
church-going families of North Easton village there are indi- 
viduals who never attend church, and there are others who 
attend so seldom that it is a stretch of courtesy and truth to 
call them church-goers. Still, the attendance is proportionately 
larger in this village than elsewhere in Easton, mainly perhaps 
because the churches are in the centre of population, which is 
not true of other parts of the town. A church at South Easton 
village and another at the Furnace Village, instead of one at the 
Centre answering for both places, would probably increase the 
church attendance for the southeastern and southwestern parts 
of the town. The disadvantage, however, of having that church 
so far from the two villages where so many of the worshippers 
dwell is in part compensated for by having a separate Sunday- 
school and special meetings in each of those places. 

It appears from what has now been stated that fully fifty per 
cent of the American Protestant families of Easton are non- 
churchgoers;^ and the proportion of individuals in town who do 
not attend worship is even larger. It is probable, however, that 
in this regard Easton is neither worse nor better than are New 
England towns generally. 

Many reasons besides irreligion combine to produce this state 
of things, for some of those who neither attend nor help to sup- 
port worship are persons of good character and honorable con- 
duct. Among the explanations offered for non-churchgoing 
are the following: (i) The expense of hiring a pew and sup- 
porting the church ; (2) The trouble and difficulty of going the 
long distance sometimes required; (3) The entertaining reading 
available at home, especially the Sunday newspaper ; (4) Some 
of the poor cannot dress as well as others, and do not have the 
courage to let their poverty thus appear; (5) The hard-working 

1 It is to be noted, however, that some of the children of these families attend 
Sunday-school ; and but for this they would have no definite religious instruction. 

27 



4l8 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

claim that they need to stay at home and rest ; (6) The natural 
reaction against the strictness of former Sabbath observance 
has not spent its force ; (7) Some persons declare that churches 
are nurseries of sectarianism, and that the ministers are too 
dogmatic and unpractical in their preaching. 

Undoubtedly churches might do much to make themselves 
more worthy of support. They might encourage a more social 
and democratic spirit, be more solicitous to do good, might preach 
a more rational and practical faith. But instead of standing 
aloof from them until such a high ideal is reached, vi^hy do not 
non-churchgoers do what they can by attendance and otherwise 
to hold the churches to this ideal ? Much more money is usually 
expended for superfiuities than is needed to support the church ; 
one may read and rest sufficiently and attend church besides ; 
the benefit of having the Christian faith in God, duty, immor- 
tality, and the high ideals of Christian disposition and conduct 
presented as they are done in the Sunday worship is incalcu- 
lable ; and it will be found that in New England towns a fairly 
even ratio exists between the morality and true prosperity and 
the church-going habits of their inhabitants. Churches could 
not die out of any community without causing a drift towards 
lower ideals, conduct, and character, and a consequent increase 
of immorality and crime. This fact, evident enough to those 
who have studied its practical illustrations, proves that it is 
the duty of all to help maintain churches and make them effi- 
cient instruments in benevolent, social, intellectual, moral, and 
relisiious work. 



SHADOWS. 419 



CHAPTER XXV. 

SHADOWS. 

Rough Life in the early Pioneer Days. — A notorious Gang of 
Thieves ; George White the Leader. — The Bank Robber. — 
Slavery. — Intemperance. — Pauperism. 

NO picture is perfect without shadows or contrasts. It is 
not, however, for artistic reasons that the writer has in- 
troduced them into his picture of Easton Hfe of the last two 
centuries ; it is for the sake of correct impression. It would 
be pleasanter as well as more gratifying to town pride to omit 
all reference to the darker side of the subject ; but this would 
not conduce to the only end we have kept in view, — the pro- 
duction of an accurate historical sketch. These shadows wilb 
however, be drawn in such a manner as neither to offend 
against a reasonable sense of propriety, nor to bring shame 
upon the living. 

ROUGH LIFE IN THE EARLIER DAYS. 

It is a mistake to regard the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth 
as the true type of the early settlers of all our New England 
towns. There is plenty of evidence accessible to show that 
there was in the early history of many of these towns consider- 
able of that rough life which is a usual accompaniment of new 
settlements ; this at least was true of Easton. There was little 
opportunity then to enjoy the innocent diversions and varying 
interests that are so abundant now. Intellectual cultivation 
was comparatively low ; for the first twenty-five years after its 
settlement, as we have seen, the town did almost nothing 
for the maintenance of schools. There were at first no news- 
papers and few books ; and the demand for recreation must 
sometimes, in the absence of better things, have led to evil in- 
dulgences. This will partly account for the greater intemper- 



420 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

ance in those days among our native-born inhabitants as 
compared with this time, — a subject that will be treated fur- 
ther on. It may account also for the apparently more frequent 
misdemeanors and sins in the relations of the sexes; for the 
court records of Taunton and the cases of church discipline 
seem to show that there was a larger proportion of such immo- 
ralities in those early times in our town than at present. Sev- 
eral of our early settlers, although men of prominence, were 
exceedingly lawless characters ; and both men and women were 
exposed in the stocks, and were fined, and condemned "to 
receive ten [or twenty] stripes upon the naked back, well laid 
on," for these sins against purity and virtue. The town stocks 
were several times repaired, or new stocks provided ; and they 
must have had considerable use. It is not desirable to go into 
more specific statement of this matter ; but the writer is of the 
opinion, as the result of his investigations, that in this regard 
the sentiment and practice of the present time is superior to 
that of the last century in the town of Easton. At the same 
time, it may be true that there were not then so many means 
of concealment ; conduct was under more rigid inspection ; mis- 
demeanors were more ruthlessly exposed and rigorously dealt 
with. And it should be added also that great caution is needed 
in instituting comparisons of this kind, since we are very prone 
to make confident generalizations from too few facts. 

Cases sometimes occurred that are amusing to read of now, 
though they caused much trouble at the time. For instance, 
January 2, 1769, George Ferguson lost a " bever Hatt " worth 
twenty shillings, which was found and apparently kept by Nathan 
Woodward. Mr. Ferguson took the case to Esquire Daniel 
Williams, who fined Woodward twenty-five shillings. The latter 
appealed, and the Superior Court sustained the appeal ; and Mr. 
Ferguson had a bill of costs to pay after two court trials, all 
about a hat ! 

Isaac Lothrop in 1778 lost "a fat red steer & reddish white 
ox," which George Howard of Bridgewater found and sold, 
" well knowing that the said ox and steer belonged to the said 
Isaac, yet minding to defraud the said Isaac of his said ox & 
steer," etc. The case on the first trial went against Howard, 
who appealed to the Superior Court. 



SHADOWS. 421 



Israel Woodward, about the time he became a citizen of 
Easton, was arrested, with his brothers Caleb and David and 
others, for travelling on the Sabbath day. The indictment 
however was quashed. Woodward was a Quaker, and on that 
ground refused to qualify himself for the office of constable, 
— for which he was fined five pounds and costs. Elsewhere in 
this History some account is given of the case of John Austin, 
who in 1738 was sentenced by Esquire Edward Hayward to 
pay a fine of ten shillings "for prophaine cursing, for the use 
of the poor of the town of Easton," 

Jacob Leonard accused another citizen of detaining Leonard's 
" sorrel white-faced gelding horse with a light-colored tail and 
mane, at a place called Willis's shed in Easton." The plaintiff 
sued for one hundred dollars. The case went from court to 
court, and finally Mr. Leonard received one cent damages ! 

These are samples of cases that were constantly occurring. 
There were many suits for assault and battery, for thefts, for 
slander, and other offences ; and when allowance is made for the 
much fewer inhabitants in Easton a century ago, one cannot 
resist the impression that there is a smaller proportion of such 
offences now than there were then. Persons were more ready, 
fifty and a hundred years ago than now, to resort to the law for 
the settlement of differences and quarrels. This is evidently 
true concerning cases of a civil character. There was a sur- 
prising number of lawsuits growing out of uncertain boundaries, 
trespass, and business troubles of every kind. There seemed to 
be a decided appetite for litigation on the part of certain persons 
whose names are constantly seen in these court cases. Law- 
suits were fought with extraordinary stubbornness, and hundreds 
of dollars were sometimes spent merely to postpone yielding a 
point whose final surrender was inevitable. It was truly a mil- 
lennium for the lawyers. In the year 1800 the total population 
of Easton was fifteen hundred and fifty, but the lawsuits for the 
preceding year numbered thirty-five, and in 1798 they num- 
bered thirty-four. This was in the Bristol County courts alone, 
and probably does not represent the whole number actually 
engaged in. 

The practice of imprisonment for debt was in full force in the 
last century, and in the earlier part of the present ; and there 



422 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

are numerous instances in which payment was forced from un- 
willing and impecunious debtors by lodging them in jail until 
their debts were paid, payment sometimes being thus extorted 
from the unfortunate at a great sacrifice to them. 

The unpleasant story of Easton church quarrels has been told 
in other chapters, and it is hardly possible to understand the in- 
tensity of passion and animosity that divided the opposing par- 
ties in the long contention beginning about 1750, which gave 
rise to slander, recrimination, to excited church councils, court 
trials, legislative hearings, social, and even domestic strife. Be- 
ginning with the Rev. Matthew Short, there were during the 
first century after the incorporation of Easton seven ministers 
of the parish church, and all but two of these were obliged to 
extort their salaries from the town by legal process ; and these 
two, Mr. Short and Mr. Reed, were patient enough to endure 
long and embarrassing delays. Several others who preached 
as temporary supplies had a similar experience with the town. 
These facts seem to disprove the commonly made assertion, at 
least so far as Easton is concerned, that the clergy were once 
regarded with special reverence. It must be confessed, however, 
that some of them did not deserve to be so regarded. True 
ministers may well be thankful that they are now judged as 
other men are, not by some artificial standard of official respect, 
but solely on their personal merits and their fidelity to their 
chosen calling. 

The following action of the town which was taken in town- 
meeting in 1810, is a plain indication of the existence of con- 
siderable vagabondism here early in this century : — 

"Voted that the selectmen post up all persons who are likely to be- 
come chargeable to the town by means of idleness and excessive 
drinking, headed Vagabond List." 

This list was exhibited at stores and other conspicuous places. 
Mr. Simpson remembers being in Elijah Howard's store when a 
man whose name was thus posted entered, and tried to buy some 
liquor. " See there ! " thundered Mr. Howard, as he pointed to 
the Vagabond List where the man's name appeared ; and he 
slunk away in shame. Store-keepers and retailers of liquor 
were forbidden to sell to such persons. 



SHADOWS. 



423 



At the date referred to, the town also "Voted that the select- 
men commit Idle Vagabond persons to the house of Correction, 
there to be detained and imployed till they pay all charges which 
have been made to the town on acount of their Idleness and 
imprudent conduct." It was also "Voted that those persons 
going to gaol for debt and making expense for the town should 
be excluded from the pauper list." 

CRIMES AND PENALTIES. 

The fact has already been explained that Easton did not 
have a very enviable reputation among her neighbors during 
the latter part of the last century. One thing that contributed 
to this result was the existence here, about 1800, of an organ- 
ized gang of thieves. They were mainly located in the west 
part of the town, and carried on their nefarious business by 
wholesale. The names of about a dozen of them and of some 
of their confederates are known, but these names, with one ex- 
ception, are for obvious reasons not given here. This gang is 
reported by tradition to have been one link in a chain of evil 
conspirators reaching to Canada ; they are represented also as 
a band of horse-thieves. The writer's acquaintance with their 
doings has been made chiefly through the court records at 
Taunton, this thieving organization having been unearthed in 
1803, and its members arrested, tried, and sentenced. In those 
trials there is no case of horse-thieving reported ; but as these 
criminals stole nearly all other kinds of merchandise, they are 
not likely to have made an exception of horses ; in fact there 
are authentic traditions of their horse-thieving. 

East of the Bay road, in the then thick woods not far south of 
the Stoughton line, this gang is said to have had a secret ex- 
cavation, or cellar, far enough from the road to prevent risk of 
discovery by persons travelling past; and in this place of con- 
cealment there were once found seven stolen horses. The 
thieves were well organized, and carried on their work so 
shrewdly as to secure a vast amount of booty before they were 
finally brought to punishment. They had skilful means of con- 
cealing stolen goods. At one place was a house the cellar of 
which is said to have been so arranged as to enable one to 



424 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

drive a horse and wagon into it, so that if pursued a team might 
suddenly disappear. 

Some distance southwest of the Tisdale Harlow house may 
be seen the old Fuller place. The dwelling-house that once 
stood there long since disappeared ; but the site it occupied at- 
tracts special notice from its having two cellars, unconnected 
with each other, with several feet thickness of earth between 
them. One of them was a secret cellar. At one time there was 
the strongest evidence that stolen goods had been taken to this 
house ; but when the officers came and made a thorough search 
from cellar to garret, nothing was found. The housekeeper was 
washing clothes when they came, and it was afterward remem- 
bered that her tub was stationed upon a trap-door which formed 
the entrance to the secret cellar. 

This gang of thieves had their confederates in other places, 
by whom they were enabled to dispose of their stolen goods. 
They had their passwords and secret signs, and were the terror 
of the neighborhood for miles around. The stores of Easton, 
Norton, and Mansfield, as well as the mills and foundries of the 
vicinity, were robbed of large amounts of goods at different 
times. At length a young man who had set up a store and been 
robbed of many things, vowed that he would do no more work 
until he had rooted out this gang of thieves. He drove to the 
double-cellared house before alluded to, and represented that he 
had some goods he would like to have concealed. As he had 
acquainted himself already with some of their secret signs he 
was welcomed, and joined the gang, and even accompanied them 
on some of their thieving excursions. Meantime, not being in 
good health, he occasionally went to Dr. Samuel Guild at South 
Easton, ostensibly for medical consultation, but really to com- 
municate with him on this business. Dr. Guild being then justice 
of the peace. When the plans and operations of the thieves 
were thus fully disclosed, it was determined to arrest them ; but 
here a difficulty presented itself. The Easton constable to whom 
they would have applied was himself a member of the gang, and 
the deputy sheriff was a receiver of stolen goods. With some 
trouble other officers were procured, a raid was made upon the 
thieves, and a large amount of stolen goods recovered. This was 
in 1803. Several of the gang, including at least one woman, were 



SHADOWS. 425 



arrested, and were charged with numerous thefts. They had 
stolen from Jonathan Smith, Edward Kingman, and Abiezer 
Alger, of Easton ; Isaac Barrett, George Gilbert, and others, of 
Norton and Mansfield. Indictment after indictment was pre- 
sented against them, nearly all of which resulted in conviction. 
The matter had been so thoroughly worked up that the num- 
ber of cases finally tired out the district attorney, and several of 
them were therefore not presented at all. Many kinds of goods 
were included in the stealing ; there were broadcloth, linen, 
towels, shirts, spoons, crockery, cutlery, combs, brandy, rum, 
razors, nail-rods, cast-iron ware, meal-bags, corn, etc. The 
woman alluded to was convicted of stealing from Edward King- 
man, July I, 1802, thirteen earthen plates, one half-dozen 
cups and saucers, and one mug. She was fined five dollars 
and costs, and also made to pay Mr. Kingman ^3.42, the treble 
value of the goods. In 1842 she and two of her daughters were 
prisoners in Taunton jail in punishment for various offences. 
They were there seen by Easton visitors, showing no shame 
whatever, but appearing to feel perfectly at home. 

The sentences of some of the gang were severe. The leader 
was on several different counts, as will soon be more particularly 
described, condemned not only to pay costs and damages, but 
also " to sit on the gallows for the space of one hour with the 
rope about his neck, and one end thereof cast over the gallows, 
and be whipped twenty stripes, and that he be confined to hard 
labor for five years." These convictions show that public expo- 
sure of criminals upon the pillory or gallows, and public whip- 
ping for ordinary crimes have been practised in our vicinity 
during the present century. It must have been felt by some to 
be a terrible disgrace to sit thus exposed to public view, sneered 
at and insulted by lookers on, a rope ignominiously hanging from 
the neck to the ground, at which doubtless those so disposed 
might give many a vicious jerk. The sherifT before alluded to 
was sentenced to this punishment, but presented a powerfully 
backed petition to the Governor and Council asking that so 
much of his penalty as related to sitting on the gallows and the 
whipping be remitted. The petition was granted. A promi- 
nent confederate of this gang by means of suicide transferred 
the scene of his trial to a higher court. 



426 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

The ringleader of this band of thieves was so remarkable a 
man in his way as to call for a more extended personal notice 
here. As he was unmarried and left no descendants to blush 
for his crimes, and as his kindred have seemed proud to narrate 
his achievements, and as, moreover, his name is an open secret 
known to many citizens of Easton, there is no impropriety in 
stating that the ringleader under notice was George White. He 
was a most ingenious and notorious scamp, to whom stealing 
was a profession, and whose biography, if written, would rank 
with that of the shrewdest and boldest of his class, delighting 
the hearts of dime-novel readers. 

White was once fleeing on horseback from two mounted offi- 
cers ; finding that they were gaining on him, and coming to a 
turn in the road he hastily dismounted, gave the horse a cut 
with the whip so as to start him on, threw away his hat and 
donned a small cap, assumed other disguises kept ready for such 
occasions, and then coolly started back on foot. He was im- 
mediately met by the officers, but was not recognized by them. 
In answer to their question, "Did you see a man on horseback 
running away .-' " he replied, " Yes, I saw him going as though 
he thought the Devil was after him." White escaped this time, 
and had another good story to tell. 

There was no audacity of which this artful rogue was not 
capable. At one time he stole a horse, trimmed his mane, 
shortened his tail, and painted or dyed his hair in such a skilful 
way as thoroughly to disguise the animal, and then led him 
innocently to the man from whom he had stolen him, and, 
saying that he had heard he wanted a horse, actually sold him 
to his owner. The horse appeared so much at home and showed 
such evident acquaintance with his master that suspicions were 
soon aroused, and the fading out of the colored spots revealed 
the trick. But the quickwitted thief found some easy way out 
of his unpleasant situation. 

George White was at one time on a journey in search of 
profitable adventure, and turned up at a tavern in New York 
State. He was out of money, and being a great gambler tried 
to make something by this occupation, but found no victims. He 
began to look about him for means whereby to pay his tavern- 
bill, — though why he had any scruples about leaving it unpaid 



M 



SHADOWS. 



427 



Iocs not appear. The innkeeper had taken him to a pasture 
md showed him a noble black horse of which he was very proud, 
md which suggested a stroke of business to the fertile mind of 
;he guest. Telling his landlord he was going to a neighboring 
)lace for a day or two, he left his things behind him, having first 
secreted a bridle in a wood near the pasture. He stayed in the 
vood until early daybreak, when he bridled the horse and was 
loon far away. He sold the horse during the day, stole him 
igain the same night, and repeated the operation the next day 
md night, coming back a few days afterward with the horse, 
Afhich he restored to his pasture. He then paid his bill with the 
noney thus acquired, the owner in the mean time not having 
nissed the animal. Before leaving, White said to the innkeeper 
;hat he would like one more sight of his fine horse ; and they 
^'ent to the pasture together, talked over the good points of the 
lorse, and bade each other farewell. Such is the story, and it 
s implicitly believed by elderly people who heard it in their 
y'ounger days. The only serious doubt of its truth lies in the 
:haracter of the original story-teller, who was probably the thief 
limself. He loved to boast of such achievements, and his 
iindred took great pride in repeating the story of his deeds. 

White was a hard man to catch, and a harder one to keep 
ivhen caught. Handcuffs were purely ornamental to him, for 
:iis wrists were large and his hands were small, so that he could 
slip off these steel bracelets at pleasure. He had a perfect 
understanding also with jail-doors, or with their keepers. He 
was regarded as so dangerous a person that in order to ad- 
vertise his character his forehead was branded with the letters 
H. T. ; that is, Jiorse-tJitef. To conceal this brand he wore his hair 
low on his forehead, and was thus perhaps the first person to in- 
troduce into Easton the fashion of wearing "banged" hair. 

At the October term of the Superior Judicial Court at 
Taunton, for 1803, George White was convicted of theft on six 
several indictments, sentenced on each to be whipped and set 
on the gallows, "confined to hard labor in our State Prison 
for the terms in the aforesaid sentences expressed, making an 
aggregate number of twenty-five years." ^ He was confined in 

^ See "Commissions, Proclamations, Pardons," etc., 1799-1813. The pardon 
from which the above quotation is made makes a mistake of a year in stating that 
his trial was in 1802 ; it was in 1803. 



428 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

the State Prison at Charlestown, Massachusetts. His first term 
of five years ended October 22, 1808 ; he served nearly three 
years on his second term, and was then on supplication for 
mercy pardoned, and "the residue of the punishment which by 
the sentences aforesaid he is still liable to suffer" was remitted. 
The date of the pardon is June 4, 181 1, and it took effect June 
26. Thus he served for only one third of the time for which 
he was sentenced. 

To secure his pardon White had made many promises of 
amendment, and for some time he either really kept those 
promises or managed to escape detection for his crimes. But 
five years afterward we find him again in the Superior Court, 
and this time at Greenfield, Massachusetts, where he was tried 
for larceny and condemned " to be punished as a common and 
notorious thief by solitary imprisonment for a term of twenty- 
one days, and by confinement afterward to hard labor for the 
term of ten years." This term he served out, and was dis- 
charged July 5, 1827. 

But this man was too inveterate a thief to reform. Choosing 
a new field of operations where he was not known, we next hear 
of him in the Superior Court at Plymouth, where on the second 
Tuesday of May, 1830, he was tried and convicted of larceny, and 
was sentenced to two days of solitary confinement and one year 
of hard labor in the State Prison. The danger of having such an 
inveterate criminal at large in the community induced some one 
to take advantage of a law then in force, which rendered a per- 
son who had serv^ed three terms of years in State Prison liable 
to imprisonment for life. In the Municipal Court of Boston, 
therefore. May 12, 183 1, only one day before his term of impris- 
onment had expired. White was sentenced for life for having 
served three terms. To all appearance he now had a dreary 
enough prospect before him ; but after being in prison for a little 
over two years he was taken out on a writ of habeas corpus, and 
June 27, 1833, was discharged by the Superior Court of Boston 
and set at liberty. He petitioned for this on the ground that 
his last sentence was for one year alone and not for "a term of 
years," and hence that he had not served for " three terms of 
years." This point, verbal and technical as it seemed to be, was 
nevertheless sustained by the court, which is said to have ad- 



SHADOWS. 



429 



monished him to leave the State. Not much more is heard of 
him until finally (at what date cannot be determined) he wrote 
from the Ohio Penitentiary, where he had been imprisoned for 
another crime, requesting some of his relatives in Easton to visit 
him, as he was on his dying bed. But they did not go, for they 
distrusted any word coming from him, and he died alone and in 
misery. He must have taken another name when he went West, 
for application by the writer to the clerk of the Ohio Penitentiary 
brought the answer that no George White had been imprisoned 
and died there since the time of his discharge from the State 
Prison at Charlestown, Massachusetts. Thus ended the strange 
:areer of this notorious criminal. 

The persistence of family traits through several generations 
tias been painfully illustrated in the fact, that several of the 
descendants of this gang have been notoriously immoral, being 
guilty of similar thieving operations in later times ; and only 
-ecently one of them ended his days in jail. To relate here the 
miserable career of some of them, of the women especially ; 
:o describe the wretched end of several and the foul mischief 
:hey have caused, — would make a revelation of depravity unfit 
"or these pages. 

It would not be just to give the impression that such charac- 
;ers as have been described lived in the west part of the town 
)nly. December 2, 1774, there was born, probably not far north 
)f Easton Centre, an innocent babe who was destined to do the 
Tiost scientific act of stealing ever accomplished by any son of 
Easton. In 1818 he had become a junk-dealer in Portland, near 
:he head of Long Wharf. He was one day in Ellis's blacksmith 
shop, and saw there the locks of the Cumberland Bank, which 
:he directors had sent to Ellis for repairs. Our Easton man 
Aras a shrewd fellow, and he went to Joseph Noble's foundry, 
sorrowed some moulding sand, and succeeded in getting a good 
mpression of the keys. At this point we will allow another to 
:ontinue the narrative: — 

" One Monday morning not long after, when Joseph Swift the 
:ashier [of the bank] opened his vault, he was surprised to find all 
he valuables gone, absolutely nothing left in the way of money but 
I little loose change. The excitement ran high throughout the town, 
rhe bank had not failed, but had been cleaned out. Who did it ? 



430 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



I 



" From the fact that no violence was shown upon the doors, it was 
evident that the entrance had been made by false keys. Suspicion 
turned to the blacksmith, but he was found to be innocent. It occurred 
to one of the directors that some one had possibly cast a key, and by 
inquiry at the foundries in town it was ascertained that the unsavory 
M. had borrowed a little moulding sand a short time before at Joseph 
Noble's foundry. Everybody who had a Cumberland bank-bill was 
looked upon with suspicion ; if a person had several such bills he had 
to give an account of where he got them. From one and another cir- 
cumstance it was evident that M. would bear watching. A canvas 
bag, such as was used to hold specie, was found in M.'s back-yard, and 
strengthened suspicion. He had with him a man whose reputation 
was not good ; and this man, Rolf, was connected with M. in some 
way with the robbery. Some of the managers of the bank persuaded 
Rolf that he was in danger of being arrested for the burglary. They 
told him if he would turn State's evidence they would shield him. 
Accordingly, he started off in secrecy with one or two of the directors, 
promising them that he would show them where the money was buried. 
M. had got a hint that all was not right, and he started ahead and dug 
up the money. Rolf goes with his party down to a spot between the 
present location of the Portland Company's Works and Fish Point, 
and tells them to dig up the buried treasure ; when, lo ! the hole is 
empty and the game is gone ! Rolf had not been without distrust of 
his confederate. He had doubtless feared that M. would beat him, 
and thus his story would have no proof. Seeing his position and find- 
ing that he was in a very sorry plight, he takes a small pistol from his 
pocket, puts it to his head and shoots himself, falling lifeless over the 
empty spot where in a dark night they had put all the valuables of the 
Cumberland Bank. 

" The case now looked more dark for the recovery of the money. 
But th6 quick-witted old men who managed the case for the bank went 
at once to M. before he could in any way hear of Rolf's death, and 
told him that Rolf had confessed all, and that to save himself he might 
as well own up, which he did. The bank h'ad offered a considerable 
reward for the stolen treasure, and M. was bargained with that if he 
would deliver the goods he should receive the reward. Accordingly he 
informed the directors that if they would accompany him to a place in 
Scarborough, they might possibly find something valuable. They went 
along the road until they came to a spot where M. remarked that it 
looked to him as if this would be a good place to bury money. There 
were some men named Libby, who living near were attracted by the 
strangers, and hearing the remark remembered some recently upturned 



SHADOWS. 



431 



earth which they had not been able to account for, hastened to the 
spot and unearthed the buried treasure before M. could reach the place. 
One screamed out to his father, 'Dad, I've found it!' Of course 
the Libbys claimed the reward. But it was afterward divided, so that 
M. received one half as the reward of his own wickedness. The bank 
recovered all but one small bag of pistareens. M. was afterward 
tried and sentenced to the prison at Charlestown, Massachusetts, for 
twelve years. His latter days were spent in this city, where he lived 
for years apparently quite unmoved by his former career."^ 

This man whom we have designated as M. is said to have 
built the Thatcher Pierce house, so called, opposite the home- 
stead of the late Edwin Russell. An exciting incident occurred 
there when Samuel Wilbur, a sheriff of Raynham, came to arrest 
him for some offence against the law. He had secreted himself 
upstairs, and his wife, who was a congenial mate for such a man, 
was to oppose the sheriff's progress if he attempted to ascend 
the staircase. When he insisted on going up and endeavored 
to force his way, she stoutly opposed his passage, and hanging 
by her hands on a cross-piece over the staircase, she suddenly 
planted both her feet against the sheriff's chest and knocked him 
down. Before he could manage to overcome this Amazon and 
make his way upstairs, M. had let himself down from the east 
chamber window and made his best paces towards the Stoughton 
line, which he reached in advance of the sheriff ; and being then 
in another county, this officer could not arrest him. 

Penalties for crime were not only different in character a cen- 
tury ago from what they are now, they were also more severe. 
On another page is given some account of Benjamin Benoni, or 
" Old Bunn " as he is known by tradition. One of his children, 
Benjamin Benoni, Jr., in November, 1782, stole a silk handker- 
chief from Eliphalet Leonard, for which theft he was sentenced 

1 The above is from an historical sketch of the Portland (Maine) banks, written 
by William E. Gould, Esq., and printed in the Portland " Weekly Advertiser," 
December 21, 1883. The records of the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown 
show that on October 7, 1818, at Portland, this thief was convicted of "robbing the 
Portland Bank " and was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment. He was par- 
doned March 5, 1829. 

The reader will not fail to note the surprising and painful fact, that this Mr. 
Gould is the man who recently proved to be a bank defaulter in Portland. See Bos- 
ton " Globe," September 20, 1SS6, and other Boston papers of about the same date. 



432 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

to pay treble the cost of the handkerchief (eighteen shillings) and 
"to receive ten stripes on his naked back, well laid on." As he 
could not pay the fine, he was bound out to serve Mr. Leonard 
" the full and compleat space of time of fotir years and six 
vwnths ! " He had enlisted for three years' service in the Re- 
volutionary War only eighteen months before, and had been 
discharged. His sister Judith had stolen a quilted petticoat 
from Daniel Alger's house, and was sentenced to pay treble 
damages and cost of prosecution ; but having nothing to pay 
with, she was bound out to serve Mr. Alger ^ve years. ^ 

SLAVERY. 

The Boston papers of the last century have numerous refer- 
ences to the existence of slavery in New England. There are 
notices of arrivals of slaves who are for sale, advertisements of 
runaways with their description and the offer of a reward for 
their capture, and announcements also of young negro children 
to be given away, their owners wishing to avoid the expense 
of bringing them up, because their speedy emancipation was a 
foregone conclusion. The first notice of slaves in Massachusetts 
is one concerning their importation from Tortugas in 1637. A 
stringent law was passed in 1641, prohibiting any "bond slave- 
rie, villinage, or captivitie among us." But the law quoted con- 
tained a qualification which practically nullified it; namely, 
•'unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such 
strangers as willingly sell themselves, or are sold to 21s." We are 
not therefore surprised to find that soon afterward, in 1654, there 
were 4,489 slaves in Massachusetts (including Maine). 

Easton was once a slaveholding town. The first authentic 
record of the existence of slaves here is found in the inventory 
of the estate of Elder William Pratt, the first man who served 
the people at the " East End of Taunton North-Purchase " as a 
minister. Among other items was this: "two young negroes, 
;^50." He probably brought them with him from Charleston, 
S. C. These young negroes were named Heber and Hagar, a 
boy and a girl. They became the property of Mr. Pratt's widow, 
and lived with her until she gave them their freedom. This she 

1 Records of the Court of Sessions, at Taunton, vol. from 1777-1801. 



SHADOWS. 



did in February, 1722; and in a deed bestowing upon them a 
portion of land she speaks in high terms of them. When we 
consider that these slaves, valued when young at £$0, were now 
adults and might have been sold for a large sum of money, this 
act of Mrs. Pratt in manumitting them, and providing them with 
a homestead of their own, is seen to have been a very kind and 
gracious one, and confirms the truth of the high estimate of her 
character given by the Rev. Mr. Short. The deed runs thus : 

To all people to whom these presents shall come, greeting : Know 
ye that I, Elizabeth Prat, widow, living in the East End of taunton 
north-purchase, in the county of Bristol, in the Province of the niassa- 
chusetts Bay, in newengland, for & in consideration of the good and 
faithfuU service of my negro man-servant, whose name is heber, and 
of my Negro maid-servant, whose name is hagar, — both Now dwell- 
ing with me in sd. East End of Taunton north-purchase, — in considera- 
tion of their tender and Dutifull affection towards me, & their Ready 
& willing &: faithfull service done for me in my age &: widowhood, & 
for their Incouragement in well doing, have given, granted, aliened, 
conveyed, & confirmed, & by these presents do fully, freely, clearly, 
& absolutely give, grant, alien, enfeoff, convey, & confirm unto my 
abovesd negro servant, mr. heber and hagar, one tract or parcel of land, 
scituate, being, and Lying in sd East End of taunton North-purchase, 
containing by Estimation ten acres, be the same more or Less, which 
Land I purchased of Daniel owen. Long since the Decease of my 
honored & Beloved husband william pratt, of sd East End of taunton 
North-purchase, Being part of the home Lott of the sd. Daniel owen, 
as by his Deed of sd Land to me may appear. [Here follow the 
boundaries.] 

This twenty-eighth day of febuary, in the year of our Lord one 

thousand seven hundred and twenty-two. 

her 

Signed, Sealed, & Delivered in presence of ELIZABETH E Prat. 

Mathew Short, mark. 

Daniel Owen. 

Mrs. Pratt, it will be noticed, " makes her mark." She may 
have been too sick at the time to write. 

It is probable that Heber and Hagar were married, as this 
land is given to them both in one deed. Evidently Heber fol- 
lowed the good examples of Elder and Mrs. Pratt, for he got the 
name of Heber Honesty, or Honestman, — this being the name 

28 



434 



HISTORY OF EASTON. 



by which he is several times referred to in the North-Purchase 
records and in old deeds, and it shows the estimation in which 
he was held. He is always spoken of as a " free Negro man." 

This grant of land was just north of the Littlefield road, and 
not very far east of the Bay road, — the Littlefield road being 
part of the " way" leading through the town from the old meet- 
ing-house to the Selee place. If Hagar was Ileber's wife, she 
must have died previous to 1735, as June 26, 1735, he married 
Susanna Cordner, of Bridgewater. He had a son Adam, born 
December 23, 1736. In 1740 Heber appears to have sold his 
place to Josiah Pratt, of Norton. 

There are various incidental allusions that assert or imply 
the existence of slaves in Easton in the last century, though the 
number seems to have been quite small at any time. Thus 
among the recently discovered Leonard papers is one in the 
handwriting of Thomas Leonard, the town clerk of the Taunton 
North-Purchase, as follows: ** June ye 30, 1721. Then lent to 
Edw. Hayward of T. N. P. ten pounds in money, he then going 
to buy a negro and some sheep's wool." James Leonard by his 
will gave to Eliphalet, who settled in Easton, " my negro woman 
and the child born of her body, which I value at thirty pounds." 
He also willed to his son Stephen a negro girl then in Stephen's 
possession. Stephen was not of Easton, but Eliphalet was ; and 
he no doubt had with him here the two slaves thus bequeathed 
him, and perhaps others. In the inventory of the estate of Thomas 
Manley was "one negro, ^38." In his will, made in 1743, we 
read : " And further my will is that my negro boy George shall be 
at the disposal of my executrix and executor, as other movable 
estate." In the inventory of the estate of John Williams, dated 
1757, a "negro woman" is valued at forty pounds. Her name 
was Affaba. In the town valuation of 1771, Joshua Howard and 
Matthew Hayward are each credited with a " servant for life," 
between fourteen and fifteen years old. Five years afterward the 
servant of the former gave birth to an infant that was found dead 
under suspicious circumstances. The following death-record 
will explain it: "Jan. i. Lieut, Joshua Hay ward's [Howard's] 
Negro child, a servant, Deceased January ist Day, 1777, a Jury 
passed & agred it was over Laid in the night, it Being found 
Dead in the morning." The slave owned by Matthew Hayward 



I 



SHADOWS. A-,^ 

4jD 



took his master's name, and was known as Antony Hayward, 
though he was usually called Antone. He enlisted in Capt. 
Macey Williams's company in 1775, for the Lexington alarm. 
Sometimes masters offered slaves their liberty if they would 
enlist in the Continental service. Antony Hayward returned to 
Easton and lived here. He died sometime previous to 1803, 
and his wife Abigail became a town charge. Another Antony, 
who lived northwest of Mrs. Francis E. Gilmore's house, at a 
place now called Antony's Acre, was a black man who moved 
here from Stoughton. The tradition that he was an Indian 
arose from the fact that one of his wives was an Indian ; the 
other (Margaret) was a negro. He himself was a negro, and 
his grave and those of his two wives are numbered 31, 32, and 
33 of the numbered graves in the Pine Grove Cemetery. 

John Dailey, the first of that name in town, was the owner of 
at least one slave. Daniel Manley, Jonathan Hayward, and 
others were slaveholders also. In the old church records, under 
date of Jan. 31, 1773, the Rev. Mr. Campbell notes the fact that he 
" baptized London, a negro servant, who owned the covenant." 
He was the property of Capt. Benjamin Williams, who refers 
to him in his will as "my negro man, London." London, com- 
monly called " Lonon," died September 6, 1776, not long after 
the death of the master whom he loved and served. 

Jones Godfrey states that his grandfather Joseph used to 
come up with his slaves from Taunton and cultivate his lands in 
summer in the south part of the town near the Bay road, and 
then take them back with him to spend the winter. 

Silas Williams, Jr., was the owner of at least one slave. This 
was Kate, who just after the death of her master, and when five 
years old, was baptized. The baptism was September 23, 1764. 
It is to be noted that slaves were admitted to the full privileges 
of the church. Kate served her mistress six years following the 
date just given, when she was sold to James Dean, and we are 
indebted to the antiquarian instincts of Edward D. Williams for 
the preservation of the bill of sale. The bill of sale for a slave 
in Easton is a valuable curiosity. The following is a copy : — 

This Bill of Sail, Made this first Day of September, A. D., 1770, 
Witneseth that I, Lidiah Williams, of Easton, in the County ot Bristol, 



436 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Wedow, for an in Consideration of thirty Pounds lawful money to me 

in hand Paid by James Dean of sd Easton, in the County aforesd, 

yeoman, the Recept Where of [is hereby acknowledged], I the sd. 

Lidiah Williams Do Set over and Convey to him, the sd James Dean, 

a Certain Negro girl, a Slave about Eleven years of age. Named 

Gate, to him the sd Dean, his heirs and assigns, for ever. And also 

Warrant her to the sd. Dean against the lavvfuU Clams and Demands 

of any Parson or Parsons Whatsoever. In Witness Whereof I have 

set my hand and seal the Day and year above mentioned, being in the 

tenth year of his Majestes Reign. 

Lydia Williams. 
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered in presence of 

Nathl. Perry, 

Mathew Hayward. 

Kate remained the property of James Dean as long as slave 
property could be legally held. By a decision of the Supreme 
Court of Massachusetts in 1783, the Declaration of Rights, that 
" All Men are born free and equal," was so interpreted as to 
make slavery illegal. Kate, however, had a pleasant home, and 
did not care to seek another ; she therefore continued to live 
with Mr. Dean until his death. In his will of March 2, 1790, 
he directs that his executor shall " free and discharge my negro 
woman Cate from all future service to me, my heirs and assigns, 
forever. I also give to the sd Cate all her wearing aparil ; also the 
bead she has generally lain on, with furniture for sd bead sofi- 
cient for Summer and Winter. It is also my will that my execu- 
tor Pay & Deliver to the sd Cate out of my estate a number of 
Sheaps, to the value of five dollars." 

The will was probated March 30, 1803. Her freedom Kate 
was entitled to by law, and could long before have claimed it ; 
but she had all the freedom she cared for. The settlement of 
this provision of the will was made by Edward Dean, the son 
of James and the executor of the will. The following is a copy 
of his discharge : — 

Know all Men by these presents, that I, Cate Dean, of Easton, in 
the County of Bristol, Spinster, a Black Woman, have received of 
Edward Dean, Executor of the last will and Testament of Deacon 
James Dean, late of Easton, Deceased, all my wearing apparil ; also, 
the Bed that I have usually lain upon, together with Furniture for said 
Bed Sufficient for Summer and Winter, and a number 'of Sheep, to 



SHADOWS. 



437 



he value of five Dollars, and all other Articles and Things in Full as 
jiven or Bequeathed to me in and by said last will and Testament ; 
\nd two Chests and two Dollars in Money, in full of all Demands 
igainst said Deceased's Estate, and in full of all Demands against said 
Executor as Such, or of or from him in said Capasity or any other, 
[n witness Whereof, I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal the Ninth 
lay of May, Anno Domini, 1S03. 

her 
Jignecl, Sealed, and Delivered in presence of CatE -|- DeaN. 

Elijah Howard, mark. 

Elisha Dean. 

In the Lieut. John Williams grave-yard, near Daniel Wheaton's 
md in the west row of graves, may be seen to-day the grave of 
he last slave in the town of Easton ; and it cannot but be re- 
garded as an object of peculiar interest. The gravestone is in 
jood preservation, and is inscribed with the name of Catherine 
Vliller, who died January i, 1809, forty-nine years old. She 
lever married. She died at the house of Edward Johnson, a 
:olored man in Easton. 



INTEMPERANCE. 

The growth of the temperance sentiment of this country is 
»n]y about half a century old. Previous to that time it was con- 
idered proper to furnish liquor for social occasions, for all fes- 
ivities, and even for ordinations and funerals ; and it was almost 
tniversally used. No person lost caste by being occasionally 
a little the worse for liquor." It was not considered hospitable 
mless the decanter of spirits was offered to callers and visitors. 
Ministers sometimes fortified themselves for long sermons by a 
:ood potation, endeavoring to supply the defect of the spiritual 
y the use of the spirituous. The Rev. Solomon Prentice, it 
riW be remembered, was thought to have been a little too happy 
n a training day, and the Rev. Mr. Campbell's wife to have 
een so free with the bottle as to create scandal, and finally 
be enslaved by her appetite. An Easton resident writing 
rom a neighboring town reports that the minister of that town 
^as away on exchange, and " at noon the preacher's wife, as was 
he custom, set some spirits before him and invited him to drink, 
diich he did to such an extent that he could not preach in the 



438 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

afternoon, and the people had to go home." After ordination 
dinners, spirits, pipes, and tobacco were in order, and the clergy 
did full justice to them. Ordination expenses nearly always in- 
cluded a bill for spirits. Bearers at funerals were invited to 
drink ; this was often done within the recollection of many per- 
sons now living. Samuel Simpson remembers that when a boy 
he was a bearer at the funeral of a child, the daughter of one 
of the leading citizens of Easton ; and the young bearers were 
taken upstairs by the person in charge of the exercises, and 
were shown a table with decanters containing various kinds of 
liquor. This person no doubt considered that he took very radi- 
cal ground when he offered this caution : " Now, boys, I would 
advise you not to take anything stronger than wine." 

Even as late as 1826 the Rev. Luther Sheldon, who soon be- 
came a strong temperance man, furnished New England rum to 
the company of merry buskers who met to husk his corn. At 
the same date Oliver Ames, who very soon gave up the practice, 
carried a supply of spirits daily to the workmen who were build- 
ing the upper dam. Wood-chopping, harvesting, house-raising, 
and all work of this kind seemed to make spirits a necessity, 
while extraordinary occasions called for more generous sup- 
plies. Macey Randall remembers that when the coal-house 
east of the hoe-shop was burned, about seventy years ago, a 
pail of rum and a bucket of sugar were furnished to those who 
had taken part in extinguishing the fire ; and in his account of 
it he adds : " As I was the smallest boy there the men nearly 
all gave me the sugar at the bottom of their tumblers. My 
head soon began to grow dizzy, when I put for home, and after 
some lofty circus tumbling over fences and in the road I reached 
there ; but I knew nothing about the fire for the next twenty- 
four hours." 

It is almost superfluous to add that when the sentiments of 
the community favored such a free and generous use of spirituous 
liquors, intemperance must have been more prevalent than now; 
this is known to be a fact so far as the native population is con- 
cerned. There is, alas ! considerable drinking at the present 
time. Weak and bad men, enslaved by this disgusting and now 
disgraceful habit, may be seen sneaking into the three unlicensed 
grog-shops and the more than a dozen grog-houses that curse this 



SHADOWS. 439 



town, where rum-selling men and rum-selling women ply their 
corrupting traffic. Still, it is true that the sentiment and prac- 
tice of the earlier times among our people were considerably 
lower than among their descendants now. How many persons 
there are in this town who remember that class among our now 
departed citizens who were called " old topers," — men who were 
steeped in New England rum ! How common it was for what 
were called respectable men to congregate at the stores or in the 
bar-rooms of the inns where liquor was freely sold, and spend 
their time and money together ! This was the case at David 
Manley's store, for instance. Some curious scenes have been 
described to the writer by the late Martin Wild, who was once 
a clerk in this store. He told of a stormy day when neighbors 
thus met in the store and drank together, on which occasion 
William Manley filled the water-pitcher with gin. They poured 
from this pitcher supposing they were diluting their drams, and 
were soon so tipsy that they could not get away, and had to be 
carried home, — one well-known citizen of North Bridgewater 
being stretched upon his wood-cart that had been long standing 
before the door. 

The misery and degradation caused by these habits are be- 
yond description. There is one fact which the writer has often 
had occasion to consider in his careful study of the genealogies 
of Easton, — and that is the deterioration of certain families con- 
sequent upon intemperance and the evils necessarily accompa- 
nying it. It would not be proper to publish specific illustrations 
of this fact, although many might be given. Intemperate parents 
in Easton have bequeathed to their innocent children moral, in- 
tellectual, and physical infirmities, predisposing them to the appe- 
tite for strong drink, and robbing them in advance of the power 
to resist. Partial idiocy has sometimes resulted from the same 
cause, and some families have thus died out altogether. 

From the earliest times in New England it was necessary to 
obtain a license in order to become an innkeeper with the privi- 
lege of selling liquor, or to become a retailer. Down to 1749 
there was an average of three innkeepers and liquor retailers 
in Easton. In those days of bad roads and slow travel these 
country inns were a necessity. In 1726, the year after the in- 
corporation of the town, and for the three following years, there 



440 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

were only two in town, — one kept by Benjamin Williams on the 
Bay road near Norton, and the other by Thomas Manley, Jr., 
south of Lincoln Street, at what is now nearly the extreme 
south limit of Flyaway Pond. In 1730 John Williams undertook 
the business, his brother Benjamin having discontinued it, and 
Daniel Owen who lived near the Harlow place began it also. 
In 1732 Eliphalet Leonard was added to the list as a retailer 
merely. In 1744 Daniel Williams, of South Easton, who began 
a saw-mill at the now Morse place, opened an inn. In 1747 
James Stacey, living at the present Simeon Randall place, was 
a retailer. Josiah Kingman had a licensed inn close by Eben- 
ezer Randall's in 1749; and so also, the next year, had Joseph 
Gilbert, on the Bay road near the Stoughton line : the Bay road 
was then coming to be a frequented stage route. It is not neces- 
sary to complete the list down to the present time, but among 
the licensed inn-holders we notice such familiar names as Mat- 
thew Hayward, Abiel Mitchell, John Dailey, Henry Howard, 
Josiah Keith, James Perry, Isaac Lothrop, Ebenezer Tisdale, 
John Pool, Isaac Kimball, Josiah Copeland, Joshua Gilmore, 
Charles Hayden, Isaiah Packard, and many others who might 
be named. Sometimes as many as eight licensed inn-holders 
did business in town at the same time. The following is a 
copy of a petition to authorize James Perry to retail liquor: — 

To His Majestyes Justicescs of the Court of General Sessiofis of the 
Peace Now Setting at Taunton for and within the county of Bristol : 
We the subscribers Do apprehend That James Peny of this town 
of Easton is a Person of a Sober Life and conversation Suteably 
Qualified to Keep a House to Retail Liqurious Spirits, and we Desire 
that he may be Licensed for that purpose ; and as in Duty Bound shall 
ever pray. 

Abial Mitchell, \ Selectmen 
Timothy Randell, \ of 
Seth Lothrop, ) Easton. 

Easton, September 23, a.d. 1773. 

It is very curious to note that one was recommended for the 
position of a liquor-seller on the ground that he was "a person 
of a sober life and conversation." 

There was, however, another class of dealers who were allowed 



SHADOWS. 441 



to sell liquor in larger quantities, but were not allowed to retail 
it. Thus in 1762 an action was preferred against James Gilmore, 
of Easton, a " set-work cooper," " that sd. James did contrary to 
law by selling less than thirty gallons of Rum to a single per- 
son." The case was not made out, and Gilmore was acquitted ; 
but the incident proves the existence of these two kinds of li- 
cense. Temperance motives had nothing to do with this system 
of license, which was not intended to check the freest use of in- 
toxicating spirits. Licenses for the sale of groceries and other 
kinds of goods were also required. 

Reference has been made to the free use of spirits as late as 
1826, at which time there was no real temperance sentiment 
existing except what was indicated by the fact that church- 
members were sometimes admonished by the church for in- 
temperance. Soon after 1826, however, the attention of the 
public was called to the folly, wickedness, and disastrous con- 
sequences of the drinking habit. Oliver Ames, Jr., and others 
took decided ground. The Rev. Mr. Sheldon and Oliver Ames, 
Sr., decided not to furnish liquor to their farm-hands and work- 
men. The former once at the close of a week's toil called in his 
hired men, stated to them his convictions as to the needlessness 
and injury of the common drinking practices, and proposed to 
add to the usual wages of the men the value of the liquor fur- 
nished them if they would abstain from the use of all intoxi- 
cants while in his employ. To this they assented ; and they 
soon proved to others that there was no necessity for the use of 
alcoholic drinks while at work. Oliver Ames adopted the same 
plan, and others followed it ; so that this rule came to be es- 
tablished in town with farm-hands, and coffee was substituted 
in the place of spirituous liquors. Mr. Sheldon and others dis- 
couraged the use of liquor at weddings, and reform in that re- 
spect resulted. Dr. Caleb Swan became an earnest advocate 
of the new movement, as also did Howard Lothrop, Lincoln 
Drake, and other good men. Meetings were held, discussions 
engaged in, and the whole community was stirred up on the 
subject. The first public meeting especially devoted to this 
cause was held somewhere between 1830 and 1840, and was 
addressed by Charles Jewett. It was a large meeting. At its 
close Mr. Jewett presented the temperance pledge, and urged his 



442 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

hearers to sign it ; but of the large number present only three 
persons signed the pledge. These persons were Oliver Ames, Jr. 
(probably the first person in Easton to take the total abstinence 
pledge), E. J. W. Morse, and a Mr. King who subsequently 
moved to Mansfield. In 1840 the school children of Easton 
were organized into a Cold Water Army and held a grand pic- 
nic in Lucius Howard's grove, marching there with banners, 
wearing badges, singing songs, listening to addresses, and having 
an interesting celebration. 

The effect of the temperance agitation was soon apparent in 
the votes of town-meetings. As early as March, 1830, the town 
" voted that the selectmen shall not approbate any persons to 
sell any distilled spirits in town." In 1832, "voted not to have 
any licensed houses to sell distilled spirits or wine," and also 
to " disapprobate the County Commissioners for licensing pub- 
lic houses in Easton where liquor might be retailed." Subse- 
quently the town undertook to manage and control the sale of 
liquor by appointing an agent who was licensed under certain 
restrictions to carry on the business. It was for a time done at 
the Almshouse. 

Temperance agitation was kept up for years, and occasionally 
some action in town-meeting indicates how much it occupied 
public attention. Thus in 1847 it was voted " to procure a 
blank book for the registration of temperance men, women, and 
children's names, together with the total-abstinence pledge." 
At the same meeting a committee of one person in each school 
district was chosen to circulate the book and obtain signatures 
to the pledge. 

It has meant much for temperance in Easton that it early 
gained the support of men of character and ability. Their 
strong and steady adherence to temperance principles, and their 
practice of total abstinence have been mainly instrumental in 
fostering temperance sentiments and encouraging temperance 
habits. Among people of education and character it is no 
longer respectable here to indulge in the drinking habit ; and 
even occasional drunkenness, which was once regarded with 
easy indulgence or as a good joke, is now justly considered as a 
real disgrace. Among some classes, however, there is consider- 
able drinking yet ; though the town annually votes " no license," 



SHADOWS. 



443 



there are usually over a dozen places where beer, cider, and 
stronger drinks may be had. Occasional convictions and pay- 
ment of fines present some check to this illegal sale, but do not 
stop it. The rascals who sell usually keep selling until death 
calls them to account, and relieves the community of their bane- 
ful presence. Eternal vigilance on the part of parents, teach- 
ers, churches, Sunday-schools, and other means of influence in 
implanting temperance sentiments in the young and fostering 
temperance principles in the town, will prove the only effective 
means to cope with this debasing evil, and hold in check its de- 
grading and ruinous power over health, personal industry and 
integrity, over domestic peace and the general welfare. 

PAUPERISM. 

Another shadow must now be added to the picture, — that of 
pauperism. It may properly follow our last topic, since pauper- 
ism is a common sequel to intemperance. It conjures up a sad 
spectacle to think of the poor, crippled, friendless, diseased, de- 
mented, and idiotic persons who from generation to generation 
have had to depend upon the town for their maintenance. 
Sadder even than this is it to think of some who were tenderly 
reared, and who by misfortunes they could not prevent were 
forced to bear the misery and shame of a pauper's life. 

The pauper history of Easton does not differ materially from 
that of other New England towns. The early practice was to 
bid the poor off at auction to the lowest bidder, who agreed for 
the sum named to provide for them. This may naturally re- 
mind us of a slave auction. To those who had any sensitiveness 
it must have been exceedingly painful to be thus disposed of 
from year to year. It is easy to see that under this system they 
must often have fared extremely hard. The prices paid for this 
keeping were very small. In 1791 Hopestill Randall received 
but X5. 14s. Sd. for keeping a poor widow for a year ; even this 
was in depreciated currency, and amounted to not over twenty 
dollars. Of course in some instances the poor could render 
some return to their keepers by labor. The bills of charges for 
their maintenance were voted in town-meetings, and this served 
to keep the names of the poor unpleasantly prominent. When 
the town was not in good humor these bills were sometimes set 



444 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

aside ; and this was likely to exasperate those to whom they 
were due, and make them more indifferent to the comfort of the 
paupers in their charge. Some of these accounts go into minute 
details. At one time salt was voted to Widow Lucy Randall, 
and a winding sheet for Jonah Drake's wife. In May, 1799, the 
town "voted to Abiel Kinsly Nine Pounds, foure shillings, for 
shoger and Rum for David Randall's famely. Voted to Thomas 
Manly foure Pounds, ten shillings, for a coffin and diging the 
grave for Seth Hogg. Voted to Israel Woodward foure Pounds 
for a grave clooth for Seth Hogg, and two quarts of Rum ex- 
pended about the time of his death." As a fitting sequel to an 
appropriation for rum for David Randall's family, the following, 
recorded a few months later, speaks for itself : "Voted to Abner 
Randall nine Pounds for a coffin for David Randall. Voted to 
Paul Lincoln seven Pounds, ten shillings, for diging a grave for 
same." It should be noted that these apparently large sums of 
money are in the much depreciated Continental currency. Paul 
Lincoln had to wait nine years for his pay, and then his ^7. los. 
had shrunk to two shillings of good money. Seth Hodge, whose 
name is misspelled above, was son of James Hodge, one of the 
early settlers, and he was for many years a town charge. It 
was probably of him that we have the record as a person who 
was " none come posements," which we shall understand better 
by abbreviating to jwu compos meiitis} David Randall lived in 
the Old Castle, close by which his grave was dug, near a rock 
on the east side of it. This Old Castle is in ruins, which ruins 
may yet be found in a pine-grove not far south of Lincoln 
Street, and southeast of the old Israel Woodward cemetery. 
In the latter days of this Castle, long after the Randalls left it, 
it became a disreputable place, — a scene of drunkenness and 
associated vices. Fortunately it was destroyed by fire. 

In 1785 an attempt was made "to come into some more regu- 
lar method of supporting the poor of the town." A house was 
bought of Jacob Macomber, and it was appropriated to the use of 
the poor, " if needed." In 1786, with reference to collecting and 
caring for the poor in this house, Joseph Gilbert was chosen an 
inspector or overseer of the poor of this town " in case it should 

1 Another demented Easton man, for whom a guardian was about to be appointed, 
was called an " uncompas person." 



SHADOWS. 



445 



be necessary." This was the first choice of a special officer 
for this duty, though apparently he had no duties to perform. 
The town abandoned the proposed plan, sold the house above 
alluded to, and appropriated part of the proceeds for the support 
of the poor. In 1788 the plan was reconsidered, and a house on 
Grove Street near the North Bridgewater line was purchased of 
Seth Burr to be used for a poor-house ; and for the first time the 
selectmen were named " overseers of the poor," though the term 
was dropped the next year. But this attempt at establishing an 
almshouse was given up, and for many years afterward the poor 
were assigned to the lowest bidders as formerly. Sometimes 
they fell into unfeeling hands ; for offering them to the lowest 
bidder set a premium upon meanness and cruelty. There were 
cases where the poor were miserably clad and insufficiently fed. 
The fate of the insane poor was especially deplorable, since there 
were then no insane asylums. These demented paupers were a 
great trouble to care for, and the theory of the time was that 
severe treatment was the best for them. They were caged or 
locked up in cellars and garrets ; not infrequently they were 
cruelly beaten, so that death was hastened. There was one 
private poor-house kept at the Sheperd place on the Bay road 
by Alby Willis that may be spoken of here, since he leaves no 
descendants to blush for his cruelty. Complaints were rife 
concerning the hard lot of the poor in his charge ; six inmates 
died in 1821, and stories of their unkind treatment were told 
which need not be repeated here. When the subject of bid- 
ding off the poor next came up, Calvin Marshall, Sr., boldly 
ventilated the whole affair ; and Philip Willis rose in town- 
meeting and said, " I move that the bid of Alby Willis be 
not taken." His motion prevailed, and many a poor friendless 
soul in Easton felt a thrill of relief at the good news. By a 
strange turn of fortune, Alby Willis himself ended his days in 
the Easton Almshouse. 

One singular method of disposing of the poor was that of 
selling their maintenance for life to the lowest bidder. For a 
stipulated sum a person would agree to take a pauper off the 
hands of the town and care for him during his lifetime. The 
following document copied from the town records is an illustra- 
tion of this method : — 



446 HISTORY OF EASTON. 

Easton, February 8, 1781. 
I the subscriber do, for Value received, Promis that I Will Maintain 
David Gurney in Sickness and in health During his Natural life, and 
I Will Pay coast & treble that the town of Easton Shall be Put to by 
Reason of the above Named Gurnies Not being honerabelly Main- 
tained as above. As witness my hand, 

Macey Williams. 
Test. Seth Pratt, ) Sckdvicn of 
Elijah Howard, \ [Easton. 

Of course the