Skip to main content
il p^iowf lof lif #lirfiii ^iDHf *
A HOMEOF THE OLDEN TIME.
THOMAS C. AMOEY.
PRINTED BY DAVID CLAPP & SON.
18 7 2.
Reprinted from tbe New-England Historical and Genealogical Register,
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
As Americans, we look with admiration and some degree of envy on sub-
stantial structures of other days that delight \is abroad. We have indeed very
few of our own. We know sometliing of our progenitors. Tradition tells
us of their character and household virtues. Smybert and Blackburn, Cop-
ley and Stuart reveal to us their personal appearance. History often
records their public services. The institutions they planted, their works
of utility need no other monument. But we should have been better pleased
had they also left us more frequent memorials of their daily life. If their
means and social Condition admitted of no costly abodes, many such as they
had have perished, which might well have been preserved. A few remain,
others are still remembered of which some account should be transmitted to
coming generations. Some of these in their pristine condition were models
of elegance and taste, and would compare favorably in comfort and con-
venience with any of modern contrivance.
It is a great and laudable achievement to erect a stately edifice or even
a dwelling of more moderate pretensions, complete in detail and arrange-
ment, faultless as a work of art yet precisely adapted to its use. Where
the organ of construction has liberal development, to conjure up out of
airy nothings or dim visions of the past, pleasant abodes such as Le Sage
created for his hero, castles such as Spain has been ever famed for, affords
diversion from graver thought. In the seemingly endless watches of the
night, on weary pilgrimages or when the brain is quickened into fever, such
indulgence soothes and tranquillizes beyond poppy or chloroform. It is an
inexpensive pastime, modifications of plan entail no ruinous consequences,
6 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
nor is it necessary to pull down in order to rebuild. But shotild attempt be
made to transform our dream into substantial realities, what was fair enough
to dwell upon reduced to possession proves extremely incommodioias. Great
praise is justly due to the skill, that, without servile imitation, designs what
is at the same time original and artistic, yet meets every want of the actual
Visitors at Abbotsford may grieve over the load of embarrassment under
which dear old Sir Walter bore up for years so bravely, that he might live
like baron bold of the border, midst tower and battlement, wide spread fields
and woods. Yet they cannot but be forcibly impressed with the exquisite
beauty of the structure ; the good sense that planned the distribution of its
apartments. Happier perhaps if his romance in stone and mortar had been
transmitted through a long line of iron clad progenitors, and reached him
imencumbered and with modern improvements. Had this been however
the case, he would not have realized the enjoyment of its erection, or reared
a far more enduring monument than Waljiole's at Strawberry, to give
pleasure ages hence to his admirers. As time grows the lichen on its wall,
will come and pass beneath its roof many a sadder proof that all is vanity ;
and doubtless with vicissitudes, heir looms of our lot, a reasonable share
of substantial happiness be experienced by its various inmates.
In that old world beyond the sea, admirable relics' of antiquity, such as
Ingelheim, where Charlemagne a thousand years ago first opened his eyes
upon the world, Cluny, where seven hundred later the father of Mary Queen
of Scots was married, Rheinstein and Stolzenfelz, Chillon and Dijon,
Guy's Cliff and Haddon are precious mementoes of by-gone days. What
we have here in New-England of any pretension to age, dates back at
the farthest but two centuries and a third. The venerable brick mansion
of Cradock, first governor under the charter, on a grant of thirty-five hun-
dred acres in Medford, which parliamentary duties in troubled times prevent-
ed his ever coming over to enjoy, is a fine specimen of eld. Near Portsmouth
is another of the same period, material and description, which has come
down to us in excellent preservation, and which has been uninterruptedly
occupied by the same name and blood, eight generations of whom have been
born within its walls. Nor is this last a solitary instance. The Woodman
House in Durham, Fairbanks in Dedham, Curtis in what was Roxbury, now
Boston, have passed from parent to child in the same families as long.
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 7
Others exist or have recently existed, of which nearly the same may be stated,
while numberless more somewhat modernized, and which have changed
owners in other ways than by inheritance, still stand replete with valuable
suggestion as to the mode of life of our ancestors.
It is not pretended that the dwelling proposed to be recalled to the mind
of many who cannot have quite forgotten its exquisite proportions possessed
any very especial claim to notice from historical or romantic associations.
It was simply a delightful home such as abounded about Boston, and else-
where in New-England, a century ago, and j'et presenting as fair a picture
as could then be foimd of domestic elegance and comfort. The mansion
itself, the second and probably destined to be the last ever upon the spot, was
ei-ected early in the last century, and was subsequently occupied but by two
or three different proprietors, when it passed in 1800 into possession of the
family who now own the estate. It was occupied by them as their abode
down to the middle of this century, surviving the venerable church which
with plain front and noble interior stood opposite and which gave place
forty years ago to the present Trinity. The beautiful thoroughfare on
which it stood long richly merited its name from its multitudinous and over-
spreading branches and the vernal splendors that decked its gardens.
It is worthy of note that the property, which was the site of this handsome
edifice, has been neither enlarged nor diminished from the earliest days of
the settlement. Its several bounds are the same now as when entered on the
Book of Possessions.' It is not every one who has heard of that ancient volume.
To compare small things with great, its resemblance in character to Domesday
must have often occurred to conveyancers. Sixteen years after the conquest of
the mother land, King "William had that inquest made of English tenures, and
about as long after the Puritan Fathers settled in Boston the ownershi23 of
estates was similarly defined and guarded. Bounds and measurements of
grants, made under the pressifre of other cares and which had become
matter of dispute, were ascertained by survey or by each owner bringing in
the limits of his claim, and duly recorded. This record is the fountain head
from which are derived the titles of property now occupied by a quarter of a
million of people, and worth several hundred millions of dollars.
• As these returns were made by order of the general court, similar volumes are found
in one or two of the earlier settlements.
8 . A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
On that record this estate i^ recognized as the garden of Gamaliel Wayte.
Whether Gamaliel dwelt there is not mentioned, but he had in 1642 another
lot on the south side of Mill street where he probably resided. His son John
had a house upon the land when he sold it sixty years later, in 1694,
to John Leavensworth. The father lived till his eighty-seventh year, and
is mentioned by Judge Sewall in his diary as having had, not long before
his death, several new teeth. He may, like the humpbacked Richard, have
been born with some of those then renewed, for what alone is known of his
history indicates that he was earlier by no means a negative character.
He had come over with Edward Hutchinson, in all probability as his farmer,
since he is described on the records as a planter. He joined the church
in 1633, but participating in the antinomian heresies of Mrs. Hutchinson,
placing his faith and hope in grace and not in works, he was amongst
those who threatening violence were in 1 637 disarmed by the authorities.
If he died Dec. 9, 1C85, as recorded, he must have been born in 1598. Two
of his sons are mentioned by Farmer, as cited a7ite, vol. xxiv., p. 103 :
Samuel born in 1661, and John who inherited and sold the Summer-street
estate. John is supposed to be the same who was settled in Maiden, and sent
thence from 1666 to 1684 to the general court, the latter year being speaker.
He also served as juror in Boston, at the trials for witchcraft in 1680. Rich-
ard, probably a brother of Gamaliel, as he died 1678, aged 82, held the
office of marshal, and both Richard and Return were members of the now
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.
It should not be forgotten that the land is described in the BoQk of
■Possessions, as Wayte's garden. From the superior excellence of its frilits
there long prevailed an impression, of course unfounded, that it had belonged
to one of the Huguenots, wlio came here when driven from France, and who
were famous for their taste and skill in horticulture. This very spring
1870, has blossomed within its limits a' tall and at the time still thrifty
pear tree, which by antiquaries in horticulture may well have been deemed
coeval with Gamaliel himself, as ancient as that of Governor Stuy vesant in
John Leavensworth, to whom John "Wayte conveyed the property, is not
mentioned by Savage, nor is his name in the index of our probate re-
cords. He did not hold it long, but mortgaged it the same year to Simeon
Stoddard, a wealthy merchant, whose father Anthony married, for his first
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. »
wife, the sister of Sir George Downing. Simeon, born in 1651, entered
thrice into the bonds of wedlock: first with Mary in 1676, ags^in with the
widow of Col. Samuel Shrimpton in 1709, and in 1715 with Mehitabel
Minot, who had previously married Thomas Cooper and Peter Sergeant.
At what time he foreclosed the mortgage is not known, nor does it appear
that he himself ever occupied the estate for his own abode. He died Oct.
18, 1730, having three years before sold it to Leonard Vassall.
The name of Vassall is honorably connected with the Massachusetts
colony from its earliest period. William and Samuel, sons of the gallant
John, an alderman of London, who, in 1588, at his own expense, fitted out
and commanded two ships of war with which he joined the royal navy to
oppose the Spanish Ai'mada, were among the original patentees in 1628.
William came over with Winthrop in 1630, settled in Scituate in 1634,
Ijut provoked by the persecution of the Episcopalians returned to England
in 1646, and died in Barbadoes in 1G55. He left daughters married in
this country, and a son, Capt. John Vassall, who sold his estate in Scituate
in 1661, and removed as is supposed also to England.
Samuel never came over. He was a merchant of London, alderman, and
in 1640-41 a member of parliament. The handsome monument in King's
Chapel, Boston, erected ta his memory by Florentius, of Jamaica, his great-
grandson, recites his public services. His son John purchased large tracts
of land in Jamaica and settled there, having married Ann, the daughter of John
Lewis, Esq., an English resident of Genoa. They had two sons. William,
the eldest, was father of Florentius, and through his son Eichard, grandfather
of Elizabeth, who married Sir Godfrey Webster, and in 1797 Henry
Richard Fox, tliird Lord Holland, and died in London Nov. 17, 1845. She
is described as possessed of remarkable talents, brilliant, witty and endowed
with many personal graces. Holland House while she presided there main-
tained its celebrity, as the favorite haunt of British authors and statesmen,
and many from other countries and especially from America were among
its frequent and valued guests. It is now yielding to the resistless growth
of the great metropolis, and the excellent Lord Hollands have come to an end.
But their generous hospitality in its spacious halls has been too often
subject of comment to be speedily forgotten.
Y Leonard Vassall, born in Jamaica in 1678, married there, Ruth Gale,
born m 1785, and by her had seventeen children. His second wife was Mrs.
10 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TDIE.
Phebe Gross, danghter of Samuel Penliallow, by Mary daughter of Presi-
dent John Cutt, of Portsmouth, New-Hampshire, by whom he had one
daughter, Anna, born in 1 G35, married to John Borland, of Boston. The
other children who survived him were four sons — Lewis, John, "William and
Henry, all of whom but the youngest graduated at Harvard College re-
spectively in 1728, 1732, and 1733 ; and four daughters.
His property mainly consistfed of several large plantations in Jamaica, which
are enumerated in his will. He was perhaps induced to take up his abode
in New-England from the connection of his- progenitors with its settlement.
It may have been, and it seems more likely, that he was influenced to do so
by the wish to secure to his children the advantages of education — his sense
of their value being distinctly exhibited in his will in providing for that
of his youngest chUd.
Leonard proceeded without delay to improve his purchase and erected the
dwelling which proved so enduring. No evidence exists that it was at any
subsequent time materially altered, and it is therefore described as recently
existing. This will leave the imagination of the reader full sway to con-
jecture any intermediate changes which probability may suggest to him.
Along the line of Summer street stood a fence about seventy feet in
length and ten in height, finished in panel work for a short space from the
ground, the upper portion consisting of top rail and slats about an inch
square, sufficiently apart to admit of an unobstructed view. In this was a
large double gate, wide enough for carriages at the southerly end, and a
smaller one near the house for foot passengers. The house extended along
the north side of the plot with a main front of more than one hundred feet
with nine windows and two doors in a line below and eleven windows above.
It was of handsome elevation, with Lutheran windows in the roof, which was
of the gambrel form, thus presenting at the end towards the street three stories.
Between the house and the fence was space enough for a large chestnut tree
overhanging the street. On the ground floor the windows opened on that
side into a spacious drawing room, lighted also by two others towards the
court. All the apartments were lofty, unusually so for the period, which
may be explained by the fact that Mr. Vassall had long dwelt in a warmer
climate than that of New-England.
The drawing room communicated with the hall, from which ascended to
the third floor a broad staircase, adorned to the top with raUs and balusters
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 11
of richly wrought and highly polished mahogany. This material according
to tradition was taken from the estate of Mr. Vassal! in Jamaica. At the
landing was a large square window, and there stood the family clock, that
last in use in the house still coimting the centuries and likely to for many to
come. Beneath this lauding was a spacious well-lighted store-room for
china and the garniture of the table on festal occasions, whence proceeded
long lines of sweetmeats and preserves — such as the great-grandmothers of
New-England delighted in, and among them in the days of the Vassalls
doubtless whatever the tropics could produce. Beyond this hall, which
opened by a door of hospitable dimensions under a portico and balcony into
the front court, was the family parlor, or keeping room, thirty feet or more
in length, with three windows in front on the court, two in recesses on either
side of the fire-place looking towards the north. When Mr. Salisbury, the
proprietor of the adjoining estate on that side, erected a stable so as to
darken these windows, mirrors were substituted in their place. In the mid-
dle of the court yard, opposite the centre window to the south, stood a large
English walnut, bearing excellent fruit.
It is probable that these principal apartments were finished originally in
arras, tajjestry, or wainscoat, as was usual in the best houses of the day.
Possibly the panels were of pine, red cedar, or even mahogany, as one room
in a house built a little earlier by Leonard Vassall, now owned and occu-
pied by the Hon. Charles Francis Adams in Quincy, was so constructed.
But this is only matter of conjecture. In later days, as fashions changed,
the walls were plastered and covered with the customary wall papers.
"With their mjny windows opening towards the south, these rooms were
especially bright and sunny. Prior to 1807 the grounds adjacent down the
street were in gardens, or occujjied by buildings of little elevation. They
had been conveyed in 1(380 to the First Church, and were improved by
them for a parsonage. Here dwelt several of the eminent men who succes-
sively occupied its pulpit. When the Church was removed from where
later were built what have been known as Joy's Buildings on Washington
street, its new edifice was placed on the rear of this lot on Chauncy Place,
so called, from one of its most distinguished pastors. On the Summer street
front at the same time was erected a block of fom--story brick buildings.
Ample spaces were still left for light and air, and the northerly end of the
block was draped to the chimney tops with woodbine, which in. autumn
12 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
exchanged its summer verdure for more brilliant tints. These new edifices,
impairing but little the cheerfulness of the mansion or its court yard, pro-
tected both alike from the winter winds and public observation.
Beyond the keeping room was a capacious entry, out of which mounted a
second staircase sufficiently commodious, but less richly decorated than that
in the principal haU. The kitchens, still farther along, were two in number.
The first was lighted from the court by two windows, with a door opening
between them. It had one of the old foshioned chimneys of vast dimensions,
with a smoke-jack revolved by complicated machinery, high up within its
mysterious recesses. In the corner formed by the projecting chimney was a
room or lavatory, then used by younger members of the family, who slept
for health's sake in cold rooms, where the water froze in winter, and who
completed this part of their toUet below. Under its window was the horse
tub, where the horses were led to drink. The second kitchen of the same
size, used as a laundry, receded a little from the front line of the building.
It contained, among other meritorious arrangements, one large tub in whicli
was worked a dumb betty by one of the men, serving about the same pur-
pose in kneading the clothes as that modern contrivance the patent washer.
In continuation of these kitchens' towards the north line of the estate, was
a small court surrounded by offices of different descriptions, and in front of
them was a sitting room, or retreat, for the master of the house, with its
ample grate and a large window looking into the garden, serving the pur-
pose of an office or library. It projected a few feet from the general line of
the front of the house, and about twenty feet away was the wall of the
stable. In this, on the side toward the house, was a long fruit room with
shelves for pears to ripen, a work or lathe room, and a staircase to a small
apartment on the level of the hay-loft looking into the garden.
The sleeping rooms occupied two floors of the mansion, the front one on
the upper story being peculiarly cheerful, commanding extended views over
the neighboring gardens. The house abounded in closets, garrets and cellars,
and was a paradise for good house-keepers.
From the front gate the vista extended about three hundred feet along
the court paved with white and blue cobble stones, in fanciful patterns,
along beds edged with box of roses, seringa, honey-suckle and snow-drops,
between the stables and garden room, to an octagon summer-house at the
farther Qnd of the garden. The court-yard, nearly fifty feet by a hundred,
A HOJIE OF THE OLDEN TIME. 13
■wliich one of our poets well caljecl baronial, was flanked on tlie side op-
posite the house, by a series of six arcades, for the most part filled in with
panel work to correspond with the fagade of the stable, which was a model
of good proportion and decoration. "When the house, stable and sheds,
as well as the fences, were all painted of a light straw color, in two tints,
with flowers and vines, clustering everywhere around and about the build-
ings, it presented a whole of extreme delicacy and beauty.
The probate records afford an insight into the plenishing of both house
and stable in the days of the Vassalls and its subsequent occupants. Horses
and carriages, plate, pictures and books abounded ; nor does the family cow
escape notice, which, driven daily up "Winter street to the Common, when
the season served, returned at night with distended udders, not of less flavor
from the charming scenes and grassy slopes of her pasture.
Mr. "Vassall had his summer residence at Braintree now Quincy. Many
other men of fortune passed a portion of the warmer months out of town.
Boston was, however, not so densely peopled, but that there were spaces
all about liim for orchard and for garden. The broad area covered by
magnificent palaces of trade on either side of what is now Franklin street,
has been known since the Revolution as Barrel's pasture. Close by to the
south and west was the mansion of John Eowe, with enclosures extending
towards Essex street. The gardens to the north, which belonged to Ed-
mund Quiucy, and purchased on that account by Mr. Salisbury, whose wife was
Edmimd's granddaughter, were as extensive as his own. Many who were well
able to possess and enjoy country villas, preferred the town, or contented them-
selves with expeditions into the interior, or along shore, of a few weeks at a
time, in their own carriages. It was consequently customary to surround
the dwelling, where space permitted, with gardens and pleasure grounds, and
though the land attached to the house of the Vassalls was not large, the
most was made of it. "Whoever has realized what can be accomplished in
limited areas, as for example in the college gardens in England's Cam-
bridge, or in some of our smaller cities, will easily believe that taste
and wealth may have produced marvellous results in its cultivation and
It was laid out in four large square beds edged with box. That nearest
the garden room was devoted to grapes of various descrijitions on trellises.
In other parts of the garden were currants and raspberries, peaches and cher-
14 A HOME OF TEGE OLDEN TQIE.
ries, and a great variety of pears then famous, but which are now, from
some change of climate fatal to this sensitive fruit, almost unknown. The
St. Jlichael, St. Germain, Vergouleuse and Brown Beurre, were all there in
abundance, and one who has often partaken of them bears witness that no
later variety has ever surpassed them in delicacy of flavor. He mentions
an instrument in use in his day in the garden for picking the ripe pears
from the tree without disturbing the rest. To the end of a long pole was
attached a small net or pouch, into which the pear was dropped, after a knife
at the rim of the pouch, sufficiently guarded not to damage the fruit, had
severed the stem. He mentions also a mode adopted to cm-e the neighbor-
ing boys of depredations, which was to send a basket of the fruit to their
parents. Peaches too aboimded, clingstones and rareripes of the choicest
sorts, a fruit which then came to greater perfection than at present. Plans
have been preserved of the garden, with most of the fruit trees marked in
theu' positions, forty-four being enumerated within its comparatively limited
Will our readers pardon this minute description. It is a type of many a
pleasant abode of those happy days when a rus in ttrhe was still a possibility.
It is no creation of fancy, but once existed, and realizing its completeness
as it proceeded fresh from the hands of its architect, and knowing of whom
its family consisted, it is easy to believe that whatever human life permits of
happiness was there experienced. Education and refinement, all that affluence
could yield for healthy and instructive occupation, whatever well regulated
minds, good dispositions and natural gaiety could contribute to social and
domestic enjoyment, was there to be found. Three sons in college and
one at school, in the hey-day of youth, went and came. As many young
ladies, tenderly reared, who, we have reason to believe, possessed not
merely accomplishment, but solid acquirements, made, no doubt, the best
of companionship for each other and the guests of the house, \yhat is
known of their subsequent career, of the religious sentiments of their
parents, leads irresistibly to the conclusion that with the retreat atBraintree,
recollections of tropical existence to soften the rigors of a New-England
winter, abundant wealth and disposition to enjoy the blessings of Providence
without asceticism or Puritan reserve, it was the happiest of homes.
In 1737 Leonard Vassall died, leaving in his will his plantations among
his sons, giving each of his daughters when of age or married a thousand
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 15
pounds and a negro attendant fifteen years old, the money to be one fourth
less in case of marriage without consent of their mother and guardian. He
made ample provision for his widow while she continued a member of the
English Church, and gives her certain books in which he had inscribed her
name. He leaves John his riding horse, sword, watch and personal effects,
and makes his devise to WUliam conditional that he make oath never to
risk more than twenty shillings at any game at one sitting. He directs the
Summer-street.estate to be sold, and its proceeds and that of other property
to be invested for the benefit of his younger daughter. Like his great uncle
William, who came over with Winthrop, he seems to have been much at-
tached to the Episcopal Church. He was early connected with Christ
Church ou Salem street, and was one of its wardens in 1727. He in-
terested himself actively in the foundation of Trinity Church, which was
erected about 1730, on Summer street, opposite his own dwelling. He re-
ceived from William Speakman, later senior warden, a conveyance, in 1728,
of the land on which the church was erected, entering the same year into
an obligation to reconvey the same to the building committee upon payment
of the purchase money and interest. The committee, Mr. Speakman and
himself, in consideration of their services, were allowed to build tombs under
the church free of charge.
The sons emulated the father as builders of elegant mansions. Lewis,
who lived in Quincy, died Sept. 15, 1743, having married Dorothy Macqueen,
of Boston. His son Lewis, who graduated at Harvard College in 1760, died
abroad before 1785. Col. John, the second sou, lived in Cambridge. He first
purchased the pleasant and spacious abode now occupied by our honored octo-
genarian, Mr. Batchelder, and which in 1720 belonged to the Belchers. It
is sometimes said that he built that house, but this is not so received by its
present proj^rietor. He certainly did erect one of our most magnificent
residences, that ou the other side of the road, afterwards Gen. Washington's
head-quarters during the siege of Boston, and subsequently owned by An-
drew Craigie, Joseph L. Worcester, and now by our distinguished poet,
Mr. Longfellow. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieut. Governor
Spencer Phips, in 1734, and afterwards Lucy Barran, and died Nov. 27,
1747. His son John, H. C. 1757, married Elizabeth Oliver, and died at
Clifton in England, 1797, having had two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary,
and five sons — John, Col. Spencer Thomas, Mlled at Monte Video in 1807,
16 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
Thomas Oliver, Robert Oliver and Leonard. The first John had three
daughters— Ruth, who married Edward Davis, fi-om whom descends William
Hayden, formerly city auditor of Boston ; Elizabeth, who married Thomas
Oliver, last Lt. Governor of Massachusetts under the crown ; and Lucy,
by the second wife, who married John Levicount, of Antigua, in 1768.
William, the third son, resided at one period in the house opposite
Cambridge common, afterwards occupied by Dr. Waterhouse. The limits
of the estate extended to that of John. He was sheriff of Middlesex. In
the year 17C0, he erected the superb mansion in Boston, afterwards Mr.
Gardiner Greene's, taken down in 1835. He married Ann Davis, by whom
he had eleven children, and after her death in 17 GO, Margaret Hubbard.
At the outbreak of hostilities with the mother country, he . went with his
family to England, where some of his descendants are honored and affluent.
Henry married, in 174:1, Penelope Royall, of Medford. His brother con-
veyed to him the Batchelder house in Cambridge, having built the Long-
fellow mansion for himself. He had one daughter, Elizabeth, who married
Dr. Charles Russell in 1775, a refugee, and died in Antigua in 1780. Col.
Henry Vassall died in Cambridge, March 17, 17G9.
The daughters of Leonard Vassall who grew up, were — Ruth, whose
husband was Dr. Benjamin Stedman ; Elizabetli, who married John Miller,
of Milton ; Mary, wife of Jonathan Prescott ; and Susanna, wife of George
Ruggles. It would be out of place to enter more at large into the various
ramifications of a family so widely distributed. The natural desire to know
of whom consisted a race, which left such admirable monuments of their
existence in the pleasant dwellings they erected, has already been met by Mr.
Harris, New-England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. xvii., page
56, and also on a more comprehensive scale in his separate publication.
Numerous descendants of Leonard Vassall by female lines remain among us
distinguished by ancestral traits. But the name has for the most part
perished, unless where perpetuated in the line of sable dependents who
had assumed that of their masters, as was customary in days when one man
could be bondsman to another.
An anecdote is related of one of these, called Tonie Vassall, who, when
Washington in 1775 took possession of the Longfellow mansion, was found
swinging on the gate. Learning that Tonie belonged to the place, the Gen-
eral, to set his mind at rest for his future, told him to go into the house and
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 17
they would tell liiin what to do and give him something to eat. Feeling
the value of his freedom, Tonie inquired vrhat would be the wages, at which
Washington expressed surprise at his being so unreasonable at such a time as
to expect to be paid. Tonie lived to a great age, and when on one occasion
lie was asked what he remembered of Washington, said he was no gentle-
man, he wanted boy to work without wage. Darby, a son of Tonie, had been
promised that he should be buried in the tomb of the Vassalls under Christ
Church, and one in whose employment he was a long time as coachman, and
whose wife's uncle had married Henry Vassall's daughter, procured for him
this coveted privilege.
Thomas Hubbard was the next possessor of the jjroperty, and for nearly
forty years to his death in 1773, made it his abode. Of his parentage,
whether descended from the historian, we have not been able to discover, but
Mr. Quincy in his history of Harvard College, Vol. ii. p. 158, says " that he
was born in Boston in 1702, and that his early life being marked by dili-
gence and fidelity, he had scarcely passed the threshold of manhood before
he was placed by his fellow citizens in stations of trust and confidence. He
became a member of the house of representatives, held for many years the
speaker's chair, and finally was raised to a seat in the council of the pro-
vince, wliich he resigned a short time before his death. Few men have
passed through life with a higher reputation for integrity, usefulness and
fidelity in all the relations of public and private life. He increased the
funds of the college by his judicious and assiduous management, and to the
oflice of treasurer united the character of benefactor. He contributed one
hundred pounds, lawful money, to supply the loss occasioned by the destruc-
tion of Harvard Hall, made donations towards replacing the philosophical
apparatus, and bequeathed to it at his death an additional legacy of three
hundred pounds, lawful money, the income to be disposed of according to
their discretion for the advancement of learning."
Mr. Hubbard also, in his will, gave the college all his books which his widow
should not wish to retain, requesting Dr. Andrew Eliot and Dr. Samuel
Cooper to select the best, most curious and suitable, and place them in the
alcove in the library, over which his name was inscribed. He had been
treasurer of the college for twenty-one years, in which office he was suc-
ceeded by John Hancock. By inquiry and examination of the public re-
cords many additional particulars might no doubt be collected to his credit.
18 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
He was deacon of the Old South, and in his will bequeaths two hundred
pounds to its fund for the poor. He was also commissioner for the Marshpee
Indians. In 1755 he was associated by the general court with Hutchinson
in charge of the correspondence of William Bollan, Massachusetts agent in
London, who communicates a project started in parliament for governing the
colonies in the same manner as Ireland. He was evidently a pi^itan of the
strictest sect, fond of study, and a patron of learning, not go dead to the
world as to allow himself discomfort in struggling with what he considered
its temptations. If not so rich as his predecessor in the property, he left a
good estate, inventoried at about four thousand pounds, to his widow, his
daughter Mrs. Fayerweather, and his grandchildren Mary Boardman and
Hubbard Townshend. His horses and carriages are valued at one hundred
pounds, his plate at two hundred and forty, and he appears to have
possessed more than seventy pictures, from the valuation not apparently of
any great value. His portrait, by Copley, was presented to the college by his
descendant, Mrs. Appleton. Plate seems to have abounded in the house.
Leonard Vassall leaves one of his daughters a silver tankard, pair of candle-
sticks and snuffers, and a two-eared caudle cup, to make her share of her
grandmother's plate equal to the rest of her sisters and cousins.
Upon the decease of Thomas Hubbard in 1773, and of his widow within
a twelvemonth after, the estate, valued at one thousand pounds, passed
through George Ruggles, son-in-law of Leonard Vassall, to Frederick W.
Geyer. Susanna, the wife of Mr. Geyer, was daughter of Duncan, son
of Timothy Ingraham, who married Sarah Cowell. Mr. Geyer, taking sides
with the crown, left Boston after its evacuation by the British, and in 1778
was exiled and his property sequestered. The Summer-street mansion,
confiscated as an absentee estate, after the peace was, in 1787 and 1791, re-
conveyed to him by Perez Morton, solicitor and later attorney general, the
general court having in the interval restored him to citizenshii^.
The house, in the days of Mr. Geyer, was famed for its social gaieties and
elegant entertainments. Tradition tells us of the brilliant gatherings of wit
and fashion around its sumptuous board, Mrs. Geyer being noted for the
courtesy and grace with which she presided and put every one at ease.
There could have been few pleasanter banqueting rooms in Boston. The
family consisted of three sons, only one of whom, Frederick, who married
Rebecca Frazier, left descendants ; and five daughters. Mary Ann became
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 19
in 1792 the wife of Andrew Belcher, son of Jonathan, who was governor
of Massachusetts and New-Jersey for twenty-seven years, and father of Sir
Edward, who has in recent times gained distinction and a baronetcy by his
scientific and other services in the British navy. Charlotte married Joseph
Marryatt, fiither of the novelist, and Catherine II., Nathaniel Tucker of
Bellows Falls. Susan died suigle in 1802, and Nancy W., Feb. 13, 1794,
married Rufus G. Amory. When this last event took place, Prince Edward,
afterwards Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, was in Boston, on his
way to Halifax, and was a guest at the wedding.
In the Salisbury house to the north then resided Madam Amory, daughter
of WiUiam Coffin, of the Nantucket branch of the family and grandfather
of Sir Isaac, a Boston boy, who distinguished himself in the British navy.
Her former abode at the corner of Harvard street, erected by Governor
Belcher, had been swept away in the great conflagration of 1787 ; and while
two houses in the centre of the north side of Franklin place, afterwards
occupied by herself and her eldest son, the father of the well-known Col.
Amory of the Fii-eman's Insurance office, were building, she dwelt for a few
years in Summer street. Her family was numerous, and intimate with that
of her neighbors. Separated by a high wall from their gardens on Summer
street were the grounds fronting on Bedford street of Mr. Eowe, as already
mentioned. It was the same John Rowe, who, after the peace, moved the
restoration of the codfish, now in the representatives' chamber of the
state house on Beacon Hill, and emblem of one important branch of
Massachusetts prosperity, to the place it occupied before the war in the
apartment used for a similar purpose in the old state house on State street.
His nieces, the Inmans, whose home was the large rambling mansion stUl
standing in Cambridge, head-quarters of Gen. Israel Putnam during the
siege, were frequent inmates of his family, and when Susan married Capt.
John Linzee, commander of the British naval force in our waters in 1775, his
relative Lord Hood, the distinguished naval officer, attended the nuptials.
Another generation had grown up, and Mr. Rowe still occupied in winter
the same house which stood about on the site of Dr. Robbins's chm-ch, and
which many well remember in later days as the abode of Judge Prescott,
the eminent jurist, and of his son, even more widely known, William H.
Prescott the Spanish historian. The wall already mentioned, there being no
gate of communication, was provided on either side with ladders or steps,
20 A HOME OF TIBS OLDEN TIME.
and the young people of the three families were constantly together. Here
officers attached to French fleets and cruisers that visited the port were fre-
quent visitors. Here also on one occasion, according to family legend, in the
summer house at the foot of the Geyer garden, the father-in-law of Mr.
Prescott first made the acqiuiintance of his wife the daughter of Captain
Linzee. This circumstance is not without interest in its connection with the
two swords, one of Col. Prescott, grandfather of the historian, who com-
manded the American forces at Bunker Hill, the other that of the grand-
father of his wife, Captain Linzee, whose squadron flanking the fort took
that day an active and important part in the contest.
These two swords long held a conspicuous position in the library of the
historian, and after his death were presented by his widow to the Massa-
chusetts Historical Society. They are now crossed over the door of en-
trance to the Dowse Library in their rooms on Tremont street, with an ap-
propriate inscription. The union that led to this long digression had another
claim to be remembered, though not of such historical interest. One of the
descendants in the second generation has recently intermarried with the
daughter of the present proprietor of the estate.
Those who in former days on their visits to London had the privi-
lege of inspecting the gardens of Mrs. Marryatt, at Wimbledon, then cele-
brated as among the finest in England for the great variety and beauty of
the plants and flowers, may reasonably conjecture that the taste and skill
that produced such marvels was nurtured and fostered in her earlier days
among the flower beds of Summer street. An American traveller, who
had himself been long an inmate of the Summer-street mansion, met, this
very summer, one of her descendants in the south of Europe. She told
him that Mrs. Marryatt often spoke of being as an infant passed out of the
rear window of the house when it was assailed by the liberty boys. As she
died in 1855, at the age of eighty-one, the dates would correspond. The
lady alluded to, in speaking of the family called it Von Geier, indicating a
German origin, geier being the word in that language for vulture or hawk.
One other reminiscence of the place may be worthy of note in a pub-
lication largely devoted to family matters, if not allowed to go any
farther. Two young American ladies, who had married abroad gentlemen
connected with the court of Sweden, not long since met for the first time at
a festal entertainment in the palace at Stockholm. Among strangers, ua-
A IIOJIE OF THE OLDEN TI5IE. 21
tional ties, perhaps their own language, drew them into closer companionship,
and tlie conversation naturally drifting to home snhjects-they soon discovered
that the family of the Geyers and this old home of- theirs in Summer street
were common and familiar topics to them both. One of them was a Marry-
att, and the other, though not descended from the Geyers, had lived all her
early days in intimate association with relatives that were.
Another interesting association with this house of the Vassalls, is that it
was the birth-place of the late "William Foster. The event occurred, it is
presumed, as he was over ninety when he died, soon after Mr. Geyer quitted
it for England. It may warrant the relation of an incident of his youth-
ful career which ought not to -be lost. Sent out by his father, during the
reign of terror in France, to Morlaiz, in Brittany, on commercial affairs, he
made the acquaintance of his future wife in an humble garb assumed to
escape persecutions, to which, at that time, all the wealthier classes of society
were exposed. Her father, M. Perron, proprietor of valuable estates in the
neighborhood, had fled from the fury of the '' red republicans," leaving his
daughter in charge of one of his tenants, under whose roof he was en-
couraged to believe she would escape observation. Mr. Foster, who at
once penetrated he? disguise, was attracted by her beauty and loveliness of
character, and the acquaintance thus accidentally formed ripened into recip-
rocal regard. When . her guardian discovered the interest she betrayed in
him, reposing entire trust in the integrity of his character, he revealed to
him, in confidence, who she was, imploring him to desist fi-om attentions
which if noticed might subject them all to unpleasant consequences. He
of course felt bound to acquiesce in the prudence of this counsel. But not
long afterwards,- her father returning, before the popular agitation had
subsided, his chateau was attacked by the republicans. Mr. Foster ren-
dered such efficient service in successfully defending it, that all farther
objection to the match was removed, they were married, and Mr. Foster
brought his wife to America. They had two daughters, one of whom riiar-
ried and resides in France, and the other is now the widow of the late
Henry Tudor. The sister of Mrs. Foster married a brother of the cele-
brated General Moreau. Long after the death of his wife Mr. Foster
erected a handsome stone- mansion, beautifully situated on the borders of
Spot Pond, in the neighborhood of Boston, which he mentioned to the
writer resembled, iu material and arrangement, as nearly as prevailing
22 A HOME OF TUE OLDEN TIME.
modes of construction permitted, the chateau of his wife's parents in
Three years before his deatli in 1803, M. Geyer removed to the romantic
residence afterwards occupied by his son-in-law Mr. Tucker at Bellows Falls,
on Connecticut river, disposing of the Simimer-street estate to ]\Ir. Samuel
P. Gardner. Mr. Gardner was of the Salem branch of the name, and mar-
ried a daughter of Judge Lowell. As their near relatives were among the
most gifted and eminent of the first half of this jiresent century, the house
retained its social attraction and fame for generous hospitality until the pro-
gress of improvement compelled an ajiijropriation of the estate to other
purposes. Their second son, its present proprietor, erected upon it for tlie
great commercial house of the Hoveys, one large mart for their extensive
business, now by recent enlargement covering its whole area.
As the Gardners have held the property for seventy years, it would lie
an omission in a work of this kind not to present a cursory view of their
several generations. Our limits forbid the extended details the subject de-
mands, but it is to be hoped their family history will be perpetuated in a
form, to render accessible to its numerous descendants and connections all
the information they may vpish. The name is largely multiplied on both
sides the ocean, several distinct branches bearing it in New-England, not
known to be connected. That to which belonged the patriot treasurer of
the revolution, progenitor of our recent governor, is believed to be from a
1. Thomas Gardner, the first of the Salem stock, came over in 1G24
from Dorsetshire, England, in which neighborhood the name had flourished
for more than three centuries, and settled, under the auspices of the Dorches-
ter Company and of the Rev. John ^Vliite, with thirteen others, at
Gloucester, Cape Ann, upon the grant of Lord Sheffield to Robert Cushman
and Edward Winslow made in January of that year. Mr. Gardner was
overseer of the plantation, John Tylley of the fisheries, Roger Conant being
soon after appointed governor. Not realizing the success they anticipated
in founding a colony, they removed, in 1G2G, to Naumkeag, or Salem, which
continued the home of Mr. Gardner and his descendants down to this pre-
sent century. He died in 1 G35.
2. Thomas, his son, an eminent merchant, was born 1592, and died 1674.
He held several town offices, and was member of the general court in
A HOME OF THE OLDEX TIME. 2S
1G37. By liis wives Margaret Frier and Damaris Sliattuck lie had: 1.
Tliomas. 2. George. 3. Kicliard. 4. Joliu. 5. Samuel. 6. Joseph. 7.
Sarah, wife of Benjamin Balch ; 8. Miriam, of John Hill ; 9. Ruth, in
1G38 of John Grafton. From these were many descendants. Joseph
commanded the Salem company in King PhUip's war, and commended for
his courage by its historians, was killed, with eight of his own men and six
other captains, in an attack on an Lidiau fort, in the great battle in the
Narraganset swamp, 10 Dec, 1675. His wife was daughter of Emanuel
and sister of the celebrated Sir George Downing, after whom Downing
street in London was named, and who was one of the earliest graduates
of Harvard College. His widow, about 1686, married Governor Bradstreet.
It is jirobable that through this connection the noble house erected by the
governor, of which an engraving is to be found in Felt's Salem, came into
the Gardner fomily. Richard with three of his children removed to Nan-
tucket, where moi'e were born unto him. His eldest daughter, Sarah, be-
came the wife of Eleazer Folger, brother of Dr. Franklin's inother. Some
of his descendants intermarried with the Coffins, Macys, Starbucks and other
well-known names of that sea-girt isle, greatly multiplying and continuing
prosperous down to our own time. Bj-anches from this line have spread
over the country, and descendants of Richard are found in many places.
The impression that they derive their origin from some other parent source
tlian Thomas of Cape Ann, is altogether erroneous, and the numerous
offshoots from that sturdy stock may embrace many more about the land.
Samuel was a merchant, deputy to the general court, and as one of its select-
men, trustee of the Indian deed of the town of Salem, Oct. 11, 168G.
3. George, the second sou of the second Thomas, was born before his
father came to America, and died 1679. He engaged in business at Hart-
ford, and there accumulated a large estate. His first wife was Elizabeth
Orne, by whom he had seven children. 1. Hannah, wife of John Buttolph.
2. Samuel. 3. Marj', wife of Habakkuk Turner. 4. George. 5. Ruth,
wife of John Hathorue, one of the Judges in the trials for witchcraft. 6.
Ebenezer, who married, in 1G81, Sarah Bartholomew, and died in 1G85, at
the age of twenty-eight, bequeathed a considerable property by his will, as he
had no children of his own, among his brothers, sisters and other kins-
folk, from the mention of whom in that instrument much information
as to the earlier generations of the name has been derived. 7. Mehitable.
24 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
The second -wife of Mr. Gardner, was Mrs. Ruth Turner, a name which is
-suggestive. His daughter Mary had married one of the same family, and this
connection prohahly led to her father's selection in this second marriage.
4. Samuel, born 1G48, died 1724 ; married, 1673, Elizabeth, daughter of
John Brown, widow of Joscjih Grafton. lie was a merchant, and also culti-
vated a farm. In the Indian wars he commanded a company. His cliildren
were: 1. George. 2. Hannah, born 1076, married John Iligginson, 1695,
by whom she had four children and died 1718. 3. George, born 1C79. 4.
John, mentioned below.
5. John, born 1G81 ; died before 1724 ; married Elizabeth, daughter of
Dr. Daniel Weld. He commanded the Salem company in the battle, Aug.
, 29, 1708, at Haverhill, wlien it was attacked by French and Indians, and
slew with his own hands an Indian, some of whose arms and equipments
are still in jiossession of his descendants. For several years he repre-
sented Salem in the general court ; but his constitution not being very strong
lie engaged in no active business. His children were: 1. Elizabeth, born,
1705, wife of Jonathan Gardner, who had the title of Commodore. 2. John,
of whom hereafter. 3. Ebenezer, born 1708, died young. 3. Daniel,
born 1709, died 176G ; married Ann Putnam. 4. Hannah, born 1711, wife
of Samuel Ilolton, and mother of Judge Holton, at one time President of
Congress. 5. Samuel, born 1712, died 1769, graduate of Harvard, mar-
ried Esther Orne, by whom he had serveral children. His second wife was
Mrs. "Winslow, daughter of Richard Clarke, one of tlie consignees of the tea de-
stroyed in Boston harbor in 1773, and sister of the wife of Copley the painter.
He held manj^ town offices, represented Salem in the general court, and left
an estate of one hundred thousand dollars. William Gray, the distinguished
merchant and Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, had been two years in his
counting-room at the time of his decease. His two sons George and Henry
were graduates of Harvard, in the classes respectively of 1762 and 1765.
The former left the college about five thousand dollars, the Marine Soci-
ety for superannuated seamen over seven thousand, and to the poor
of Salem nearly fifteen hundred. 6. Lydia. 7. Bethiah, born 1715,
died 1773, married Nathaniel Ingersol. Their daughter Mary, by Habak-
kuk Bowditch, was the mother of the celebrated mathematician Dr. Bow-
ditch. 8. Ruth, married, 1st, Bartholomew Putnam ; 2d, Jonathan Goodhue,
father by a former wife of Benjamin, in congress from Salem.
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 25
G. Jolin, born in 1707, died 1784, in a house whicli stood on the present
site of the Salem Museum. He married Elizabetli Putnam, widow of her cou-
sin Wilham, brotlier of Gen. Israel Putnam of the revolution, by whom he had
1. John, of whom hereafter. 2. Elizabeth, born 1731, died 1754, unmar-
ried. Mrs. Gardner had two daughters by Mr. Putnam ; one, wife of Jona-
than Onie, and the other of Jonathan Gardner. By his second wife Eliza-
beth, widow of Capt. Benjamin Herbert, he had no child, but by his third,
Mary Peal, bom 1733, died 182G, he had — Mary, wife of 1. Abel Kersey ;
2. of William Lemon. He had no exclusive occupation, engaging a little in
commerce, and being possessed of a farm and mill between Salem and Mar-
b'.ehead. He commanded a troop of horse, and for some years was sent to
the legislature from Salem.
7. John, born 1731, died 1805. His first wife was Mary Gale, of Mar-
blehead, born 1728, died 1755; his second, Elizabeth, sister of Col. Timothy
Pickering of the revolution, and Secretary of State in the cabinets of Wash-
ington and John Adams. By her he had three children : 1. Elizabeth, born
1750, died 181 G; married, 1782, Samuel Blanehard, born 175G, died 1813,
surgeon in the army of the revolution. She was the grandmother by her son
Francis, born 178-1 and who married Mary Ann, daughter of Francis Cabot,
widow of N. C. Lee, of the first Mrs. Robert C. Winthrop. 2. John, born
17G0, died 1792, a successful merchant at Charleston, S. C. 3. Samuel P.,
mentioned below. Early in life • INIr. Gardner commanded a vessel to the
West Indies, and during the revolution owned several privateers, all success-
ful, but the Black Prince and Hector, in the Penobscot expedition of 1779,
by which he was a loser. At the commencement of the war he purchased
a farm of two hundred acres at AV^enham, and erected upon it a house in which
he resided till liis death.
8. Samuel P., born 1767, died 1843, graduated at Harvard College
1786, engaged in mercantile business with his brother John, at Chai'leston,
S. C. ; removed to Boston 1793, and married 19 Sept., 1797, at Roxbury,
Rebecca Russell, born May 17, 1779, fourth daughter of Judge John Low-
ell, by Rebecca, daughter of James Russell, born 1715, died 1798. He
purchased as before stated the Summer-street estate iu 1800. His cliil-
dren were : 1. Mrs. John C. Gray. 2. Mrs. Francis C. Lowell. 3. John
L. 4. Mrs. Horace Gray. 5. George. 6. Francis L., born 1811,
26 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
It is not our purpose to enter more at large into tlie history of the fam-
ily, in their two last generations and for nearly three quarters of a century
proprietors of Gamaliel's garden. Enough has been said to indicate in how
many interesting ways they have been connected with the aimals of New-
England from its earliest settlement. Their several intermarriages with the
Ornes, Browns, AVelds, Putnams, "SVingates, Pickerings, Lowells, Russells,
and other names from public service and wide distribution among our existing
community familiar as household words, would justify, if the occasion war-
ranted, a mucli longer relation. We might obtain from it many entertaining
and instructive glimpses of social life under the kings, and also in the stirring
times that brought about our liberties. But our main subject is the old
house in Summer street, and only incidentally the family pedigrees of its
various inmates. ' Its occupation by its last proprietors, not less interesting
tb.an any previous period of its history, is too recent for other reference in
these present pages than the foregoing brief statement of their progeni-
tors for family use.
Possibly with livelier interest ourselves in the subject than will be shared
by all our readers, we have ventured to place before thein some account of
this ancient mansion. The public, reduced to its component parts, consists of
indiviihials variously connected by ties of consanguinity or friendship, and
among them not a few have special associations with this house or its inhabi-
tants. But were its appeal to be rescued from oblivion exclusively antiqua-
rian, little a]3ology seems called for. Every vestige of the past has been
eXjiloreil for knowledge of remote generations of other lands and races, and
we cei'taiidy should not begrudge an occasional thought to those so much
nearer and dearer. Unless we preserve by pencil and pen some notice of
their homes, we shall have allowed to perish an element in their existence,
which, if secondary, still affords a very realizing sense of their existence.
Suri'ounded by modern palaces, with all the embellishments the fine arts
can create or ajjpliances for comfort the useful have invented, it may seem
unreasonable to attach importance to these old abodes. The contrast in
some respects is not much to their advantage. When we consider how many
indisnensaiile contrivances for daily use are universal, wliich a centurj' ago
no wealth could purchase, we fully appreciate the privilege of having our
own lot cast in this nineteenth century. All we know however of other
days and generations confirms the faith that content depends little on stir-
A HOME OP THE OLDEN TIME. 27
roundings. Blessings in common to our progenitors and ourselves surpass
immeasurably in their capabilities of producing happiness, whatsoever has
been added since by ingenuity or wisdom.
But the claims of these old homes to be held in sacred remembrance is
not their beauty of form or excellence of structure, or even the light they
shed on modes and processes of days gone by. When in contemplative mood
we gaze upon their venerable remains, or as in this instance recall from the
dead past their ghostly presence, they seem alive with recollections. If in
private life the incidents of a single career narrated without reserve prove
often as striking as romance, the history of a dwelling embracing the chances
aud changes of mortal existence for a host of successive occupants may oc-
casionally possess an interest no less. Due regard must be paid to what
even the over sensitive deem unsuitable for publication. But after full
allowance for such considerations, enough may be revealed within the most
scrupidous limits of decorum to bring before us in living reality admirable
men and women of the past, with whom we feel almost as well acquainted
as if we had lived with them in daily companionship. This old house of the
Vassalls has a record we think our readers will admit too eventful to be lost.
There are numerous others in our New-England corner of the earth, not in
cities alone, but in country places, about which even more pleasant tales
can be told.
FEB IS 1908