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A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
THOMAS C. AMORY
PRINTED BY DAVID CLAPP & SON
18 7 2.
Reprinted from the New-England Historical and Genealogical Eegister.
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
As Americans, we look with admiration and some degi'ee of envy on sub-
stantial structures of other days that delight us abroad. We have indeed very
few of our own. We know something 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 jierished, 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, comjilete 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, modificatious 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 should attempt be
made to transform our dream into substantial realities, what was fair enough
to dwell upon reduced to possession proves extremely incommodious. 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 giieve over the load of embarrassment imder
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
ajDartments. Happier perhaps if his romance in stone and mortar had been
transmitted through a long line of iron clad progenitors, and reached him
unencumbered 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 Walpole's at Strawberry, to give
jjleasure 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 Stolzeufelz, Chillon and Dijon,
Guy's Clitf and Haddou 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 jjarliamentary 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
Hovise 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. i
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 i)roportions 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 yet presenting as fair a picture
as could then be found of domestic elegance and comfort. The mansion
itself, tlie second and probably destined to be the last ever upon the spot, was
erected early in the last centmy, and was subsequently occupied but by two
or three diflferent 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 ownership of
estates was similarly defined and guarded. Bounds and measurements of
grants, made under the pressure 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.
1 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 is 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 i^robably 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 1637 disarmed by the authorities.
If he died Dec. 9, 1685, as recorded, he must have been born in 1598. Two
of his sous are mentioned by Farmer, as cited ante, 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 sjieaker.
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 Book of
Possessions, as Wayte's garden. From the superior excellence of its fruits
there long prevailed an impression, of course unfounded, that it had belonged
to one of the Huguenots, who 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 wdth Gamaliel himself, as ancient as that of Governor Stuyvesant 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, w^hose father Anthony married, for his first
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TI3IE. 9
wife, the sister of Sir George Downing. Simeon, born in 1651, entered
tlirice into the bonds of wedlock: first with Mary in 1()7G, again 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 Armada, were among the original patentees in 1G28.
William came over with Winthrop in 1630, settled in Scituate in 1634,
but provoked by the persecution of the Episcoi^alians returned to England
in 16-46, and died in Barbadoes in 1655. 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 to his memory by Florentius, of Jamaica, his great-
grandson, recites his public services. His son John jjurchased 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 Richard, grandfather
of Elizabeth, who married Sir Godfrey Webster, and in 1797 Henry
Richard Fox, third 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.
Leonard Vassall, born in Jamaica in 1678, married there, Ruth Gale,
born in 1785, and by her had seventeen children. His second wife was Mrs.
10 A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME.
Phebe Gross, daughter of Samuel Penhallow, by Mary daughter of Presi-
dent John Cutt, of Portsmouth, New-Hampshire, by whom he had one
daughter, Anna, born in 1 035, 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 consisted 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 child.
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 ftict that Mr. Vassall had long dwelt in a warmer
climate than that of New-England.
The drawing room communicated with the hall, from whicli ascended to
the third floor a broad staircase, adorned to the top with rails and balusters
A HOME OF *rHE OLDEN TIME. 11
of richly wrought and highly polished mahogany. This material according
to tradition was taken from the estate of Mr. Vassall in Jamaica. At the
landing was a large square window, and there stood the family clock, that
last in use in the house still counting the centuries and likely to for many to
come. Beneath this landing 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 A^assalls
doubtless whatever the tropics could produce. Beyond this hall, which
opened by a door of hospitable dimensi6ns 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, tapestry, 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 jjlastered and covered with the customary wall papers.
"With their many windows oi)ening towards the south, these rooms were
especially bright and sunny. Prior to 1807 the grounds adjacent down the
street were in gardens, or occupied by buildings of little elevation. They
had been conveyed in 1 680 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 four-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 hall. 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 feshioned 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 toilet 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 which
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 suiTouuded 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 j)rojected 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 end of the garden. The court-yard, nearly fifty feet by a hundred,
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TI.AH:. 13
which one of our poets well called baronial, was flanked on the 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, j)ictures 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 Quinc}-. Many
other men of fortune passed a portion of the warmer mouths out of town.
Boston was, however, not so densely peopled, but that there were spaces
all about him 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 ])asture. Close by to the
south and west was the mansion of John Rowe, with enclosures extending
towards Essex street. The gardens to the north, which belonged to Ed-
mund Quincy, and purchased on that account by Mr. Salisbury, whose wife was
Edmund'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 descriptions on trellises.
In other parts of the garden were currants and raspberries, peaches and chei'-
14 A IIOIME OF THE OLDEN TBIE.
ries, and a great variety of pears then famous, but whicli are now, from
some change of climate fatal to this sensitive fruit, almost unknown. The
St. Michael, 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
sevei'ed the stem. He mentions also a mode adopted to cure the neighbor-
ing boys of depredations, which was to send a basket of the fruit to their
parents. Peaches too abounded, 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
their 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 hapjiy days when a rus in urhe 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 afiluence
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. What is
known of their subsequent career, of the religious sentiments of their
parents, leads irresistibly to the conclusion that with the retreat at Braintree,
recollections of tropical existence to soften the I'igors 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 William 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 on 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 17 GO, died
abroad before 1785. Col. John, the second son, lived in Cambridge. He first
purchased the pleasant and spacious abode now occu^iied 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 proprietor. He certainly did erect one of our most magnificent
residences, that on 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, killed 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, from whom descends William
Hayden, formerly city auditor of Boston ; Elizabeth, who mari'ied 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 1700, 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 1741, 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 ; Elizabeth, wlio married John Miller,
of IMilton ; Mary, Avife 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 Avhom 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 Yassall 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 him what to do and give him something to eat. Feeling
the value of his freedom, Tonie inquired what would be the wages, at which
Washington expressed suriDi'ise at his being so unreasonable at such a time as
to expect to be paid. Tonie lived to a gi'eat age, and when on one occasion
he was asked what he remembered of AVashington, said lie 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 wliose employment he was a long time as coachman, aiul
whose wife's uncle had married Heni'y Yassall's daughter, procured for him
this coveted privilege.
Thomas Hubbard was the next possessor of the property, 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
J\lr. Quincy in his history of Harvard College, Vol. ii. p. 1-'>H, 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
lie 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, which 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
office 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 tliem 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 BoUan, 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 puritan of the
strictest sect, fond of study, and a patron of learning, not so 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
Hubbai'd 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. Tlie vSummer-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 citizenship.
The house, in the days of Mr. Geyer, was filmed for its social gaieties and .
elegant entertainments. Tradition tells us of tlie 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 TBIE. 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, father of the novelist, and Catherine H., Nathaniel Tucker of
Bellows Falls. Susan died single 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 William 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 Fireman'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. Rowe, 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 still
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. Robbing's church, 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 THE OLDEN TIME.
and the young people of the three families were constantly together. Here
officers attached to Frencli 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 acquaintance 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, Avho 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 fixmily 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, na-
A IIP3IE OF THE OLDEN TIME. 21
tional ties, perhaps their own language, drew them into closer companionship,
and the conversation naturally drifting to home subjects 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 INIarry-
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 conmiercial 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 chai'ge of one of his tenants, under whose roof he was en-
couraged to believe she would escape observation, Mr. Foster, who at
once penetrated her 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 from 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 sei'vice 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 mar-
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, in material and arrangement, as nearly as prevailing
22 A HOME or THE OLDEN TIME.
modes of construction permitted, the chateau of his wife's parents iu
Three years before his death in 1803, M. Geyer removed to tlie romantic
residence afterwards occupied by his son-in-law Mr. Tucker at Bellows Falls,
on Connecticut river, disposing of the Summer-street estate to Mr. 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 present century, the house
retained its social attraction and fame for generous hospitality until the pro-
gress of improvement compelled an appropriation of the estate to other
jjurposes. Their second son, its present proi^rietor, erected upon it for the
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 be
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 wish. 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 treasui'er 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 1624
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 White, 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 1G26, to Naumkeag, or Salem, which
continued the home of Mr. Gardner and his descendants down to this pre-
sent century. He died in 1G35.
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 OLDEN TIME. 23
1G37. By Ills wives Margaret Frier and Damaris Shattuck he had: 1.
Thomas. 2. George. 3. Richard. 4. John. 5. Samuel. G. Josei)h. 7.
Sarah, wife of Benjamin Balch ; 8. Miriam, of John Hill ; 9. Ruth, in
1638 of John Grafton. From these were many descendants. Josej^h
commanded the Salem comj^any in King Philip'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 Indian fort, in the great battle in the
Narraganset swamp, 19 Dec, 1G75. 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 1G8G, married Governor Bradstreet.
It is probable 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 family. Richard with three of his children removed to Nan-
tucket, where more were born unto him. His eldest daughter, Sarah, be-
came the wife of Eleazer Folger, brother of Dr. Franklin's mother. Some
of liis 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. Bi-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
than Thomas of Caj^e 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, 1G8G.
3. George, the second son of the second Thomas, was born before his
father came to America, and died 1679. He engaged in business at Hart-
ford, and tlaere 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. Mary, wife of Habakkuk Turner. 4. George. 5. Ruth,
wife of John Ilathorne, one of the Judges in the trials for witchcraft. 6.
Ebenezer, who married, in 1681, Sarah Bartholomew, and died in 1685, 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 TI31E.
The second wife of Mr. Gai-dner, was Mrs. Rutli Turner, a name wliicli is
suggestive. His daugliter Mary had married one of the same ftvmily, and this
connection probably led to her father's selection in this second marriage.
4. Samuel, born 1G48, died 1724 ; married, 1G73, Elizabeth, daughter of
John Brown, widow of Joseph Grafton. He was a merchant, and also culti-
vated a farm. In the Indian wars he commanded a company. His children
were: 1. George. 2. Hannah, born 1G7G, married John Higginson, 1695,
by whom she had four children and died 1718. 3. George, born 1G79. 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, when it was attacked by French and Indians, and
slew with his own hands an Indian, some of whose arms and equipments
are still in possession of his descendants. For several years he repre-
sented Salem in the general court ; but his constitution not being very strong
he 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 vfhom hereafter. 3. Ebenezer, born 1708, died young. 3. Daniel,
born 1709, died 17GG ; married Ann Putnam. 4. Hannah, born 1711, wife
of Samuel Ilolton, and niotlier of Judge Ilolton, at one time President of
Congress. 5. Samuel, born 1712, died 17G9, graduate of Harvard, mar-
ried Esther Orne, by whom he had several children. His second wife was
Mrs. Winslow, daughter of Eichard Clarke, one of the consignees of the tea de-
stroyed in Boston harbor in 1773, and sister of the wife of Copley the painter.
He held many town offices, represented Salem in the general court, and left
an estate of one liundred 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 17G2 and 17G5.
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. G. 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
6. John, born in 1707, died 17<S1, in a house which stood on the present
site cfthe Salem Museum. He married Elizabeth Putnam, widow of her cou-
sin William, brother of Gen. Israel Putnam of the revolution, by whom he had
1. John, of whom hereafter. 2. Elizabeth, born 17.'51, died 17")4, umnar-
ried. Mrs. Gardner had two daughters by INIr. Putnam ; one, wife of Jona-
than Orne, and the other of Jonathan Gardner. By his second wife Eliza-
beth, widow of Capt. Benjamin Herbert, he had no child, but bj^ his third,
Mary Peal, born 1733, died 182G, he had — Mary, wife of 1. Abel Hersey ;
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-
blehead. He commanded a troop of horse, and for some years was sent to
the legislature from Salem.
7. John, born 1731, died 180o. His first wife was IVfary Gale, of INIar-
blehead, born 1728, died 1755; his second, Elizabeth, sister of Col. Timothy
Pickering of the revolution, and Secretary of State in the cal>inets of Wash-
ington and John Adams. By her he had three children : 1. Elizal)eth, born
1759, died 1816; married, 1782, Samuel Blanchard, born 1756, died 1813,
surgeon in the army of the revolution. She was the grandmother by her son
Francis, born 1784 and who married Mary Ann, daughter of Francis Cabot,
widow of N. C. Lee, of the first Mrs. Robert C. Winthrop. 2. John, born
1760, died 1792, a successful merchant at Charleston, S. C. 3. Sanuiel P.,
mentioned below. Early in life Mr. Gardner commanded a vessel to the
West Lidies, 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 Weuham, and erected upon it a house in ^\ Inch
he resided till his death.
8. Samuel P., born 1767, died 1843, graduated at Harvard College
1786, engaged in mercantile business with his brother John, at Charleston,
S. C. ; removed to Boston 1793, and married 19 Sept., 1797, at Koxbury,
llebecca 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 in 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,
20 A HOME or THE OLDEN TIME.
It is not our purpose to enter more at large into the 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 annals of New-
England from its earliest settlement. Their several intermarriages with the
Ornes, Browns, Welds, Putnams, Wingates, 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 much 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 jiedigrees of its
various inmates. Its occupation by its last proprietors, not less interesting
than any previous period of its history, is too recent for other reference in
tliese present pages than the foregoing brief statement of their progeni-
tors for fomily use.
P(jssibly with livelier interest ourselves in the subject than will be shared
by all our readers, we have ventured to place before them some account of
this ancient mansion. Tlie i)ublic, reduced to its component parts, consists of
individuals 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 apology seems called for. Every vestige of the past has been
explored for knowledge of remote generations of other lands and races, and
we certainly should not begrudge an occasional thought to those so much
nearer and daarer. 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.
SuiTounded by modern palaces, with all tlie embellishments the fine arts
can create or appliances for comfort tlie 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
indispensable contrivances for daily use are universal, which a century ago
no wealth could purchase, we fully ai>})reciate 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 sur-
A HOME OF THE OLDEN TIME. 27
rounclings. 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 iu 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
and 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
scrupulous 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 covmtry jslaces, about which even more pleasant tales
can be told.
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