OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held in their building, Water Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 30 June, 1909.
THE HOMESTEADS AT APPONEGANSETT BEFORE 1710
by Henry B. Worth
FIVE JOHNS OF OLD DARTMOUTH
by William A. Wing
[Note.—The “Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches” will be published by the Society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson’s Book Store.]
Proceedings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
New Bedford, Massachusetts
June 30, 1909
President Edmund Wood, in his remarks at the opening of the meeting, paid a tribute to the work of the Education Section, in charge of Miss Watson. He said that during the last few months Miss Watson had had all the higher grammar grades of the public schools, and the pupils of the local and Fairhaven High Schools, in the rooms, by classes, and given them afternoons of interesting amusement and study. President Wood expressed the opinion that this was a very intelligent use of the society’s facilities in an educative way among the younger people of the city.
The president also stated that the secretary of the society had had the inspiration of commemorating the early settlers of Old Dartmouth by setting brass tablets into the panels of the entrance to the main room, and that several of the members had already adopted the suggestion by installing tablets to commemorate ancestors. The secretary, he said, had volunteered to assist members desirous of contributing panels, by preparing inscriptions that could be etched in the brasses. The cost of the tablets will be from $5 up, according to the length of the inscription.
Alluding to the death of Henry H. Rogers, who was a member of the board of directors. President Wood said that this community mourned his loss together with the community on the other side of the river.
President Wood then introduced William W. Crapo, who spoke as follows:
The June, 1906, meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held in the Town House at Fairhaven. Henry H. Rogers was present. A day or two later he called at my office and expressed his gratification. He was interested. He commended the purposes of the society and spoke of the earnestness of those who were actively engaged in its work. He inquired about the resources and needs of the society. I told him that its revenue was derived from the annual fee of one dollar paid by each of its five or six hundred members and that with this modest income we had paid for rent and the furnishings of the room necessary for the exhibit of our collections and the other incidental expenses of printing, postage and the like; and that the society had no surplus, neither did it have a deficit. I told him that the lease of the room occupied on Union Street expired at the close of the year; that we had outgrown the premises, but had not been able to find suitable accommodations.
I added that, in my opinion, the society had reached a critical point in its history and that its continued efficiency and even its permanency depended upon its having a home of its own. He asked what steps had been taken in this direction. I told him none, except vague talk about location, some favoring the stone mansion on County Street constructed by William R. Rodman, others favoring the vacant bank building at the foot of William Street, while others preferred the Bank of Commerce building on Water Street at the head of Center Street. Mr. Rogers thought a preferable location would be near the municipal center of the city in the neighborhood of the city hall and public library. I dismissed this idea as reaching out for something unattainable.
A week or two later when we met he said he had been considering the question of location for the Historical Society and had reached the conclusion that the preferable place of those named was the bank building on Water Street; that it was convenient to the people of Fairhaven and Acushnet and was easy of access by the trolley lines in the city. He remarked that the building was attractive in appearance, was substantial in its construction and that he was familiar with its interior when it was used for banking and office purposes and thought it could be readily adapted for the purposes of the society.
At a still later date he asked me what progress had been made in the matter of a home for the Historical Society. I told him that practically nothing had been done, and that so long as there were positive differences of opinion as to location it seemed useless to make any effort. In my judgment I told him a concentration of sentiment as to one location was necessary. He said that perhaps this concentration of sentiment might be obtained by a purchase of the Water Street property and its presentation to the society. He had, however, he said, no wish to interfere with or in any way influence the action of the members of the society, but was willing to offer the building in such a way that if it was not agreeable to the society it could occasion no displeasure. He suggested that I act in his behalf in the purchase of the building and he left it discretionary with me as to the price. He stipulated, however, that neither the owners of the building, the members of the society, or the public should know that he was in any way connected with the transaction.
When I had agreed upon terms with the owners of the building and notified him of the fact, I inquired in what manner he desired to convey the property to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, suggesting that a proper method would be for the grantor, the New England Cotton Yarn Company, to deed the property to him and then that he convey it to the society, with such conditions and stipulations concerning its use, occupancy and future disposal as might occur to him. He said in making the gift he did not propose to attach any string to it and that the deed must go directly from the New England Cotton Yarn Company to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society and that the society should have full power to use it or dispose of it in its discretion. The only stipulation which he made was the one he imposed upon me that he should not be known in any way in connection with the transaction.
Against this withholding of his name I remonstrated. I urged that it would be embarrassing to the members of the society to receive such a munificent gift from an unknown person, since it would preclude them from the expression of their appreciation and gratitude. I further urged that the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was organized to chronicle and preserve the record of interesting local events and the transfer of this property being of vital importance to the Society and of general interest to the community there would be a strange incongruity in the fact that the Society could not tell in what way or by what means it had acquired its premises. After discussion it was arranged that after the death of Mr. Rogers a modest tablet with a simple inscription of the name of the donor might be placed in the building. This, he said, might be a gratification to his children and his grandchildren.
This gift came to the society without solicitation. Neither I nor any other person to my knowledge ever requested or suggested a contribution from Mr. Rogers for this purpose. It was made because he approved the mission of the society, because he was pleased with the work it was doing and desired its continuance, and because of the hope that the society having a home of its own might secure permanency. It was also made because of his affection for his native town of Fairhaven, and Fairhaven is a part of Old Dartmouth.
It may be asked why was Mr. Rogers so insistent in withholding his name? In this instance it was evident that he desired not to antagonize or influence the action of the Society on the question of location. He desired that the members of the Society should be free to accept or decline his offer and that this freedom of action would be secured if they were ignorant of the donor. Besides this there was his well-known dislike to any publicity in connection with his gifts. This trait in his character was not artificial. It was part of his nature. It was inborn. It was shown in his numberless acts of private charity and in the bestowal of assistance to many philanthropies and in his larger benefactions. His pleasure was in the giving and not in the notoriety of the gift.
At the entrance of this hall are two tablets. One of them mentions dates of important events in the history of the Society and of this building. It tells us that the society was incorporated in 1903 and that this building was erected in 1884 and was donated to the society in 1906. There is a vacant space in which may be placed the words “by Henry H. Rogers.” No action need be taken tonight in this matter. I simply make the suggestion because it is in harmony with the permission granted by him.
Resolve on Gift.
President Wood read the resolve presented by Mr. Crapo, as follows:
“The members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, having learned from whom came the gift of the land and building owned by it and occupied as its home, it is: “Resolved.”
“That the directors are hereby requested to place on a tablet within the building the name of Henry H. Rogers, its generous donor, and to take such further action as deemed appropriate in acknowledgment and recognition of the timely and important service which he rendered the society.”
The resolve was adopted by unanimous vote.
The Homesteads at Apponegansett Before 1710
By Henry B. Worth
“It was in 1652 that the ‘old comers’ of Plymouth secured the grant on Buzzards Bay. During the early years before the region had received a name, land transfers described the place at ‘Cushena, Ponagansett and Coakset.’
“These names were used to denote separate sections which in some deeds were called villages. When the town of Dartmouth was divided in 1787 the region called Coakset became Westport; Cushena was constituted New Bedford, while the central portion retained the ancient name of the town and comprised substantially the section designated by the Indians as Ponagansett. These names later became modified by the prefix ‘A,’ but the form in the old deeds is probably the nearest to the original and more clearly indicate the meaning of the names. For nearly two centuries the name Aponagansett has been used exclusively in reference to the river west of Padanaram. The meaning of this name has been explained is several ways, and generally upon the theory that it referred to oysters or other shellfish. One author suggested ‘the place of the oyster,’ and another ‘the roasting place.’ Neither of these is satisfactory. The etymology of the word seems to be Po-nag-ansett, and this may mean “at the neck extending into the bay.’
“The early settlers were governed by several important considerations in selecting their homestead farms. Encompassing them were Indians that might suddenly become hostile. Springs of water often determined the location of a dwelling, while brooks and rivers furnished power essential to operate grist and saw-mills. Desirable land could be found only in scattered locations. It was no doubt thought prudent for mutual defense and protection to group their homesteads as completely as possible, but the geographical situation of the town prevented the development of a center common in most New England communities. Here was an extensive area, divided by rivers that defied all attempts to collect the inhabitants together in a compact village. It was therefore a necessity that the settlers should be scattered in small clusters along the seashore, from whence they could escape from the savage.
“The earliest settlement was on the east side of Acushnet River between its head and Fort Phoenix. Here were the farms of Jenney, Hathaway, Cook, Shaw, Palmer, Cuthbert, and east of Naskatucket Brook, Lieutenant Jonathan Delano, and still further east, next to the Mattapoisett line, the farm of Samuel Hicks. These families had settled in this region probably before the incorporation of the town.
“So far as known there was no settlement on the west side of the Acushnet River before 1700. In the Ponagansett section the growth was slow, and while some of the settlers came from Portsmouth, a considerable portion came from towns in Massachusetts where they had been harassed by the local authorities for affiliation with the Quakers, and had been obliged to seek a residence in some more peaceful location. They did not fear the Indian if they could only escape the Puritan.
“Beginning at the head of Clark’s Cove and extending westerly by Bliss’s Corner to the Tucker Road is an ancient highway, its western terminus a century ago being known as Slocum’s Corner, and more recently Macomber’s Corner. South of this highway are the necks and points comprised in the villages now known as Padanaram, Bakerville and Smith’s Neck. When the proprietors of Dartmouth were compelled in 1709 by a court decree to make a complete distribution of all their undivided lands, they employed Benjamin Crane of Dighton to survey and establish the bounds, and his first work was begun in October, 1710. It is proposed to present a brief sketch of the homestead farms around the Aponagansett River, as Crane found them when he first came to Dartmouth.
“The pioneer settler was probably Ralph Earle, by whom the Dartmouth lands were brought to the attention of the Portsmouth people. He probably came to Dartmouth soon after 1657, the date of his purchase of a half share of land from his father-in-law, Francis Sprague. His farm lay on both sides of the Cove road, west of Aponagansett River, and extended beyond the Tucker Road. Its south line was at the village of Bakerville, and it comprised over 400 acres.
“On the east side of the Aponagansett River is the peninsula at that date known as Colvin’s or Durfee’s Neck. With the exception of the northeast corner at Clark’s Cove that was assigned to Abraham Tucker, and the northwest corner laid out to Nathaniel Howland, the whole of the Padanaram Neck north of Bush Street was comprised in the homestead of John Russell; while the location of Earle’s house has been lost, the situation of the dwelling of John Russell has been preserved because of its famous associations during the King Philip war. It was located near the shore in the swampy pasture, south of the house of the late Captain Charles H. Gifford, and was defended as a garrison by English soldiers. After the King Philip war Russell built a new house on the hill, in front of the residence of John J. Howland, on Rockland Street. He came to Dartmouth in 1663 and not long after Matthew Allen became his neighbor on the south. Allen’s homestead lay between Prospect and School Streets and also extended across the neck. In 1712 this became the second homestead of Captain John Akin. The extreme end of the neck was owned and occupied by William Durfee, and for the past century and a half has been in the possession of the Ricketson family.
“An interesting tradition has been preserved in relation to the Russell Garrison during the King Philip war. The Russell house had been converted into a fort and was defended by soldiers under Captain Eels of Hingham. Across the river in a southwesterly direction is a point at one time owned by Dr. William A. Gordon, and in recent years by Captain Charles H. Schultz. It is known as “Heath” or “Heathen Neck.” The tradition is that an Indian on this neck was indulging in defiant gestures toward the garrison and was killed by a musket ball fired from the Russell house. The distance is nearly half a mile, and this might lead to a doubt as to the validity of the story, but there is some possibility that it is true because in the inventory of the estate of Abraham Sherman taken in 1772 appears this item:
“‘A gun which is said once killed an Indian across Apponagansett River from ye old castle on Russell’s land to Heathen Neck.’
“This would be a confirmation of the tradition if it could be shown that firearms of that period had an effective range of that distance.
“On the north side of the Cove road and east of the Slocum Road was the Homestead of Nathaniel Howland, whose dwelling house was near the head of Rockland Street, in the vicinity of the homestead of the Swenson family. He settled here not far from 1690, but about 1710 had selected a new homestead at the northeast corner of the Slocum Road and Allen Street. Near the present town house on the road to the Padanaram library until recent years was a small water-mill, on the same site as one operated by Nathaniel Howland before 1710.
“West of the Slocum Road and extending nearly to the old town house was the farm of John Sherman. A brook emptying into the head of Apponagansett River divided this farm into two equal sections. The west part was later owned by Philip Sherman, a son of John. The Sherman family came from Portsmouth, Rhode Island, before 1660.
“At a session of the court in Plymouth in 1668 the oath of fidelity was taken by Ralph Earl, John Sherman and John Briggs. This formality was required of all persons who came to Plymouth colony if they desired to enjoy the privileges of citizenship.
“From the west end of the bridge over the Apponagansett River the Gulf Road extends westerly into Bakerville and crosses the east part of the farm owned by John Briggs of Portsmouth. The village of Bakerville begins at the corner where the roads branch, the main highway leading to Russell’s Mills. The Bakerville road extends south from this junction to the Holder Brownell corner. In 1710 there were seven long, narrow farms extending southeasterly across this neck, from the Pascamansett River on the west to the Apponagansett River on the east.
“Beginning at the corner of the Russell’s Mills Road the first farm was owned and occupied by Eleazer Smith; the part west of the road in recent years was owned by Benjamin Brownell and that on the east side by William R. Slocum. Between the Smith farm and the line of the Gulf Road was the farm conveyed in 1678 by John Briggs to his son John. The part west of the road finally came into the possession of Seth Davis, while the east section has become greatly sub-divided since the opening of the Gulf Road, about 1820.
“The farm next south was the tract which John Briggs conveyed to his son Thomas, the west part in modern times was owned and occupied by Sanford Brightman. The east part contained the homesteads of Jireh Reed and of Captain William Penn Briggs. Between the John Briggs farm and Brownell’s corner were four farms owned by the sons of John Sherman. The first, owned by Samuel and Sampson Sherman, included the Ephraim Ellis place, and on the east side of the road the tract owned by Stephen Cornell. Next south was the farm occupied by Daniel Sherman, the north half on the east side of the road became the homestead of Elisha S. Crapo, and was later owned by Edward B. Smith; the south half was the homestead of Joshua Weeks. The section west of the road included the homestead of Ezra and Ensign Baker, together with the old poor farm. The farm next south was laid out to William Sherman, and the next to Peleg Sherman, and the latter finally acquired both. This farm bordered on the south on the road from Russell’s Mills to Smith Neck, and the east part included the homestead of Jesse Crapo, the father of Henry H. Crapo.
“About the year 1800 emigration came from Cape Cod to this section. The Bakers from Dennis settled in Bakerville and became numerous and influential, and from this circumstance the village received its name.
“On the south side of the Smith Neck Road and including the Holder Brownell farm was the homestead of Judah Smith, and to the south the farm of his brother Gershom, while next south and fronting on the Potomska Road was the homestead of Edmund Sherman. West of the last three farms was the homestead of John Lapham, which descended to his sons, John and Nicholas. The farms of Judah and Gershom Smith constituted the homestead of their father, John Smith, as early as 1672, when he was road surveyor of the town.
“In the conveyances before the Revolutionary War Smiths Neck is always designated as Namquid Neck. If a substitute for the original was to be selected it could with equal propriety have been named for Howland, Akin, Slocum or Briggs. But the Indian name was too expressive and picturesque to be discarded, as will appear when its meaning is understood. Its etymology is N-AM-QU-ID and these syllables in their order mean ‘The Fishing Rock Place,’ hence ‘The neck at the Fishing Rocks.’ It is doubtful if the English name of the rock itself is any improvement. This great ledge, surmounted by a lighthouse, has received the curious designation The Dumpling Rock. Then the original form of the Indian name has been modified to ‘Nonquitt’ and applied to the seaside village on the east side of the neck. In that form the name has no meaning.
“At the north end of the neck was the farm, largely salt marsh laid out to Nathaniel Howland before 1700 and occupied by his descendants to the present time, and with one exception all owners have had the first name Nathaniel. The farm next south was first occupied by James Akin, whose dwelling house was taken down last year. This homestead included the land in Bay View village and on the west side of the road extended as far south as the entrance to Nonquitt. On the east side of the road between Bay View and Nonquitt was the homestead of Thomas Getchell, a part of which is the estate of Shore Acres.
“The extreme south end of Namquid Neck is Mischaum Point, laid out to John Russell about 1690. This Indian name means ‘The Long Point’. The end of the Smith’s Neck Road is called Salters Point, but 200 vears ago this name was written SALT-HOUSE POINT. The southernmost farm at the end of the road which included Salters Point was owned and occupied by Hezikiah Smith. North of Salters Point boundary and on the east side of the road was the homestead of Benjamin Howland, occupied by him about 1690. It included the Round Hill farm and extended northerly on the road a short distance beyond the entrance leading to Round Hill.
“The farm north of the Benjamin Howland homestead extending to the Nonquitt entrance was laid out to Captain John Akin and is the same which he purchased in 1692 from his father-in-law, Thomas Briggs; 20 years later Akin removed to a second homestead, which he purchased from Matthew Allen in Padanaram Neck. The tract east of the John Akin farm now occupied by the village of Nonquitt, as early as 1686 was the homestead of Thomas Briggs.
“On the west side of the Smiths Neck Road opposite the Benjamin Howland homestead was the farm of Hezikiah Smith, a son of John, settled in 1691, and next north was the homestead of his brother, Deliverance. These two farms occupied about the same frontage as the Benjamin Howland homestead. The land next north comprised three narrow tracts that were finally acquired by Benjamin Howland, and after his death became the homestead of Isaac Howland, and in 1839 that of William S. Howland.
“The remaining territory extending north of the Friends’ meeting house was laid out to Giles Slocum, and later became the homestead of George Smith. This Slocum farm was crossed by the road from Russells Mills known as ‘Rocky Dunder.’ At the corner was built the Quaker meeting house on a lot conveyed in 1822 by Caleb Anthony to the Dartmouth Meeting.
“In the two centuries since Crane surveyed these Dartmouth farms the natural landmarks have remained without alteration. Some of the ancient walls and bounds, overgrown with shrubs and vines, may still be discovered. Through the entire period the great proportion of wealth and population has been located near the bay. Then a single schoolmaster and a single meeting house met the requirements of the entire town. Shipbuilding and whaling were just starting on their wonderful career, while no violent or convulsive change has taken place the ancient situation has nearly disappeared. Churches and schoolhouses are within easy reach of all. The old meeting house at Apponegansett is seldom opened. The names of the early settlers are no longer found in the old locations. All of these thirty farms have been divided into smaller homesteads and on several are large and populous villages containing costly mansions and villas and occupied by prominent people from every section of the land. It is a fascinating study to trace the detailed events of two centuries through all the business, religious and social changes, from the homestead farms of 1710, owned and occupied by New England yeomen, to the present stage of development when Apponegansett has become transformed into important and successful seaside resorts.”
Five Johns of Old Dartmouth
By William A. Wing
These are but short “settings down” about five men in Old Dartmouth who bore the Christian name of John, and who, with their descendants, are kith and kin to most of those gathered here.
It was in the “towne of Plimoth” in the “old Colonie” that a poor boundboy realized the least of his troubles was his plain name John Smith. He being in “grate extremitie, and his master, Edward Doty of the Mayflower, having expended but little upon him, was compelled to fit him out with a “double suit of apparel and each quit the other.” So the lad fared forth free to face the world. He became a stalwart seaman, being known as the “boatesman”—and we hear our young master-militant is to go in a “barque” to “fight the Dutch at Manhatoes” (New York). An early beginning of our navy.
But peace came. So there was not the usual indefiniteness about the return of this “Malbrouck” to his wife, Deborah, and little daughter, Hasadyah. John Smith having married a daughter of Arthur and Margaret Howland of Marshfield, he with them later entered into the faith of Friends and paid the penalty for “holding Quaker meetings” and “entertaining Foragne friends,” among these the famous Nicholas Upsall, “white with years.”
In spite of difficulties John Smith had prospered, for in Plymouth he owned a “house, messuage and garden spot on North Street on ye North side,” which he exchanged with perhaps pardonable pride, with Edward Doty Junior (son of his former master), for lands in Dartmouth.
There in Apponegansett he built his new house on what is known on the old maps as “Smith’s Neck,” today the south side of Rocky Dunder Road, and became prominent in the affairs of the new settlement, where its highest military office, “Lieftenant,” was given him by the government at Plymouth. Being likewise a man of peace, he was chosen to settle certain disputes between John Cooke, “the lad of the Mayflower,” and the Old Colony.
Deborah Howland. John Smith’s wife, had died, and he had married Ruhamah Kirby (daughter of Richard of Sandwich).
John Smith is a text against “race suicide,” for he was the father of thirteen children, which would possibly have delighted the father of his great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
A sometime neighbor in Marshfield of Arthur Howland’s people was John Russell. Tradition tells that he was a volunteer in an early Indian war. In his new home he stood for government affairs. He was the first to represent Dartmouth as Deputy to the Old Colonial Government at Plymouth, the long and none-too-safe journey along the forest paths and Indian trails being not the least of its responsibilities. It is not strange that the children of old friends and neighbors married. John Russell Jr. married Mehetable Smith, daughter of John and Ruhamah (Kirby) Smith; and Jonathan Russell, another son of John and Dorothy Russell, married Hasadyah, daughter of John and Deborah (Howland) Smith.
In “Russell’s Orchard,” on the east bank of the Apponegansett River, a quiet inflow, stood the Russell garrison house, or castle. Here, ’tis said, after King Philip’s war, the stronghold being still maintained according to colony orders, were born the twin sons, John and Joseph, of Joseph Russell, son of John Russell Senior.
Dartmouth was in “dire necessitie” after the Indian war, and John Russell Senior, and “Lieftenant” John Smith were appointed to distribute the generous gift from Ireland for relief of the distressed. John Russell built on a nearby hillside a new home, and the inventory of its furnishings plaintively bespeaks an early period of reconstruction after an early war. In this home of John Russell Senior, where later dwelt John Russell Junior, and his wife, Mehetable Smith, were held early town meetings and schools.
The Russells had ever been foremost in educational matters, even in early Marshfield. Joseph Russell, the father of the twins, in a wordy will left moneys for his granddaughters, Elizabeth, Ruth and Content. Russell’s Reading, Riteing and Cyphering, his version of the “three R’s,” accomplishments rarely adorning the female mind of his day.
The Russell family held large Proprietary rights and purchases in Old Dartmouth. On some of these same lands was built part of New Bedford of today. Its early beginning on the west bank of the Acushnet River being known as “ye new settlement at ye foot of Joseph Russell’s homestead,” and Union Street (one of the city’s principal business thoroughfares) was a sometime cart-path to the waterfront from the dwelling place of Joseph Russell on the hill. This Joseph Russell was great-grandson of John Russell Senior, (being the son of his twin-grandson, Joseph). According to ancient lore, Russell being the family name of the Duke of Bedford, it was suggested that the new settlement be called Bedford, and the owner of the lands where much of it had been built was jovially called the “Duke,” the amusing similarity being strengthened by “Duke” Joseph Russell’s having married into the Howland family—one of the most substantial standing in Dartmouth—as had the real Duke of Bedford in England. Later on, as there was another Bedford in Massachusetts, this “new towne” was named New Bedford. Could “antient” John Russell (Senior) have rambled about the charming New Bedford of the “thirtys” he would have been amazed at the mansions—built on the Russell lands by his descendants—in contrast to his own simple homestead where the early fathers of Old Dartmouth gathered, making a center in its early days.
After the Indian war there appeared in Dartmouth John Akin.
Some claim him Dutch, others Scotch, and he seems to have combined doughtiness and canniness. His dwelling place was at Nomquid Neck (now Nonquitt), and later at Colvins Neck (now Padanaram). His position in the community was that of the best type of colonial yeoman.
His first wife was Mary, daughter of Thomas Briggs, a sometime member of Peleg Sanford’s troop-of-horse, an early colonial company of cavalry.
This Briggs family much-landed in old Dartmouth were closely connected with that famous Dyer family of Rhode Island. Several of John Akin’s many children married Allens– descendants of the first-comer, George Allen of Sandwich.
Captain John Akin had a martial spirit for Deliverance Smith, woefully related to the Meeting of Friends-how he with others were ordered by John Akin to exercise in “war-like posture” with the intention of being pressed into his majesty’s service in Canada.
This son of John Smith was not so easily dealt with contrary to his principles. For making a weary journey he stated his woes and views to the Governor who graciously excused this determined Friend, who returned to his home in Dartmouth delivered from anymore “trayning” in the abominated “war-like posture.”
If in military matters, John Akin opposed John Smith’s son, he was well in accord with him in their township’s struggles to maintain the dearly bought liberty of conscience.
Deliverance Smith for refusing to collect taxes to pay a “hireling minister,” was shut up in the Bristol gaol which by freak of fate had been built in part with money collected by his Father, John Smith. “We are done with the Indians and now are molested by the Quakers!” deplored an eminent divine!
Later in the so-called “Great Controversy” Dartmouth absolutely refused to pay such taxes and appealing to the King their refusal was upheld. Then Captain John Akin was released from the same gaol and allowed to live out his days undisturbed after a year’s imprisonment for “conscience sake.”
The “golden woof-thread of romance” had been woven into the life of the parents of John Shepherd of Dartmouth.
John Shepherd’s mother, Mary Bryce was married in Portsmouth, R. I., to Daniel Shepherd. A more than “twice told tale” had it that she was a daughter of an earl (of Pembroke) enticed by a villainous brother on board a vessel bound to America, which then set sail and bore her away to Newport. Here her forlorn fate fired the gallantry of Daniel Shepherd, who wooed and won her.
Daniel Shepherd was chosen the first school master in old Dartmouth. He was said to be a near relative of that “sweete, gratious, heavenly-minded, soul-ravishing minister,” Mr. Thomas Shepherd, as he was ecstatically described. Perhaps Daniel Shepherd cast his wee light of learning as needfully upon his own poor little community as his more famous kinsman.
Thomas Story, while on a visit to Peleg Slocum called at the home of Daniel Shepherd, whose wife was very ill and though they were not Friends “were somewhat convinced of the truth.” Mary Bryce Shepherd told Thomas Story that he had comforted her mightily. Later Daniel Shepherd joined the meeting, but there is no mention of his wife, for comfort is not cure.
The Shepherd homestead at Shepherd’s Plains where John Shepherd dwelt was not far from that old stone bridge with the two arches going over the Pascamanset River to the old Friends’ Meeting House, at Apponegansett in Dartmouth. Dorcas Wing the wife of John Shepherd was the niece and namesake of Dorcas Dillingham, who married Ralph Earle, leader of those early settlers from Portsmouth, R. I., into Old Dartmouth. From his large holdings came the Shepherd lands.
One of [the sons of John and Dorcas Shepherd], David Shepherd, built his house in the new settlement at the foot of Joseph Russell’s homestead, now our old “Water Street” and helped to make that ancient street by giving a right of way “before his new dwelling house facing Shepherd’s lane.”
Close at hand to the southward on this old-time Water Street stood the home of John Howland one of the early whaling captains and men of substance in this little new settlement.
Captain John Howland married his neighbor Shepherd’s daughter, Reliance and sailed away in a craft bearing her name which proved worthy of that honor. From John Howland’s house could be seen the great trees felled to build his daughter Elizabeth’s future home on what is now the northwest corner of Union and Bethel Streets. He was said to have the most ready-money in town, but it is told that on an expected approach of the British he hid it so effectually that for a long time he complained of a lean purse until the hidden treasure was revealed up the chimney.
John Howland was important in his connection with the old Bedford Bank (on this very site) and was one of those men who helped make old Water Street the center of the town’s financial and commercial activity and from these beginnings New Bedford became a famous city.
In the early days of the new settlement built on the land of the Russells there dwelt by the river side on quaint Water Street descendants of these Five Johns of Old Dartmouth. Their ancient homes long since deserted by the Friends and now demolished in the deepening twilight seemed less dilapidatedand the “mind’s eye” might see their former dwellers and gain fancied glimpses of the past. For “all houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses.”
These were not great lives, but they freely and fearlessly served their township and colony and left names honored where they dwelt. They reared sons and daughters who became fathers and mothers of Old Dartmouth and some who found fame and favor in the great world without bore their blood. They “fought a good fight, they kept the faith.”