OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Water Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on January 29, 1913.
NEW BEDFORD ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS AGO, AS GLIMPSED THROUGH THE MEDLEY.
by Ida A. McAfee.
[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.]
New Bedford, Massachusetts
January 29, 1913
On Henry Howland Crapo’s The Comeoverers and Tablet to Ralph Earle
By President Edmund Wood
President Edmund Wood in opening the meeting said:
Since our last meeting there has been published in this community a notable book, Certain Comeoverers, in two volumes, by Henry Howland Crapo. This publication is worthy of prominent notice in the proceedings of this society, not only because it was written by one of our members who has already contributed for us a paper, but also because it treats so largely of the people who settled and established the township of Old Dartmouth.
The history of this locality is interesting only as it becomes a history of the people who settled here, and lived and loved and strove and who transmitted through worthy descendants so goodly a heritage. But it isn’t often that a learned book on genealogy and ballasted heavily with ancestral diagrams with infinite ramifications, can be considered an animated history of a people or place. Such a work is generally a history of dead names, dry, yes, and moldy, too. But here we have a publication about the dead,–long, long dead, but which is very much alive. The characters in it have lived, and been actuated by the same ambitions and passions which we recognize about us daily. Some led saintly lives or violently proclaimed their faith and suffered dire persecution and torture for righteousness’s sake; and there were others who sinned easily and fell far short of the glory of God.
The story begins with the landing of the Pilgrims, close by us at Plymouth, and extends up into Newburyport and down thro’ Old Dartmouth into Rhode Island. All this land was new. It was an unbroken wilderness and the first instinct and duty was to break and subdue it, and for a few generations this undertaking was enough to occupy about all their energy. Much of the life which was lived by these old worthies in this very locality was a homely life, but they were creatures of flesh and blood. With a few notable exceptions they were quite ordinary men and women with a very limited sphere of action. The family was in a way patriarchal and few broke away from the ancestral home. Far from their farms and from their usual wealth of children “Their sober wishes never learned to stray.
Along the cool sequestered vale of life they kept the noiseless tenor of their way.”
They tilled the land and got more than a living off of it, and we know the obstinate ungrateful character of most of that land now and it couldn’t have been much better then. Slocum’s Neck yields more hens and eggs and less in crops every year.
In the description of this locality we recognize an old friend in the story of Eliezer Slocum and his wife the Lady Elephel. The material in this chapter was first presented in a paper read before this society a few years ago. And a most delightful chapter it is. Barneys Joy and Slocum’s Neck are here brought into sudden touch but into violent contrast with the old world and its older civilization.
Here is all the material for a most delightful novel and that too without a violent departure from the rather legendary story. Can we not indulge in the hope that the author, having already contributed so much pleasure by his artistic recital of the rather meager historical facts, may not some day give his imagination free rein and round out the story into a historical romance almost medieval in its ruggedness and truly artistic in its harmonious grouping of most violent contrasts.
Taking this publication as a whole we are impressed with its comprehensiveness and the wide range of the author’s research. The balancing of conflicting authorities, which are more or less traditions, is calmly judicial. But the whole is pervaded by a playful fancy working with a light and delicate touch. Never before it seems to us, has a scholarly genealogy been handled vivaciously. The subject and the abundant pedigree lead us to expect a Dr. Dryasdust, but lo! the style is, as it were, moistened with sparkling champagne.
The Old Dartmouth Historical Society is gratified by its connection with so charming a book.
President Wood announced that since the last meeting an additional tablet had been added to the collection already in possession of the society, this latest tablet being inscribed “Ralph Earle, Leader of Settlers, Died ]716.” It was from a descendant, Margaret Earle Wood. Secretary Wing read a brief sketch from Mr. Crapo’s book of the Ralph Earle for whom the tablet was erected, and his parents.
The Kempton New Bedford One Hundred and Twenty Years Ago, as Glimpsed through The Medley
By Ida A. McAfee
One hundred and twenty years ago takes us back to 1793. That was ten years later than the signing of the treaty of peace following the Colonies’ War for Independence. It was the year of the closing scenes of the French Revolution, and the year that saw the French Republic established. It was the year when Louis XVI lost his head and Marie Antoinette suffered a similar fate. It was a year that saw France and England embroiled in war, and pretty much all of Europe out with gun and sword.
It was in the presidency of George Washington. It was when John Hancock was governor of Massachusetts, and the year in which he died. It was the time when this nation consisted of fifteen states; when the Indian was a very live problem; and when the western frontier lay along the Ohio.
The year 1793 was hardly more than a quarter of a century after the name of Bedford—to be afterwards changed to New Bedford—had attached itself to the little community in Dartmouth that for the brief years of its existence had been content to be known as “the settlement at the foot of Joseph Russell’s homestead.” It was the sixth year after New Bedford had been set apart from the town of Dartmouth, as a separate township, including within itself the villages of Acushnet and Fairhaven.
It was twelve years earlier than the time when William A. Wa11 made his familiar picture of the section that lay between the water front and what is now William and Second Streets, and nineteen years earlier than when the Four corners picture was put on canvas; and as it was fifteen years after the British soldiery had landed at Clark’s Cove and marched up around the head of the river and disembarked at Sconticut Neck, burning as it went eleven houses and twenty-three shops, the place must have had a much sparser look as to buildings even than in these pictures.
It was a time when all Bedford, Fairhaven, and Acushnet counted 3313 people, using the figures of the federal census of 1790.
It was a year when fifty-four citizens of the town cast a vote for governor and for senators—there was a property qualification attached to the franchise in that day.
It was a time when there were two mails a week between this town and Boston.
Especially it was the time of New Bedford’s first newspaper, The Medley or New Bedford Marine Journal.
The time to appreciate a newspaper is when it gets to be about one hundred and twenty years old—when the paper is brown and the ink faded and the letters worn. Here we are making a special point of this little ragged dingy paper, while in its day John Spooner, its founder, publisher, editor, printer, and everything else, got a hearty rebuke from a subscriber because it did not satisfy his expectations of what a newspaper ought to be; and when the printer had to coax his subscribers to come up with the price, in cash or rags, junk, country produce or whatever they would give.
To us it is the mirror of the past—-a good deal blurred and not reflecting quite clearly, but giving a glimpse here and there of what we want to see. From the standpoint of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, which owns a two-year volume dating from the start,—through the favor of Misses Anna and Ellen Clifford,—it is not so very satisfactory a document. The value of chronicling local news had not yet been learned. The interest of the future in the past was not appreciated.
The Medley printed a great deal about the revolution in France and the establishment of the French Republic, in which the new republic of America was vastly interested; gave considerable space to congressional and legislative proceedings; printed such news from over the seas and from other sections of the country as came its way in letters to people in this town or to their friends in other places—as “a letter from an American in Dunkirk to his friend in this town, received by brig Mary;” as brought by word of mouth by travelers or the shipmasters, as “a gentleman from Philadelphia says;” or as copied from other newspapers,—weeks or months old, as the case might be. Especially it gave literary New Bedford a chance to express itself in print on all sorts of abstract and philosophical themes, and to worry and flurry each other a bit, under such signatures as Equitas and Agathocles, Philanthropos, Philander, and the like: but it seemed to take for granted that the people knew what was going on about them and that what they knew there was no reason to put into print.
A Highfaluting Salutatory.
It was a highfaluting salutatory with which The Medley greeted the people of the beginnings of this city on November 27th, 1792—about “the establishment of the art of printing in this part of our empire,” with “here an extensive country, situate remote from a printing press—its inhabitants numerous; but a small part of them knowing or being known in the transactions of the world, unless they advance a large extra sum for their knowledge,” and its intention to “instruct them in the ways of men at a much cheaper rate”—than subscribing for an out-of-town paper.
“A general knowledge of the world—of the revolutions of Empires, Kingdoms, and States, the political transactions of men in public stations—the revolutions in commerce—improvement in arts and mechanics-philosophical discoveries and maritime observations, are useful to man in his journey through life,” writes the editor, and analyzes a newspaper as “a mirror in which is seen Ambition, Envy, Revenge, Treachery, Bigotry, Pride, Superstition, Joy and Sorrow—Passions which constitute the essence of man; wherein we may read, view ourselves, and, if prudent men, alter our deformities; or, at any rate, that is a source of knowledge and entertainment for the curious and enquiring mind,” he abruptly concludes. “Here the statesman may read the fate of nations.—Here the philosopher may spread before him a map of man, of manners, and of things; and entertain the mind with an agreeable repast.—Here the honest laborer by his social fire, surrounded by his little domestic republic, may waste his evenings in delightsome relaxation of mind—may acquaint himself with surrounding occurrences,—may bless his God and his industry, which have placed him in his happy state of independence; while, unenvious, he reads the agitations of mind which distract the peace and blast the felicity of the ‘great ones of the earth.’
“Here the moral philosopher, the friend of man, may communicate to his fellow rationals all the benevolences of his soul in gentle admonitions and instructive maxims, to inform the ignorant, reform the vicious, and encourage virtue and humanity.
“Here the less serious may amuse the fancy with an original bon mot—a pithy anecdote and sometimes a Parnassian Flight”—evidently New Bedford has always had its poet. (But in that day, as in this, he did not always get his productions printed. In a “Notice to Correspondents,” some time later, two writers were told their communications would be printed next week, but “New Poetic Correspondents” were recommended “to renew their draft at the Fount of Helicon—they appear to have but just sipped.”)
These, then, were the colors under which The Medley was launched, with the promise that “‘nothing which worketh iniquity, or which maketh a lie’ shall ever have impression here.—That here private characters shall ever be held sacred.—That the production of enmity, of partiality, and of resentment shall never disgrace his type:”—a standard that, if adhered to, may have been sufficient to account for the sale of the paper after seven years, to a rival printer who had come into the field a year earlier!
The price was to be “nine shillings per annum, exclusive of postage; for one quarter of a year two shillings and three pence, to be paid on the delivery of the first paper, in cash or rags; the succeeding quarters at the expiration thereof.”
The start was made at “John Spooner’s office near Rotch’s wharf.” Between the third and fourth numbers there was a gap of two weeks, with an apology for the non-appearance of the paper in the previous week,—”the editor has but to remark that the building he at present occupies as a printing house is unfinished; which exposes his work to the inclemency of the season—and rendered it impossible to fulfill his obligation to the public. He expects soon to remove to the new building lately erected at Four corners, where he hopes to be so accommodated as to issue his paper early on the day of each week hereafter.”
For Cash or Rags.
Directly following this notice appeared a paragraph, preceded by a couple of stars and a dagger, giving it a kind of pyrotechnic appearance, a sort of hold-up look, “The printer will receive of country customers any kind of produce or wood, if they prefer it to cash, in payment for newspapers—or of any farmer who wishes to become a customer.”
When he had gotten established in the new office at Four corners, the printer of The Medley returned thanks to those who “favored him with their custom,” offered to fill any “commands in the art of printing” at short notice, thanked those who had generously aided in getting subscriptions, and announced that “Advertisements, Articles of Intelligence, Essays, &c. would be thankfully received for publication.” By and by he took the latter part of that back—though before this occurred he apologized, “Cato will excuse the non-appearance of his valediction addressed to Sydney, this three weeks past. It was mislaid.” When later “Ignoramus Rusticus” wrote a column and a half attack on “Mr. Curiositas,” in a long continued discussion over the use of an expression by one that the other could not find in the dictionary and that the printer afterwards agreed was a typographical error, the editor added this note: “Quit! quit! Cries the Turkey—So does the Printer.—For where Cards grow to Essays he thinks it time to quit.”
More than the editor was tired of the long communications on abstract subjects or giving neighborly rubs, for a little later “A Subscriber” wrote: “Mr. Spooner:
“I am well assured it was the expectation of many of your subscribers that your paper would be filled with the most interesting intelligence, both foreign and domestic, proceedings of congress and state legislature, &c., &c. In your Medley, No. 16, ‘Quit, quit, cries the Turkey, and so cries the Printer:’ and so does a number of your subscribers; for when dull overgrown Cards and dry Essays occupy seven-eighths of The Medley they think it time to Quit.”
Following this was an editorial reply, in italic and with the index sign that indicated the editor at work, rebuking the correspondents who had contributed “public essays, which if comprised in a volume or pamphlet would make something of a handsome addition to a library,” and asking for reports of political occurrences, remarkable events, new discoveries, and information of interest in the agricultural and commercial world.
When The Medley had completed its third quarter there appeared as the first item on the first page a reminder that payments became due at the expiration of each quarter. “The sum individually,” said the printer, “is small; but put together in one mass would enable the Printer to cancel the Papermaker’s bill, purchase Rags, and sometimes a quarter of Mutton.”
A little later, in October, “the Husbandman who wishes to read the News of the Day & would prefer exchanging the product of his Labor with the Printer for his Medley rather than paying Cash,” was informed that “good Winter Apples, Corn, Rye, Butter, Cheese, or almost any kind of vegetable” would be received “at current Market Price, if brot within three weeks.” Evidently the larder was running low.
“Two Coppers on the Pound.”
The offer of not only The Medley but of merchants as well to exchange goods for rags, usually specifically stated as “clean cotton and linen rags,” actually signified a real demand for rags for paper making. In the very first issue of The Medley an article was quoted from the Windham Phenix in which the opinion was expressed that “the person who saves one pound of rags for the manufacture of paper does more real good to the community than he who conquers a city.” Lest this might seem strong language, “Consider,” continues the writer, “that without this saving, science must fall and learning must drop to the ground, and everything which the civilized man holds dear must cease to exist.” He reports that his own family has sold to the printer in the course of a year fifty-five pounds of rags, “paying for the purchase of a Bible for one of the children: but even without the price,” he would have had them save the valuable commodity, for he rates the person who persists in destroying rags, “after being convinced of their utility,” as culpable, and deserving to be looked upon with as much contempt “as a betrayer of his country—and an enemy to every useful science.”
Some considerable time after this, appeared a whimsical communication with a feminine touch, asking what encouragement there was in “two coppers on the pound to a young lady for stooping two hundred times to pick up threads, or for fouling her hands with a dish-clout or house cloth.—Fie on the man who thinks that Moll and Betty would undertake such small business for such small gains.—We have bibles enough in the house already, and Pa buys us our caps, curtains, &c.”
Early Business Interests.
From the advertisements some idea is gained of the business interests of the place, just as the ship news tells of the ‘sailings and arrivals’ of the whalers and the ships in the merchant service—and they serve successfully to people the town, with their names and suggestions of activity, their show of enterprise, and proof of competition.
Besides the whaling and the shipping, probably ship building was the next big business, but there is reference to only one launching during the year. On October 18 an inch and a half notice stated that “Tomorrow morning between the hours of 7 and 8, the new and beautiful ship Barckley, burthen 270 tons, will be launched from the shipyard of Colonel George Claghorn. The satisfaction of viewing this token of our increasing commerce will, we doubt not, induce many to watch the first beams of the Rising Sun”—with a liberal use of italics, small caps and capitals.
Launching The Barckley.
The next day the story of the launching was told, under the heading—and headings were rare—”Ship Barckley“:
“The new and beautiful ship, Barckley, went off from her stocks Saturday last, without any intervening accident to soil the happiness of a large and respectable crowd of spectators. Fifteen discharges of cannon, and repeated huzzas, announced her hull floating on the element we hope may buoy her with safety these many, many years. Her beauty is acknowledged by able judges to vie with any ship of her size that floats on the Atlantic. And while we wish she may long continue the pride of New Bedford, we hope her success in aiding the commercial interest of her owners may be felt among every class of our citizens.”
This George Claghorn was the same who built the frigate Constitution at the Charlestown navy yard. His ship yard here was a little south of the present foot of North Street. Besides shipbuilder, he was colonel of the local military company, as is revealed by a notice to the members.
William Rotch Jr.’s Shop.
William Jr. was the Rotch man in the field at this time, but his only appearances in The Medley were to advertise his stock in trade at his shop—the location of which is not given, since it must have been known to all New Bedford. It was in the Rotch building that stood at the head of Rotch’s wharf, a little north of what is now Center Street. It was in this building that The Medley had its office.
In the first issue of the paper Mr. Rotch “respectfully informs his customers and friends” that he has for sale wholesale and retail “sail Cloth of an excellent quality,—No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8; coarse and fine 5-4th Sheeting; window Glass, of sizes given ranging from 6×8 to 10×12; large and small Looking Glasses, and Plates unframed; Glass Tumblers, Twine and Cordage; Flour and Shipbreads; Pork and Salt; Philadelphia and Russia Bar Iron, excellent for Cart Tire; Paints of several kinds; Sheathing Paper, Wrapping Paper, &c.”
Later he adds to his stock: “Sugar, Prime Pork, French Duck, Tar, Turpentine, Salt, Cordage, Bolt Rope, Spermaceti Candles, Strained Spermaceti Oil, and Grindstones.”
In this same advertisement space he shows his thrift by making known his own need of “a sober industrious young farmer who, if he is well recommended, will find good encouragement.” Still later he advertises as having for sale, “a few pieces best superfine Broadcloth, Cambrics and French Lutestring, Silk Stockings and Sewing Silk, and a few Silver Watches,” continuing the old list down through spermaceti oil, bar iron, and bolt rope, as though there were nothing incongruous in the list!
Books “Bedford” Read.
John Spooner was apparently already a book seller before he became the publisher of The Medley. In the second number he announced that he had “just received from New London and for sale, the following books, viz:” and here is the complete collection announced—note how it differs from the list of works offered in the “literary” advertisements of today: “Bibles, Testaments, Barlow’s revision of Watt’s Psalm and Hymns, Gardner’s Life, Vicar of Wakefield, Webster’s Institute, 1st, 2d, and 3d parts, Fenning’s Spelling-Book, Dilworth’s ditto, Prompter, Little Reader’s Assistant, Occom’s Hymns, OEconomy of Human Life, Medical Cases and Observations; Seamen’s Journals, Writingbooks, Pocket Memorandums with pencils, ditto ditto without (thus the list runs on without break under that first imposing head of Books), Primers, Children’s Books, Geographical Cards, Dutch Quills, Wafers, &c. &c.” Then follows a list of pamphlets and a group of titles headed Chapman’s Books evidently referring to a series of publications under the publisher’s name, in which appear Fanny or the Happy Repentance, Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Adventures of Gil Blas, History of Queen Elizabeth, Young Gentlemen and Ladies Entertaining Friend, Choice Collection of Songs,” and Almanacks for 1793. The advertisement concluded with this stirring appeal: “Ladies, Gentlemen, and Merchants”—I hope the merchants of today will not dislike the differentiation—-“are invited to call and furnish themselves and children with books: as they may here obtain them as cheap as in Boston.” Obviously the shopping in Boston habit that our merchants complain of was early established!
Six months later John Spooner advertised another assortment of books, including “Hume’s History of England, 8 volumes; Robertford’s ditto of America, 3 ditto; Moore’s travels, 2 ditto; The Spectator, 8 ditto; Buchan’s Domestic Medicine; Morse’s Geography of America, Christian Economy, The Whole Duty of Woman, Advice to Prevent Poverty, Fothergill’s Sermons, and school and children’s books,”—any of which were to be given “in exchange for cash, clean cotton or cotton and linen, or linen rags of any color, old sail cloth, or junk.”
A Versatile Gentleman.
Caleb Greene respectfully informed his friends and the public in general that he “now carries on and proposes to enlarge the bookbinding business in its several branches,” and that he had for sale account books and books ruled to any pattern, and that he could “in a short time supply shopkeepers with spelling books by the dozen of the most approved authors,” and that “from his long experience in books he thinks he may lay claim to so much knowledge as that the public may depend on being well supplied, and at as low rate as in Boston.” Not only were reading and spelling encouraged, but writing as well, in a note after the date line—”N. B. Black and red ink of the best quality.”
Later on Mr. Greene offered to take orders for Bibles—in an early 1794 issue: “Any persons who would wish to supply themselves with large and complete Bibles—with or without apocrypha and concordance, or Bibles of any size, are desired to leave their names at Caleb Greene’s shop; where they may view the sizes and in a few weeks have their supply—No part of the pay will be asked till they are delivered.”
But he did not confine his attention to book binding and selling. An advertisement of Isaac Wood of Fairhaven probably suggested to him a new branch of business possible to this side of the river. Two weeks before Christmas this Wood announced having just received and for sale “at his shop near the meeting house, Fairhaven, a fresh assortment of European and West Indian Goods, suited to the present season,” and also, further,—showing the range of the merchants of the day,—”family medicines, which he can recommend as genuine,—and for sale, by retail, as cheap as can be procured in Boston—together with Phials, &c.” Incidentally it may be stated that Mr. Wood also offered for sale “Flower by the small quantity. Crockery, Tobacco and Snuff, Shoemakers’ Tools, Books and Paper and Almanacs-with the announcement that in payment would be received cash, cotton, rags, sailcloth, pork & beef, and any kind of country produce.” Would it do to wonder how many heirloom treasures in this city owed their family possession to pork and rags!
At the Sign of the Mortar.
The announcement of family medicines evidently spurred Caleb Greene’s enterprise, for in the next issue he proved that New Bedford did not need to go to the rival village across the river for its medicines: “From the encouragement given by a number of the inhabitants of [New] Bedford and its vicinity,” he had “furnished himself with and just opened a good assortment of fresh Drugs and Medicines, at the Sign of the Mortar, in Water Street, among which are”—and in a half column advertisement he named them frankly, opium and castor oil among the rest: a goodly list, including a variety of patent medicines, and also “an excellent electuary for cleansing and preserving the teeth, with brushes for ditto.” And the advertisement concluded, “As said medicines are deemed genuine, they are confidently offered to the public.” Apparently Mr. Greene did not want his original business lost sight of for after a dash rule he continued: “Said Greene carries on the bookbinding business and has for sale geographies, arithmetics, spellers, dictionaries, blank books, &c., which customers are desired to call and see.”
Oil Skin Hat Covers.
The full extent of his business versatility is not told, however, until is quoted his announcement of “neat oilcloth covers for hats and women’s bonnets—on silk or linen, of various colors—made at a short notice and reasonable price-by said Greene.”
Though umbrellas had been introduced into the colonies in the latter half of the eighteenth century, there is no likelihood that they were common in the village of [New]Bedford in 1793, since their manufacture did not begin in this country for some six or eight years later than this.
Mr. Greene was certainly a useful citizen, for he is credited also with keeping the marine journal and the weather record.
Compasses and Hardware.
There were advertisements of Joseph Clement “(late from London), Compass Maker and Iron Plate-Worker, doing business on Union Street, a few rods west from Mr. Isaac Howland’s store; Joseph Ricketson, Cutlery and Hardware Dealer, lately removed “to the new building erected at Four corners, and fronting on Prospect and North Streets”—otherwise at the northeast corner of the present Union and Water Streets: Gamaliel Bryant Jr., “removed from the shop he formerly work’d in, to the Four corners, No. 4, fronting North Street,” where he had for sale a general assortment of tin ware.
Reduction for Cash.
Reuben Jenne, Blacksmith, of “Oxford, New Bedford,” offered inducement for cash payment—objecting “to the present mode of long credit and a remote payday.” He informed the public that he proposed “to keep constantly for sale a handsome variety of edge tools, together with plow shares, hoes, &c.,” and that “all other branches of his Profession will be attended to and the work executed with neatness and dispatch;” and he concluded the notice with the statement that “the articles received in payment are too numerous to be mentioned here: but whoever will pay in cash he will make to them a reduction of 16 2-3 per cent;” and he adds persuasively that “he flatters himself that all who favor him with their custom will find his terms much better suited to benefit the public than the present mode of long credit and a remote pay day.”
Medicine Boxes for Seamen.
Thomas Hersey of Fairhaven, “ready to wait upon all disposed to employ him, in the medical line,” announced” —Medicine boxes, for the use of seamen, with suitable directions, prepared at the shortest notice.”
Cloth Dressed to Taste.
Westport, which had been set off from Dartmouth at the same time that New Bedford had, and that now had a population of 2466,—within thirty-three as many as the town of Dartmouth,—was heard from in the notice of John Chace, who, bringing to mind the hand loom, respectfully informed the public that he carried on the Clothier’s Business, in its various branches, at his works at the head of Acoaxet River, in Westport, and that “Any person wishing to have his cloth dressed to his taste, by applying to him, or forwarding it by the post from New Bedford to Newport, or leaving it at Smith’s Mills, shall have their directions attended to, with the greatest punctuality and care, and returned by the first conveyance after dressed.”
Joseph and Elihu Russell of Dartmouth later offered “to dress and color cloth at their new works at Russells Mills;” but this came early in the next year.
Occasionally someone advertised for supplies, as “Wanted—Ash timber, for which good pay will be made on delivery,” “untanned sheep and lambskin, for which a generous price will be given,” “a number of bushels of leached ashes,” etc.
Sailcloth was announced as being “fabricated” in Nantucket.
Dispersing Benjamin Russell’s Goods.
How Benjamin Russell’s household goods found their way into New Bedford homes is suggested in this “Sale at Auction!” notice, offering a choice and valuable parcel of household goods and furniture, being part of the estate of Benjamin Russell, Esq., late of Dartmouth, consisting of several good Feather Beds and Furniture, Mahogany Desk, High Case of Drawers, and other Cabinet Work; Silver Plate, China Ware, Pewter, Stone and other hard Ware; a number of Chairs great and small, both of Mahogany and other sorts—with many other kinds of Household Goods not here enumerated.”
Whaling and The Privateers.
If the impression prevails that ships were coming from and starting on whaling voyages continually in those early days, let the illusion be dispelled, so far as this period at least is concerned.
Whaling at this time was just beginning to look up after the crushing blow it had received in the Revolutionary War. First there had been the unrighteous British legislation curtailing American fishing and trading rights, and then there had been the barbarous enactment giving the right of search of American vessels and impressment of American sailors into the British service or the British whale fishery, bringing whaling pretty much to a standstill. Besides, there had been the destruction of seventy vessels in the harbor of New Bedford at the time of the British raid in September of 1778,—and for several years nothing was done toward the restoration of the industry. One ship is known to have gone out from Dartmouth in 1785 and another in 1787. A little at a time the business picked up. In 1793 the first whaler to enter the Pacific sailed from New Bedford. It was one of George Claghorn’s ships—though The Medley does not seem to have reported the sailing. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the Old Dartmouth whaling and merchant fleet numbered about fifty vessels. Generally speaking, 1793 was one of the years of low ebb in the whaling industry.
A count of the ships reported in The Medley as arriving during the last half of that year showed nine New Bedford whalers to have come into port, bringing cargoes of oil ranging from eighty barrels to thirteen hundred barrels, and totaling 6130 barrels, whale and sperm totaled in together; while in that same period, there arrived at Nantucket twenty-two whalers, bringing 13,290 barrels, in lots ranging from fifty barrels to thirteen hundred—one vessel coming in clean; and they were reported to have come from Brazil, from Woolwich Bay off the coast of Africa, and from the neighborhood of the West Indies and Bahamas. A few whalers belonging in Dunkirk put in here at that time, fearing to encounter the French during the hostilities with Great Britain.
That it was not always necessary to go to the west coast of Africa, but that whales were sometimes caught nearer at hand, is shown in the item that “Perry Davis, master of a small fishing vessel, brot into Westport, 25 July, a whale that made 17 bbls. oil—out three days.”
There were tryworks in that day, in this town at about the foot of what is now Center Street and probably at Smoking Rocks, where the Potomska Mills now stand; at Oxford, now Poverty Point, in Fairhaven; and at Dartmouth and Westport.
The close touch into which New Bedford vessels—whalers and merchantmen—came with the war difficulties of the day is revealed in several items about their encounters with privateers. Captain Benjamin Howland of brig Lucretia, arrived in seventeen days from Capefrancois, reports that he “was brot to seven times on his passage by different privateers—five English, one Spanish, and one French—ordered on board the Spanish and French; the others hoarded him in their own boats—all treated him with great civility.”
But all ships did not have so good fortune as this. Here are a couple of real adventures, under the head of “Pickaroons Out-Pickaroon’d,” which show the dangers of the seas at the time and also suggest something of the stuff some at least of the New Bedford whaling masters were made of:
The captain of the Brig Polly, Levi Jenne, tells his own story for The Medley, following the item that his ship had arrived here from St. Marks, with a prizemaster and three men, put on board by a New Providence pickaroon.
Capt. Jenne submitted first to the examination of his papers by two strangers; when they had left, a strange ship came alongside and he was hailed in “a brutish manner,” in a strange language, and six men came aboard “in a hostile manner, with naked cutlasses and pistols in their hand,” and he had to sail under their orders on the course to Cuba—but owing to a small wind his ship did not get far. He and his people were kept in constant fear of losing their lives. Then they ran into a fleet of nine sail, three of them privateers, and after the commodore had spent the whole day “huckling from vessel to vessel,” a prizemaster was put aboard the Polly, one other white man and two Negroes, “the three last mentioned not worth one farthing, only to encumber us as lumber upon deck,” and she sailed toward New Providence, in the Bahamas; then his men refused to sail her except for New Bedford, the prizemaster confessed himself helpless, and Capt. Jenne and the Polly came along in due time into their home harbor, with the four strangers aboard.
Capt. Weston Howland, of the sloop Nancy, who left St. Marks in company with Capt. Jenne, confirmed the latter’s story, and also bore witness “to similar treatment by four prizemen, which he brot in with him”-—in the following statement:—
“The 23d of July, the sloop Nancy of New Bedford, left St. Marks, bound for Philadelphia. The 24th ult. was boarded by Capt. Mackever, from Jamaica; whose Officers came on board and examined my papers; after which he ordered me to proceed on my way. In 20 minutes after they left me, I was boarded by the sloop John, Capt. Edward Shearman, from New Providence; who, in a very hostile manner pushed me into the boat—carried me on board his vessel,—where I remained as prisoner 14 hours.—At the expiration of that time he hove out his boat—ordered me into her—got in himself and came on board my vessel. —He then ordered me to open my chest, which I complied with.—He then took every article out—yet made no discovery of the property he pretended to be after.—After this, the 25th, he left me, and returned to his own vessel—I was soon revisited by a prizemaster and four men, who ordered me to steer for New Providence.—-The 29th, being clear of the Keys, I resumed the command, and directed my course as I thot proper—New Bedford appearing most consistent, I shaped my course thither:-Here I arrived 12th August—prizemaster and all well.
Then The Medley commented:
“Such is the treatment received from New Providence privateers—and this not the first instance—Capt. Jenne informs that numbers of Americans have been taken in the same manner and sent into that place, without daring even to resist. Then they have been tried upon suspicion of having French property on board—if acquitted the captors do not release them but take them to Inagua and there plunder them of everything valuable.—This the privateers say would have been the fate of Captain Jenne and Capt. Howland, could they have gotten them into this den of thieves.—Among this banditti appears the famed Lord Dunmore, governor of New Providence.—Such insults, Americans, ought surely not to pass unnoticed.
“The above mentioned vessels were laden with Sugar, Coffee and Cotton.”
Though it may seem to have no connection here, there is interest in the notice soon after of the marriage of Capt. Weston Howland to Miss Nabby Hathaway—won, possibly, by the captain’s cool daring.
Later on, similar news came in an extract of a letter from the master of a vessel in New Providence, to a merchant in this town, which said: “There are fifty sail of American vessels here now; 36 of which were brot down by the Privateers: some of them have been here ninety days, with their Coffee hogsheads bursting in their holds, and their Cotton sacks rotting and dropping off from their quarters.”
Making Sport of a Whaler.
How a whaling master fared at the handle of the preyers upon ships at this time is told with spirit by Capt. Gardner, in the account of an experience off St. Helena in September of 1793. The Medley says: “Arrived, Ship Edward, Micaiah Gardner, from a Delago Bay whalecruise. 1500 bbls. whale oil—Capt. Gardner, not having heard of a war, ran in for St. Helena to get information.—Sent his Mate and five hands on shore to make inquiry; who were detained by the Governor; and an American ship’s boat the Seahorse, Albert Hussey, Master, belonging to Cape Ann, was sent off with the following letter, to decoy him into port:
“‘France is at war with all the world—the American Ambassador’s head has been cut off at Paris—you have no port on earth to put into where you will not be taken—here you shall have generous terms, all your private property, and that of the crew, shall remain your own, the same as if you had never been taken: I have consulted the Lieut. Governor, and we have agreed to give you these terms—In witness whereof, I hereunto sign, and give it under my hand, and the Seal of the Honorable United East India company.
“‘Robert Brooke, “‘Governor and Commander in Chief.’
“In answer to which, Capt. Gardner sent word,—’He thanked him for his generous offer—but rather doubted the truth of France being at war with all the world’—Should not therefore throw himself on their mercy—and continued to stand off and on’, hoping his boat, would return.—But next day by the same boat received a second letter, as follows:—
“‘I again inform, you that France is at War with all the world—That the American States are in alliance with Great Britain—I therefore now treat with you as an American subject— and demand of you to enter our port immediately—Which if you refuse to comply with, I shall be obliged to make a representation of the case to the British Secretary of State and to General Washington.-After promising this, if you continue obstinate, and are taken on any foreign coast, you must undergo all the “severity of treatment by the laws of Nations in such cases made and provided.’
“Captain Gardner doubting much this British Governor’s candor, only replied to the last letter—’I shall not enter your port, but shall shape my course for America.’-which he accordingly did—leaving his Mate and boats crew at the Island—and here safely arrived.”
Tragedies of Whaling.
The tragedies in the whaling industry and the homes left mourning through its vicissitudes, find suggestion in an extract of a letter from Capt. Benjamin Crowninshield to his friend at Salem, dated Port Royal, Sept. 29, 1793, to the effect that “Two American vessels have been deprived of every officer on board by the fever—a brig from New Bedford, the supercargo, captain, mate and boy all died in the course of seven days and the vessel left destitute”:—with this information followed up in the next issue by the further statement “that the brig mentioned proved to be the Nancy, owned by Messrs. Benjamin Church, and Nathaniel Pope, and commanded by Capt. Caleb Church,” and a letter that had been received from one of the hands on board by his parents, in which was written, under date of Martinico, St. Pierres, Oct. 6, 1793:
“After a short fit of sickness, I once more have a chance to send you a few lines. We have all been sick with the West India fever—and have recovered; except those whom God hath pleased to take away by the disease.—First our Mate and Boy—then the supercargo and Captain left this world, they got one Fishers Skiper, an American Counsellor”—and here is inserted an asterisk and The Medley comments below, “We think the writer has in this instance mistook ‘Fishers Skiper, American Counsellor’ for Fulivar Skipwith, American Consul”—to get a Captain, and more hands, if wanted, and send the vessel to Alexandria, as fast as possible.”
After other details, the writer says “it was the captain’s will before he died I should act in the room of the mate,” and he says, “I shall do the best I can to get the vessel home to the owners as soon as possible.”
Lost at Sea.
How William Howland, master of the sloop Sally, was lost at sea, is told in an item headed merely “Ship News”:
“Sloop Sally. William Howland, master, left this port 23d Jan. on a whale cruise, returned last Wednesday. 14th March, off Hispaniola, the Captain, Oliver Slocum, (mate), Solomon Slocum, William Church, Joseph Wilcox, James Jan, and Jack Williams, (two last blacks), went on shore to procure stores for said vessel, then lying off and on at the mouth of Aricot harbor: late in the evening attempted to return on board (as say the inhabitants of the place), when a squall of wind arising drove the sloop to sea—and the boat in the gale with all the men above-named was lost—no discovery could be made for eight days except some pieces of a boat, which all agree were part of the boat the master went on shore in.”
Stage and Post Routes.
In spite of the merchants’ determination to serve customers as well as they could buy in Boston, on the fifth of July a new inducement was offered to visit that town. Under the head “Newbedford and Boston New Line of Stages!” (and the picture of a stage coach drawn by two spans of horses—a wood cut, and done by an artist with no great sense of perspective), “William Henshaw respectfully informs his friends & the public in general that for the convenience and accommodation of those Ladies and Gentlemen who may wish a pleasant tour to or from Boston, he has furnished himself with an elegant carriage and good horses, to run once a week.
“He will start from New Bedford every Tuesday morning at 5 o’clock and arrive in Boston the evening of the same day.—On his return he will leave Boston every Friday morning at 5 o’clock, and arrive in Bedford the evening of the same day”—a four days’ trip.
“The price for each passenger will be three pence per mile —20 lb. baggage gratis—150 lbs. weight equal to a passenger.
“Ladies and Gentlemen who take passage in his stage may depend on the greatest care—and the most particular attention on his part that his horses are good, and well suited to an expeditious and pleasant tour.
“Business entrusted to him to transact shall be performed with the greatest punctuality; and every encouragement in the undertaking most gratefully acknowledged.
“He would mention, as some person might otherwise consider three pence per mile for passengers a large fee, that it is caused by the present exorbitant price demanded for hay and provender.—So soon as the price of these articles shall fall, the Public may rest assured the price per mile shall be reduced.”
Mr. Henshaw was not left long without a competitor in the Boston stage business. Three months and a half later Abraham Russell advertised a conveyance to Taunton and Boston, to run through the winter season once a week, the round trip to be completed between Monday morning and Friday evening. As to the price he made no apology— ‘the price will be three pence per mile for each passenger, which is the same rate as other stages, and will appear moderate to any who will consider the high price of provender.”
Mr. Russell also announced at the same time his intention to start a stage route to Boston through the town of Bridgewater—a round trip in four days, afterwards increased to five days, to give some daylight hours in Boston. The price of a passenger on this line was to be fifteen shillings from New Bedford to Boston.
William Henshaw announced about this time that his service would continue through the winter, and that he should put on covered sleighs as soon as the snow prevented the running of his carriage.
Earlier than these latest notices there had been announcement that “the mail is taken from the post office every Sunday and Wednesday evening.” Now the mails for Boston were closed on Monday and Wednesday mornings, fitting in with the running of the stages.
Early in the year, Samuel Sprague had proposed, “if suitable encouragement” were given, “to establish a post route from New Bedford to Barnstable by way of Rochester, Wareham, Sandwich, &c., and return thro Plymouth, Middleborough, &c., home.” He promised “the greatest care and attention paid to private business; and every command punctually performed at reasonable terms.”
Apparently a post route had already been established to Newport, for The Medley, early announcing that “one Jesse Haskell having undertaken to prosecute the post business between New Bedford and Newport, The Medley would be delivered en route in Dartmouth, Westport, Tiverton and Little Compton, as well as in Newport.”
Later, a notice signed by John Spooner announced that the post from New Bedford to Newport, through the winter season, would leave every Monday morning, arriving the same night, and he offered: “Letters carried and private business transacted with the greatest care.”
Few as the mails were, there was evidently little care in their transmission, and great difficulty in their collection, for “Letters remaining at the post office” was a regular feature of The Medley, with letters in this office addressed Rochester, Dartmouth, Westport, and Martha’s Vineyard, besides Acushnet, Fairhaven and New Bedford, and sometimes three deep to the same address.
The Medley tried to stimulate the establishment of post routes by calling for “Smart able men to supply some excellent post routes, good encouragement to be given by the printer hereof.” In the closing number of the year was a call for a “steady, capable man to prosecute a post route to the eastward”—sign not only that The Medley was looking for an enlarged field but that New Bedford was seeking to broaden its touch with the neighboring towns.
Through its ships it already had touch with more distant ports. In one week, for instance, at the custom house were cleared sloops for Charleston and Savannah, and a schooner for Hudson; and in another week, besides the clearance of a schooner and a ship for whale voyages, sloops sailed for Newbern, for Philadelphia, and Savannah—these being merely sample weeks. Such advertisements as this appeared:
“For New York and North River, the fast sailing schooner Tabitha, now lying at Rotch wharf, John Crowell master, will sail (at such a time), wind and weather permitting. For freight or passage apply to John Spooner or to the said Crowell.”
“For Newport and Philadelphia, the sloop Lively, lying at Russell Wharf, Shubael Bunker, master, will sail” (etc.); “and will be a constant trader all this season, from this port to those places. For freight or passage apply to the Master in New Bedford: who will transact business for any gentleman at either the above places on the most reasonable terms.”
No Flurry Over Elections.
Contrary to the usual flurry of today preceding town meeting day in the neighboring towns, and the stir of our own city election, in March appeared a little five line notice: “—Monday next, at 10 o’clock a. m. is notified for the legal voters of this town to meet to choose town officers for the year ensuing. Also, at 2 o’clock p. m. to choose a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Senators.” Not a word had been previously said about candidates. In the following week’s paper appeared the item, without heading of any sort: “At a meeting of the inhabitants of this town, on Monday last, the votes given in were:”—with the vote for governor, lieutenant governor, and senators, Hancock getting fifty-three of the fifty-four votes cast. The vote for senators stood: “Hon. George Leonard 38—Hon. Thomas Durfee 33—Hon. Elisha May 37.”
With similar brevity appeared the call to “—the citizens of New Bedford who are legal voters” to meet at “the old Congregational meeting house to choose a representative to congress, to be a citizen of Barnstable or Plymouth County. Every person who values the privileges of a Freeman will attend. General James Warren, John Davis, and Shear Jashub Bourne, Esqs. are mentioned as candidates.” There was afterwards no report of the result of the election.
Drinking Toasts to Washington.
New Bedford and Fairhaven had a rousing good time in the celebration of the birthday of “our worthy President George Washington,” on the eleventh of February, the date under the old style of time reckoning. To quote The Medley report:
“The day was ushered in with the rising gun, by fifteen discharges of cannon, from the foot of Prospect Street; attended with mussick[sic], and a display of the national colors from an eminence.
“At 2 o’clock p. m. the citizens assembled at Four corners, at the foot of Union Street; and with the artillery, and mussick in front, headed by Col. Claghorn, moved in procession to the South part of Water Street,”—Water Street only ran about a block south in that day,—”which situation gave them a commanding view of their fellow citizens, assembled on the occasion, in Fairhaven.
“The signal for commencing the fire was now given by the discharge of a cannon by our fellow citizens of Fairhaven. A regular and alternate fire was then kept up:—each discharge preceded by the following toasts and sentiments:
“1st. Long life to the American Solomon.
“2d. May the cause of Liberty and Freedom never experience the want of a Friend like him.
“3d. May humanity like his ever confound the enemies to Freedom, and convert them to walk in his benevolent paths.
“4th. That the peace of America may continue the same, may his successor adopt his virtues.
“5th. Directed by his wisdom, may agriculture, commerce, arts, and mechanism become more general beneficial to the citizens of mankind.
“6th. May each soldier, like him, feel himself a citizen, and each citizen a soldier.
“7th. May his religious examples pervade the breast of every citizen; and the shades of bigotry and superstition give place to the enlightening beams of philanthropy.
“8th. May his principles of liberty never sleep, where they have taken root, till every root and branch of despotism be dispelled the terrestrial globe.
“9th. The French Republic!—may she ever continue to cherish the sparks of Freedom, caught from the American altar of Liberty.
“10th. The officers and soldiers of the late army, who, with their illustrious Chief, have shared the immortal honor of emancipating their country from slavery, and establishing the blessings of Liberty.
“11th. May every existing tyrant tremble at the name of Washington!—and the genuine principles of Liberty and Equality universally pervade and enlighten the world.
“12th. Downfall to tyrannical Monarchy.
“13th. Fayette! May we all possess his virtues, but not be sharers of the fate which envy hurls upon him.
“14th. May an honest heart never feel distress.
“15th. May health, and every temporal blessing be continued to our beloved president. May his name be transmitted with respect and gratitude to posterity; and may succeeding generations experience the benign influence of his virtue and his Patriotism.
“After which the following Patriotic and volunteer toast was given:—
“May the French Nation long enjoy the blessings of liberty and equality; and may it never tarnish its glory, by any acts of inhumanity.
“The Procession,” the report continues, “then moved from Water Street to North Bedford; and at [sunset], firing recommenced and continued for near an hour.—After which, the company retired, and partook of an elegant entertainment at citizen Garish’s, where their Patriotic joy was demonstrated by the following toasts and federal sentiments:
“Confederated America! May freedom and unanimity continue to be the distinguishing characteristics of these states:—and may Columbia annually shine with redoubled accession of virtue, knowledge, and glory.
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts! May she ever enjoy the blessings, and always flourish under the immediate direction of a wise and virtuous administration: and may her citizens ever evince to the world, the possession of those principles most essential to the dignity of Man.
“The County of Bristol! Success to her husbandry and navigation, and unanimity among her citizens in political sentiments.
“New Bedford! May we never again suffer by the ravaging hand of war. May unanimity, industry, and literature, with all the benevolent and social virtues, ever harmonize and distinguish her citizens.
“The day passed in the greatest harmony and good order—and at the hour of ten at Eve, the citizens retired elate with the agreeable reflections which the pleasures of the day had inspired.”
“When the firing had ceased,” the report proceeds, “our fellow citizens of Fairhaven retired to a convenient place, where fifteen convivial toasts were drank [the celebration proceeding simultaneously in the two towns]:—
“1. Long life to the President of the United States.—May he continue the Patton (sic) of Liberty, and Tyrant’s foe.
“2. His amiable Lady.—May they long enjoy connubial felicity.
“3. The Vice president.
“4. The Government of the United States.
“5. The liberty of Nations.
“6. Tranquility in France, and a peaceable return to her emigrant citizens.
“7. May that noble spark which was kindled in America spread thro the world.
“8. The memory of our sleeping Heroes.
“9. The downfall of Monarchy.
“10. Our Brethren on the Frontiers.
“12. Commerce and Navigation.
“13. Arts and Sciences.
“14. Love, peace, and unity, at home and abroad.
“15. The eleventh of February.
“After which an elegant entertainment was provided, and the evening was spent in festivity and joy—O Bedford!—How unlike the day, when the British standard waved in triumph round thy shores—when wild dismay sat on every countenance, and the Valiant trembled with fear.”
“Breasts Glowing with Liberty.”
Possibly taking fire from this enthusiasm of the adjoining town, Rochester—which in that day comprised what are now the towns of Mattapoisett, Marion, and Rochester, with a population, according to the 1790 census, of 2,644—went in for a great Independence Day celebration. Nothing is said about the day’s observance in this town, but as a number of “patriots of neighboring towns” are reported to have been present in Rochester, probably that was the place of the day in this vicinity.
The Medley tells about a day of “festivity and rejoicing,” after which “each one retired with his breast glowing with the spirit of Liberty and Equality.” How much of this was due to genuine patriotism and how much to the “elegant repast” partaken of at “Citizen Ruggles’ tavern” earlier in the day, and the fifteen toasts later drunk can not be said: but the facts of the case are that “the morning was ushered by a discharge of cannon and a display of the flag of the United States; at ten o’clock a number of patriotic citizens of Rochester and the neighboring towns assembled at Citizen Ruggles’ tavern, where they partook of an elegant repast. At two o’clock p. m. the first company of Militia of Rochester, commanded by Capt. Sturtevant, paraded; where, after going thro the military exercise, was a discharge of fifteen cannon, answering to the fifteen free, sovereign and confederated States of America; after which the officers again joined with their patriotic brethren to celebrate the day, when the following Toasts were drunk:
“1. The United States of America-may their Independence be lasting as time.
“2. The President—long live the patriotic Hero.
“3. The Legislature of the Union—may its deliberations be for the public good.
“4. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts—may her fishery, commerce, and agriculture ever flourish.
“5. The Governor—may immortal honor be the reward of his exertions in establishing our Independence.
“6. The Lieut. Governor—may peace and tranquility attend him thro his declining years.
“7. The Patriots and Heroes of seventy-six—may the same patriotic zeal animate our breasts which then warmed theirs.
“8. The Officers and Soldiers of the day—may their principles of liberty and equality never sleep.
“9. The Frontiers—may they be protected from the depredations of savage barbarians.
“10. The Republic of France—as she has catched[sic] the spark of liberty from America, may its flame never be extinguished.
“11. The Marquis de la Fayette-may the day soon arrive when he again shall breathe the air of freedom.
“12. May strict neutrality be preserved between the United States and the Belligerent Powers.
“13. May Liberty run parallel with Time.
“14. The State of Vermont.
“15. The State of Kentucky.”
Then it was that “after having spent the day in festivity and rejoicing, each one retired with his breast glowing with the spirit of Liberty and Equality.”
The Philomathean Society.
Probably some of the “scholars” and “lovers of learning” in the Philomathean Society had a hand in formulating the toasts for the Washington birthday celebration; and we get a touch of the same grandiloquence, coupled with real practicality, in the subjects propounded for discussion at one of its meetings. There had been a call to a quarterly meeting “to be held at the new school house at Head of Acushnet River,” “to be opened precisely at 9 o’clock a. m.”—No late evening meetings for the early New Bedfordians. According to a notice issued by the secretary, who was no other than the editor of The Medley, at that meeting it was voted that “the following questions should be debated upon at the next meeting of the society and that the secretary publish them in the interim, for the information of absent members:
“Is it for the Emolument of Society that the chief Magistrate should have it in his Power to pardon Criminals?
“Is it consistent with justice that Minors should pay a poll tax for the support of government?
“Is a reform in English Orthography under our present circumstances, expedient or not?”—the sign of an early beginning to a long-continued discussion.
Schools Public and Private.
Adopting the Massachusetts policy, in Colonial times, of maintaining schools by public money raised by taxation, Old Dartmouth maintained, certainly as early as the end of the first third of the eighteenth century, a school-master for each village and every person in each village had “free access or liberty,” to quote an old town report, “to send their children to said master for benefit of the Latin tongue, but no other.” New Bedford had such a “grammar master,” chiefly to prepare students for the university at Cambridge. Almost certainly at the same time there was also an elementary school.
With the adoption of the state constitution in 1780, public education received a livelier attention; and when in 1787 New Bedford was incorporated as a separate town, its first town meeting voted that “there be one person employed as a town school master in this town.” For the next eleven years there is record of a vote passed annually that the selectmen appoint the school masters of the town according to law. But public support of schools in this town had been growing less willing, if one may judge by the fact that in 1798 only “a sum of money for schooling poor children” was voted, this sum being placed at two hundred dollars, at the recommendation of a committee which had been appointed to “inquire into the number of poor children in said town necessary to send to school at the expense of the town;” and for more than a score of years the public schools were schools for the indigent. Probably, then, in 1793 more children went to private schools than to public ones in this town. Prom a very early period there was a school on Johnny Cake Hill. At this time there was one at Oxford, -the Poverty Point of today: still standing on the Taber Farm,—and probably others, besides the one referred to in this advertisement:
“Thaddeus Mayhew respectfully informs the inhabitants of Bedford and its vicinity, that, if suitable encouragement be given, he proposes to open a School at the north Schoolhouse, where he will teach Reading, Writing, vulgar and decimal Arithmetic, and English grammar; and hopes from his acquaintance with actual business, and a due sense of the importance of the undertaking, to be able to give satisfaction to his Employers.
“Those who are disposed to favor him with encouragement are desired to leave their names, at the store of Captain Jeremiah Mayhew or Mr. William Ross, where they may see the conditions.”
The First Evening School.
Nothing more appears on this score until in October Mr. Mayhew in a notice headed “Evening school” announces that:
“The Subscriber, returning his grateful thanks to his employers for past patronage, begs leave to acquaint the public that he has concluded to continue the business; and that for the accommodation and benefit of those whose particular vocations render attendance impracticable, he proposes on Monday evening next to open an evening school—when in addition to that was formerly advertised, he will teach bookkeeping, navigation, and the theory of mensuration, and gauging. And flattering himself with having given general satisfaction heretofore engages by his assiduous attention to the improvement of those entrusted to his care, that those who may hereafter be disposed to favor him with encouragement shall not find their confidence misplaced—especially as he is determined they shall find no lower Terms, nor easier mode of payment.”
An Early Reader.
The editor and publisher of The Medley at about this time set about trying to enrich the school life–and possibly his own purse–by getting-up a school reader. He announced ‘Proposals of John Spooner for Printing, by Subscription, Miscellanies, Moral and Instructive, in Prose and Verse, from Various Authors, Designed for the Use of Schools and improvement of young persons of both sexes,” quoting “‘Tis education forms the common mind;
Just as the twig is bent the tree ‘s inclin’d.
It was to have two hundred pages, to be printed as soon as three hundred copies were subscribed for, and to sell for three shillings a book; and those who subscribed for twelve “would receive two gratis.” “Subscription papers were lodged with the printer and several gentlemen.”
Boarding the Schoolmaster.
No record of school matters would be complete without reference to the complaint, of one signing himself “Preceptor,” against the custom of boarding schoolmasters around among the homes of their employers. “The method” he said, “of obliging a Master to change the place of his residence so frequently is attended with many demonstrative inconveniences: for where a man thinks not of staying more than a week, he cannot be at home. No sooner has he learnt to conform to the different manners, government, customs, &c. of one family, but he must remove to another: there with equal difficulty learn to conform to theirs. Generally those persons who employ a Schoolmaster, have families of small children. For this, and many other reasons, there is scarce one family in ten, where a man can have the convenience of a studious life (which I am, and every Schoolmaster ought to be fond of). I have sometimes experienced very disagreeable feelings, on receiving visits from my friends; which in other circumstances would have given me the most pleasing sensations. Ashamed, or discommoded at my lodgings, I have sought refreshment for them at a Public House; or been obliged to burden some one of my acquaintances with them, when we wished to be retired. We are often obliged to observe the most persevering and rigid temperance. I have been in perils by water; and in perils for want of fire; twice have I been lousy: thrice have I caught the itch; once I have had—but I forbear: for I do not like exposing myself.” He complains of often being so far from his schoolhouse as to be unable to give “that attention which is requisite to his business.” He wants the custom to be changed so that any one may be at liberty to board a schoolmaster who lives at a suitable distance from the school and has “those conveniences which will render his life comfortable and agreeable.”
Certainly one might well fancy the public sympathy going out to the long suffering Preceptor. But there was one of his own class who soon gave sign of small gratitude for this intervention in behalf of schoolmasterly comfort. Two weeks later in a communication in The Medley “Mr. Preceptor” was addressed by one signing himself “E. D.” and under date of Oxford, who asked him “if possest [sic] of the common principles of humanity” to publish his name, as he would thereby “justify to the public an innocent character, which suffers by your disguise—one who, together with his own infirmities has to bear (which is no inconsiderable grievance) the imputation of all your nonsense and ill-nature.”
Whereupon Preceptor informs E. D. that in making his complaint he had in view not only his own happiness but the happiness of the faculty in general. He should not expect a sympathizing brother to ask him to expose his name and in consequence that of his employers. All he will say is that E. D. was not the writer of it,—which he does with the use of a nonsensical “syllogism.” “As to what he has said of its being ill-natured nonsense, I shall only say,” he comments, “that I am somewhat inclined to be of his opinion; for I have not heard a person read it, but what said Mr. D— was the author of it, for ‘say they,’ it is his style; sounds just like him, &c.—If it is my unhappiness to write in his style, I think he should use me more tenderly than to cry out, nonsense, ill nature, &c. seeing the intent was to erase a custom, which experience must have taught him is contrary to his happiness and mine.” And he adds, “I shall conclude in the words of the Poet:
“Then wherefore may not I be skip’d
And in my room another whip’d?
Canst thou refuse to bear thy part
I’ th’ public work, base as thou art—
To higgle thus for a small scolding
To gain the faculty good boarding?”
Leaving small doubt that Preceptor was of a poetic turn of mind as well as of a studious nature and a tease. “Preceptor” did not have the last word, for there came a caustic reply from the Oxford schoolmaster, under his full name of Elihu Doty,—the last two communications carrying the matter over into the new year.
A Public Library.
Some eight or ten years before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts paid heed to the matter of public libraries, the subject of a library had come up for consideration in the village of Bedford. On Feb. 2d, 1793, The Medley said editorially: “A correspondent observes that as something has been proposed respecting a library in this town, he hopes it may soon succeed: and that the proprietors will make the most modern and best dictionaries the object of their first choice, in the collection of books (as the diffusion of knowledge is the end and design of such a valuable institution) by which means they may the more readily be benefited by the lucubrations of some of our late modern writers.”
That word “lucubrations” stirred up the town literary disputants into a discussion as to its right use in this connection, a Friend to Literature asking how the correspondent can determine whether such writings are “the production of diurnal or nocturnal studies,” and the argument being clinched by recourse to the Latin, which shows that lucubro is to make by candlelight and lucubration studying by candlelight—proving that “no authority whether modern or ancient is sufficient to support the correspondent in using lucubrations in any other sense than that of night studies”—a learned discussion that perhaps furnished in part the foundation for New Bedford historians’ assertion that the early inhabitants of the town “consisted of a highly intellectual class of people.”
Nothing further appeared about the library; though from other sources it can be said that eventually book clubs were formed, the Library Society got organized, followed by the Social Library, and that when, in the progress of time, all these had combined, the New Bedford Social Library enjoyed “a long, prosperous, and profitable career.”
A Doctor of Divinity.
The town had at least one real student, but he was an importation. The name of the Rev. Samuel West, the able Congregational minister in the village at the head of the river was occasionally mentioned in The Medley, but never more interestingly than in the statement that “at the late commencement at Harvard College the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on the Rev. Samuel West, of this town.”
Interest in the French Republic.
If one may judge from the columns and columns of news in The Medley of affairs in France, the people here were greatly interested in the French Revolution and in the establishment of the French Republic. For instance, the proceedings of the convention that sentenced Louis Capet to death were recorded in full, with the voice of every member chronicled on the question of guilt, and the full text of the decree of sentence was given, with apology from week to week for the omission of other matters because of the news from France. Certainly the editor of The Medley was tremendously interested. On February 2d he said: “Ca Ira! Ca Ira! is the song of the day. By yesterday’s mail, we are agreeably entertained with particulars of the Civic Feast, celebrated the 24th ult. at Boston, Charlestown, Watertown, Medford, Plymouth, and Brookline, in this state, and at Providence in Rhode Island, on the establishment of Liberty and Equality in France. Altho the citizens of this vicinity may not manifest their joy in so public a manner, yet, with sincere hearts, each one will reecho the wish that the spread of Liberty may speedily become as universal as that of Life—and that our noble allies ‘having wrested the scepter from Monarchy, may enjoy Liberty, without Anarchy.'”
And in reporting the sentence of death for Louis he said: “The editor is happy to be able to give his readers so early and so general a statement of the matter: but must lament with every true friend to liberty the death of that generous monarch, who was Columbia’s early friend:—who, when oppression and tyranny spread their banners over this young domain, flew to its relief, and quelled the haughty pride of Britain.—As true, unprejudiced friend, we bid adieu to his sleeping ashes—& hope his shade reigns now upon a throne which mobs nor cruel foes can ne’er destroy.”
Later on, the French triumphs over the British were nuts to The Medley. When the Duke of York was taken with his whole army, early in 1794, “the editor gladly presents his Patrons the agreeable morceau.” But then, that very same piece of news affected congress so that “it could not stay in their sitting”!
New Bedford, however, fell in with Boston in adopting resolutions in favor of strict neutrality toward all belligerent European powers, in accord with President Washington’s proclamation urging an impartial attitude. “A number of the inhabitants of this town met” and “voted the following resolves: That we will to the utmost of our power strictly attend to the pacific system manifested by the president in his late proclamations: that we heartily concur with our fellow citizens of the town of Boston in their late doings relative hereto: and that we will endeavor to detect all such as may, in the smallest degree, violate that neutrality we so highly approve.” Signed Thaddeus Mayhew, clerk.
News of the holding of American vessels in Algiers—in the midst of the European wars—led The Medley to get out the only “extra” referred to: “a handbill,” it is called, issued on the day of the receipt of the news; while the item itself was repeated in the next regular issue.
Preserving the Peace.
New Bedford had at this time, and apparently needed it, a peace protection association. Some idea of the goings on can be grasped from this paragraph printed in November:
“A correspondent being asked, why the noise has become so great in the streets as almost to preclude the possibility of transacting business in the evening, gave for answer, what Elijah the Prophet did to the Priests of Baal-‘Perhaps the Watchmen are talking—or they are pursuing, or they are in a journey, or peradventure they are sleeping and must be awaked.'”
There is suggestion, too, of the presence of unruly spirits in an earlier advertisement of two men who “utterly refused” to lend their boats to “any persons whomsoever” because of the many damages inflicted by those who had previously been accommodated, and in the later call for assistance by a man living at “the Longplain” in finding out who had taken, “thro mistake or designingly,” a lot of white pine boards that had been left some months before at the Head of Acushnet River.
Nothing had been said in The Medley about the existence of an organization to preserve the peace. A meeting had been called in March of the “Bedford Association,” for “the appointment of officers and transacting such other business as may appear necessary,” the meeting to be held “at the north school house”: but no inkling was given as to what the Bedford Association was and no report followed of the meeting. But now, when “the noise had become so great in the streets” as to disturb the rural quiet of Four corners, and to suggest that the watchmen were sleeping, the Bedford Association comes to the front in a long announcement, divided between two issues of The Medley, “published for the information of all concerned—more particularly as a guide and Monitor to our ‘Peace Officers'” of “a system of Regulations proposed for the purpose of promoting good Order, Quietness, and Security in the Village of Bedford, within the Town of New Bedford and County of Bristol.” This consisted of a preamble and nineteen articles of orders and regulations, and under date showing that the association had organized on the “17th of 3d month called March, 1792.”
This was the situation revealed by the preamble:
“We, the subscribers, inhabitants of the Village of Bedford and its vicinity, having heretofore suffered many inconveniences by the disorderly conduct of some of the young people and others, in various instances, for the purpose of preventing and reforming those disorders—Do hereby agree to form ourselves into an associate body, and engage as much as may be in our power, to suppress the various species of vice and immorality, that have led to those inconveniences.”
Without attempting to go into the rules and regulations in detail, it may be said that they provided for the division of the village into three wards, South, Middle, and North, and “out of each Ward was to be appointed annually three suitable persons, men of orderly and temperate conduct,” to be “stiled” censors, “to sit not less than two of them upon any occasion,” to hear the complaints brought in by the Officers of the Peace of any disorderly conduct “practiced either within or without the limits” of the village.
After hearing the parties “with candor and impartiality,” they were “to determine and require such reparation made (when injury hath been sustained) by the offender to the injured party, as they shall think equitable, and further in all cases to admonish and advice the parties to more circumspect conduct in future; which advice being well accepted, the party to be discharged: but when there appears an obstinate and incorrigible disposition,” the Censors were “to certify the same to the Secretary, that their names may be recorded, and also to the Counsellor, requiring his entring complaint thereof to the civil magistrate (when the action is cognizable by law), and in the absence of the Counsellor to make complaint themselves.”
Every subscriber to the association was constituted an Officer of the Peace, “not less than four of which, at any one time to have the care of the Village & to patrol the streets, at such times as is necessary, in order to preserve the peace and good order of the Village; and they and all others are required, upon discovery of any tumult or unnecessary noise, to admonish and advise the persons to desist, and quietly to repair to their respective homes; and upon refusal, or discovery of any other malpractices to the injury of any Individual, that they delay not to make complaint to the Censors, in order for their further examination.”
Conduct deemed offences within the intention of the association was specified as: “Indecent and disorderly behavior on the Sabbath, as idle and unnecessary meeting in the streets in companies and conversing—sailing for pleasure on that day, or any kind of gaming; ransacking orchards, gardens, or any other inclosure, to the injury of the owner; or robbing them of their fruit and produce, within or without the limits of this association; fighting, obscene language, or profane swearing, and drunkenness; tumults in the streets on evenings or at other times or places; breaking windows, throwing stones or sticks, and wantonly killing or abusing any domestic animals which are allowed to run at large; uncivil language and behavior to any person.”
Members of the association offending were to be brought before the censors, refusing which they were to be expelled and brought before a magistrate.
Every parent, master, or guardian, on the transgression of his child or apprentice was to deliver him up to the censors for trial; and all members were to use “every exertion in their power” to prevent disorders and discover all breaches of the peace. In all cases affecting the liberty or reputation of the subject, two-thirds of the members were required to be present. Any culprit who “reformed his manners” could have his name erased by the secretary.
Any person of lawful age was at liberty to be a subscriber of the association, but once a member, he solemnly bound himself to adhere to it until the object in view had been accomplished or the association mutually dissolved.
Evidently there was some difficulty about carrying out the provisions of bringing offenders before the censors, for notice is here given that at the annual meeting of that year, a year after organization, it had been voted that the peace officer having the care of the town at the time should “serve citations on those whom they may be directed to by the Censors and to see the persons so cited be brot before the said Censors.”
The document was signed by Caleb Greene, Secretary, followed by the words,
“Signed by 85 of the inhabitants of Bedford and its vicinity.”
The Intellectual Center.
It is noticeable that the intellectual interests of the town all seemed to cluster about this “north school house” at the head of the river, while the chief business of the town was pursued at Four corners.
A Rochester Ordination.
No church matters were reported for this town during the year, but a new minister was ordained at the Congregational church in Rochester, “to the pastoral care of the Congregational church and society” in the “Congregational precinct of Rochester, Middleborough, and Freetown.” He was the Rev. Calvin Chaddock. The ministers named as taking part in the service, belonged in Carver, Plymouth, Rochester, and Abington; and The Medley comments that “the greatest order and regularity were observed by the very numerous auditory which attended on the occasion.” While a candidate for the place the young man had had the good judgment to marry, in Rochester, “the amiable Miss Melatiah Nye of Oakham,” as the marriage notice stated.
In an early issue of 1793 appeared this notice as to street names—that “the editor of The Medley, by desire of a number of gentlemen in this place and for the information of the public, would mention—that the street, beginning at Four corners, and running west, is distinguished and known by the name of Union Street; the street running north, from said Four corners, North Street; the street running east, Prospect Street; and that running south, Water Street.”
The local good roads, or bad roads, question dates back at least to 1793. In what is evidently an editorial review, and under the head “A Hint,” a correspondent is said to suggest “to the Surveyors of roads in the town of New Bedford the necessity of attending to some considerable repairs thereon.—He prefers the candid mode of redressing the grievances, to presenting a complaint to the Grandjuryman: and since it is universally agreed that the roads of New Bedford are inferior in point of goodness to any in New England, he hopes this seasonable word will not pass unnoticed.”
George Claghorn, colonel of the Second Regiment in the Second Brigade of the Fifth Division of the state militia, on May 31st, quoted the law of the commonwealth providing “that every noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Militia shall equip himself, and be constantly provided with a good firearm with a steel or iron ramrod, a spring to retain the same, a worm, priming wire and brush—a bayonet fitted to his firearm, a scabbard and belt for the same—a cartridge box that will hold fifteen cartridges at least—six flints—one pound of powder—forty leaden balls suitable for his firearm, &c.” under penalty of a possible fine of three pounds for failure to comply with the regulation; and the company was called together “for exercise and to examine their equipment”—”and it is the earnest wish of the Colonel and Major to see them appear in the character they sustain, which is Soldiers and Citizens.”
“Stop a Runaway!”
That youth was not always satisfied with the working of the apprentice system and sometimes took it into its own hands to remedy real or fancied wrongs or to secure at least a change, and that those to whom they were bound in service took advantage of the constitutional right to get back, if possible, those whose labor they claimed, is shown in two advertisements calling upon the populace to “Stop a Runaway!”—one from Freetown and the other from Dartmouth. In regard to the latter—”Thomas Akin, a Blacksmith,” announced:
“Ran away from the subscriber, the 27th ult., an indented apprentice boy, by name Hattle Brayley; sixteen years old—about four feet six inches high-light complexion and short hair.—Had on, when he went away, a short green outside coat, fustic-colored broadcloth trousers, patched on the knees with cloth of the same kind and color as his coat,—a good felt hat. Took with him, a good caster hat—a good led colored broadcloth coat—a jacket and breeches—also a seal skin cap.
“Whoever will return said Boy shall receive a handsome reward and all charges. All persons are forbid harboring or trusting him on my account—and Masters of vessels are hereby forewarned against taking him to sea—as they will answer for it at their peril.”
Human Nature Manifested.
“Human nature seems to have been much the same then as now: there was the one who got things under false pretenses, or at least made mistakes: “The Person who claimed Butler’s Hudibras and took it from this office will much oblige the printer by returning the same, or more fully ascertaining his property.” There was the one who lost his Pocketbook “on the road from the paper mills in Milton to the North parish in Bridgewater” in August, and got round to advertising for it in February. There was the man who wanted more money than he had: “Wanted, on loan, for 6 Months or a Year, one hundred Pounds, for which or a part, good security will be given and interest paid as most agreeable to the loaner.” And there was the same notice printed by a deserted husband that has appeared in the newspapers every once in a while up to now, and will while marriage infelicity remains an unhappy fact, of a wife’s having left her husband’s bed and board and of his forbidding persons to trust her on his account, signed by a Dartmouth man, under the exceptionally sensational heading for that day of “Elopement!!” and a crude woodcut picture of a hoop-skirted woman, with a bag hanging from a stick over her shoulder—quite an Amazon in appearance, though the cut is only three-quarters of an inch high!
A Legalized Lottery.
And there were the people who wanted something for nothing and subscribed for the legalized lottery organized to pay for a bridge in Newfield, Connecticut. The lottery had been authorized by the legislature, providing for 13,334 tickets at four dollars each, with 4078 prizes ranging from four thousand dollars down to five dollars, to a total of $53,336, subject to a deduction of 12 1/2 per cent.; and leading 9256 tickets blank. The management flattered themselves these schemes would give “as general satisfaction as is possible for one to be found—so variable is the opinion and calculation of adventures.”
William Ross and Shearman and Procter offered tickets for sale in New Bedford. That it was an entirely reputable scheme is shown in an advertisement changing the date of the drawing, which explained the reason for this as “the adjournment of the County Court to the time first proposed;” the manager who subscribed his name “being clerk of said court, and others of the managers belonging to it.”
A Natural Singularity.
That running to the newspaper with freaks, whether of turnips, flowers, or animals, is no new adventure, either, finds witness in this item under the head of “Natural Singularity!”
“In Tiverton, Rhode Island, is a lamb three months old, which dame Nature has furnished with three mouths. The two extra mouths are on each side of its head; which open and shut, and move regularly with the front mouth.—Each mouth has four handsome teeth—and appear firmly set. It grazes with the flock—and is active and as likely to thrive as any lamb in the flock. In all other parts it is like other sheep.—This singularity may be seen at Mrs. Sarah Almy’s, by anyone who doubts the truth of the above account.”
Small Pox Bill of Mortality.
But, unlike the present day, that there was no clamor to get things into the paper the moment they happened is shown in the item, in the middle of January, giving the names of those persons who had died of the small pox in this town in the four previous months. Under the head of “Small Pox Bill of Mortality” were printed twenty-nine names, including twelve of children; and the lack of system in keeping track of deaths is evidenced in the statement that “any person who can give more particular information, by communicating details not here inserted will much oblige the Editor by handing him an account for publication.”
Fumigating with Gun Powder.
Speaking of the small pox—there was an epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia that year, and, following the lead of New York, Governor Hancock, at the vote of the Massachusetts Senate, issued a proclamation of quarantine against persons and things from Philadelphia, after which Boston issued a set of regulations that provided, among other things, for the holding for thirty days of all vessels from places supposed to be infected, “during which time she shall be duly washed with vinegar and cleansed by the explosion of gunpowder between decks and in the cabin.” Persons arriving overland from places supposed to be infected were to be detained “at places appropriated by the health officers” and “their effects, baggage, and merchandise were there to be opened, washed, and fumigated with vinegar and repeated explosions of gun powder.”
All that The Medley said with reference to any move on the part of this town was that “the selectmen have taken the necessary precautions to prevent the disease from being brought into this place.” Evidently the town was stirred up, however, for The Medley some time after this stated that the selectmen had in their possession a circular issued by the New York quarantine committee saying that the disease was not easily taken “without a predisposition of the body and that the climate was not favorable to the disease in any place but Philadelphia!”—which bears a trace of the rivalry between the two places.
The New York circular sought in specific terms to “preserve that commercial and social intercourse so necessary to the general prosperity and happiness.”
Quaint Marriage Notices.
Mostly the marriage notices were the merest naming of names, usually without name of minister, or date—though occasionally Mr.-So-and-So married the “amiable” or “agreeable” Miss So-and-So; and twice a notice was accompanied by verse. Here, evidently, was an unusually important function:
“In this town, Sunday evening last, by the Rev. Doctor West, Capt. Preserved Fish, to Miss Polly Gerrish, eldest daughter of Mr. John Gerrish, of this place.
“‘Thus pass their life—
A clear united stream, by care unruffled;
While with each other blest, creative love
Still bids eternal Eden smile around.'”
Again, marriage moved to playful, flattering rhyme:
“In this town, Mr. William Delano to Miss Hannah Tallman:
“When Beauty pleads with artful smiles.
She oft the stoutest heart beguiles;
But join’d with H’s wit and sense.
Who could resist such eloquence?”
Obituary notices were rare. When Governor Hancock died, a tribute to him appeared in a separate item, under a head-line “Hancock!” flanked on either side with skull and crossbones, in which The Medley said:
“Monday last the corpse of our late worthy Governor was entomb’d with civic and military honors. While the heart of sensibility laments the loss of so useful a character, the honor and respect manifested in his interment, by the parade of a numerous military band and thousands of his fellow citizens, will afford a satisfaction to the bereaved mind, which only is experienced when others sympathize with us in woe; for as he lived respected, so he died honored and lamented—What more can be said but that the noblest tribute was paid to his memory which worth and virtue merit or mortals can bestow.”
Again, skull and crossbones helped to announce the sorrow in the community over the drowning in the river of a respected citizen:
Overset by a Whirlwind.
“Monday last, Mr. Charles Church Senior, of this town, attempting to cross the harbor to Fairhaven, in an open boat, was overset by a whirlwind, and drowned.—Immediate trial was made to recover the body: which after two hours’ search was found.—Every exertion which a humane public could invent was used to reanimate him, but in vain. Thus died ‘an honest man’ respected by all who knew him—beloved by all who revere true virtue—and much lamented by a worthy partner, and a large family of respectable children, who bid fair to practice the virtues instilled in their tender minds by him who loved them.—His remains were on Wednesday decently interred, in the burying ground of the first Congregational society in this town, attended by a numerous concourse of friends and relatives.” And then there followed an elegy written on the evening of the drowning by Philander—a very soulful effusion.
Here is another of the rare obituaries of the year:
A Man of Solid Deportment.
“Died—In this town Mr. Ebenezer Allen Jr., Cabinet Maker, in the 37th year of his life.—On the morning of the 27th (of January) he was seized with a pain in his head, which increased till about 1 o’clock; when, falling asleep, a stupor succeeded, from which he was incapable of being aroused: every stimulating effort which those of the faculty who were called in could advise, was made use of. Thus continuing till about two o’clock on the morning of the 28th, he expired. He has left behind a disconsolate widow, and four children, to lament his loss.—He was a kind and affectionate husband, tender father, sincere friend, and obliging neighbor, and an honest man: these virtues were much increased by his Christian conduct; which was abundantly conspicuous, in the solid deportment which accompanied the transactions of his life. In him the community has lost one of its most industrious citizens. May the kind hand of friendship pour in the oil of comfort, to soften the sorrows of his afflicted family.”
Probate court was announced to be held here “in May and October, the first Tuesday, at Major Ebenezer Willis’s”—known to a later day as the John Avery Parker house, on Willis Street, between County and State: a small section of which is still standing, in a remodeled dwelling.
In the citations in connection with the settling of estates, the occupation of deceased was frequently stated, as husbandman, yeoman, merchant, and the like.
Other Death Notices.
Among other death notices were:
“In Dartmouth, Mr. Joseph Ricketson, [Age] 47.—Climbing a tree after grapes a limb broke—he fell—his head striking a stub put an immediate end to his existence.”
“At Dartmouth, Miss Betsey Wilber, daughter of Mr. Jonathan Wilber, of that town, [Age] 16.
“‘Death’s shafts fly thick’—
The cup goes round—
And who so artful as to put it by!'”
“Died—At New Orleans, Mr. Jonathan Ricketson, [Age] 20.—Son of Capt. Daniel Ricketson of this town. He sailed mate of a brig from Philadelphia, to the above place, where he, with the whole crew, were taken sick with the [dysentery]—and all except the captain died.”
“Died—At Boston, suddenly, Sunday morning last (Feb. 24). Captain William Claghorn, of this town, aged 59. He lived beloved and his loss is lamented by all his acquaintances.” This was followed by a sympathetic verse, spoke by Religion for consolation, of the wonders of redeeming love. An elegy appeared in a later issue, signed Philander, where the statement was also made that Captain Claghorn died on a visit to Boston and died of apoplexy.
When Mr. Oliver Spencer, merchant, died at Nantucket, he was “decently [laid] in the Friends burying ground: to which place he was followed by more than three hundred of his friends and neighbors.”
A Tragic Death.
New Bedford furnished nothing so thrilling in the dying line nor cause for so really distinctive an obituary as appeared under the head: “Married—At Nantucket,” with the tragic tale told thus breathlessly:
“Mr. John Fairweather to Miss Heppy Swain. Mr. Fairweather was single and an apprentice—free—married and bedded—broke out with the smallpox the natural way—of necessity separated from his wife, and lodged in the smallpox hospital: all this in the short space of less than 48 hours.”
And, under the head of “Died,” below:
“Mr. John Fairweather, of the small pox the natural way.”