OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the Reports of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society Annual Meeting, March 22, 1915, and the Quarterly Meeting at Buzzards Bay Canal, July 15, 1915.
OXFORD VILLAGE, FAIRHAVEN
by Henry B. Worth
CAPTAIN THOMAS TABER
by Henry B. Worth
New Bedford, Massachusetts
June 22, 1915
The Old Dartmouth Historical Society held its annual meeting in the Free Public Library building March 22, 1915. The attendance was large, the officers’ reports enthusiastic; and there was every indication that the hope of Frank Wood, the curator, that “We are not going to settle down into a dull and musty old antiquarian society, we are going to be a live issue in the history of New Bedford” is already being fulfilled.
A net gain in the membership of 182, making the total number of members 840, was the encouraging report of Henry B. Worth, the secretary. Miss Emily H. Bourne’s gift of a whaling museum was referred to at some length by Mr. Wood, with the hope that on the roof of the new building there might be a “whale walk, where we can go and look for the whalers that may never come.” With Miss Bourne’s gift completed, the Whaling Museum will become a unique institution, and one of the most interesting museums in the country. The officers were elected after the reports were heard.
The report of the secretary, Henry B. Worth, was as follows:
“The present board of officers began their duties January 1st, 1914, after a deferred annual meeting. As the next annual meeting was in order within three months, their chief duty was to become familiar with the needs and condition of the society and attempt to start in operation its various activities. They adopted the plan of holding meetings on the second Monday of the same months appointed for the quarterly meetings.
“Some important changes in the management of finances were adopted, which have proved successful. The restoration of the date when annual dues were payable from July to April caused a few inquiries, and the explanation proved satisfactory.
“The most useful change was the appointment of a finance committee, comprising the president, treasurer and two members. The treasurer was entrusted with the duty of collecting all moneys, dues, income and principal belonging to the society and to pay all bills, and no expenditures were to be authorized except by the committee. Consequently, there should be no unexpected bills and no surprises as to resources, and the condition of money matters has, at all times, been under intelligent control.
“During the past year the society has held all its regular meetings, which have been well attended.
“The spring reception held Saturday afternoon, April 18th, was an attractive innovation and ninety members were present.
“The June quarterly meeting was held at Padanaram, June 17th, and, after a clambake a large concourse of visitors and members convened at the Yacht club house to listen to Walter H. B. Remington, city clerk of New Bedford, and previously a reporter on the New Bedford Standard. The city was in the midst of an enthusiastic preparation for celebrating the Fourth of July and arrangements were in charge of a committee of which Mr. Remington was chairman. It was highly opportune that he should be asked to deliver a paper on ‘Notable Fourth of Julys in New Bedford.’
“The quarterly meeting held Wednesday afternoon, October 14th, could only be appreciated by those who were present. The speakers were Hon. William W. Crapo and Job C. Tripp. These venerable gentlemen had passed several milestones beyond their eightieth year, and without notes or paper entertained their auditors in a most attractive manner, describing events that occurred seventy years before, and of which they were eyewitnesses.
“The December quarterly meeting was held in the rooms on Water Street on Saturday afternoon, January 2nd, 1915, when the secretary delivered a portion of the paper on the ‘Mills of New Bedford and Vicinity Before the Introduction of Steam,’ the whole of which is now being prepared for publication.
“Nineteen members have died during the past year: Mary A. Allen, Mary H. Akin, John E. Coggeshall, William H. Hand, Jennie C. Nye, Francis Rodman, Sarah C. Sayer, Albert C. Sherman, Caroline O. Seabury, Mary E. Austin, Andrew M. Bush, Williston H. Collins, Matthew C. Julien, Clara A. Read, William L. Sayer, Caroline W. Hathaway, Humphrey H. Swift Jr., Sarah H. Taber and Mary B. Grinnell.
“Twenty members have withdrawn, making the loss by death and resignation thirty-eight. Yet the activity of the membership committee has yielded a large increase. Five life members have been secured and 215 annual members have been placed upon our list, and the record shows the number of members a year ago 658, and at the present time 840, a net gain of 182.
“The publications of the society have been regularly increased.
“No. 39 contains the proceedings of the two last annual meetings and a paper on the First Settlers of Dartmouth and Where They Located.
“No. 40 contains the three addresses of Messrs. Remington, Crapo and Tripp.
“No. 41, now in the hands of the printer, contains the proceedings of the January meeting.
“These pamphlets will add fifty pages of historical matter to the large amount already printed.
“The publications are appreciated by investigators everywhere and are in the libraries that deal with Dartmouth history.
“This society has a splendidly equipped building on the site of the old Bedford Bank, from the west windows of which one may behold the Mariners’ Home bearing the date 1795; from the east windows can be seen the wharves and the location where, when the river front was a long and lonely stretch of shore, the try-pots of the founders of the whaling industry stood upon the bank.
“The people of Acushnet, Fairhaven, Westport, New Bedford and Dartmouth should consider it a privilege and pleasure to give to the society generous, loyal and substantial support.
“Nor is the present achievement the final stage. The society’s property includes a lot fronting on Bethel Street. Next south is a lot which was purchased in 1795 by William Rotch Jr., on which he built the ‘Friends school house, near the Four Corners.’ This institution continued until Mr. Rotch in 1821 conveyed the lot and building to Hervey Sullings. If available information leads to the correct conclusion, the schoolhouse was turned round, moved to the south side of the lot and altered into a dwelling house, and on the north edge another house was erected. The Old Dartmouth has acquired the land and both houses and they have been demolished during the past week.
“If expectations are realized, an addition to the society’s building may be erected on the Bethel Street front, when, in ample proportions, will be installed a whaleship completely furnished and equipped and where may be observed the features of the industry that was once centered in this city and which has now largely disappeared.”
Henry B. Worth,
Treasurer Frederic H. Taber made his report. The assets and liabilities are:
Invested funds $7507.45
Real estate 9537.04
Notes payable $1450.00
Excess of assets 15,659.44
President Cushman in introducing the curator, said that some $400 had been expended in putting the society’s building in good repair, and that a man had been secured to take care of the building. He was sure that while in office the curator had done excellent work, and had shown many visitors about the building. He introduced Frank Wood, the curator, whose report was as follows:
“The past year has been one, not only of activity in the work of our society, but one of accomplishments and results. A year ago I prophesied with the awakened interest that had entered into our life a future of permanency and success. From the reports that we have listened to this evening I am sure you will agree with me that that prophecy has come true and that the dreams of the past are to be more real than we had ever dared hope. The attendance at our rooms during the past year has been the largest in our existence and all who have come have expressed themselves as amply repaid for their visit.
“On two evenings our rooms were opened, once to the Boy and Girl Scouts of this city, about 150, and once for the Boy Scouts of Fairhaven numbering 54, all of whom showed the deepest interest and enthusiasm. Our museum is unique in the fact that with but few exceptions our collections are associated with the history of this city and of Old Dartmouth. It is on these lines that we propose to continue it. During the past year we have received as gilts many interesting accessions to our collections. A list of these will appear in the published report of this meeting. No report of this nature would he quite complete without an appeal to your generosity for more and with the building of the new Whaling Museum this seems a most fitting time for that appeal.
“A few years ago I had occasion to write to a firm connected with the whaling business in Dundee, Scotland. I was delighted on the receipt of their letter, to find that their office was located on East Whale Lane. I have often wished that we had a Whale Lane, but now we are going to have, instead, a real Whaling Museum on Johnny Cake Hill. What could be more delightful? and we are not going to settle down into a dull and musty old antiquarian society, we are going to be a live issue in the history of New Bedford. Most of us can remember our city of the past, with its pleasant shaded streets, its quiet prosperous homes, its old time population of sturdy men and women, its busy wharves and snips, its sail lofts, its spar yards and its coopers, block makers, and iron workers, and its old counting rooms. All of these have gone to make way for new industries and a much larger city. No doubt but not a few of us regret this passing of the old, a passing that has brought new conditions into our life, forming as it were between the old and the new a chasm which must be bridged. The Old Dartmouth Historical Society must be one of the buttresses on which this bridge will rest.
“The more I have visited other museums the more I am convinced of two things which we are especially to strive for. One to collect everything that smacks of the sea, figure heads, models of ships, log books, pictures and prints of ships, and of whaling portraits of old time merchants and of those who followed the sea, a classified collection of shells, curios of all kinds brought home on our ships, and in fact everything pertaining to whaling and its industries, so that we may have the most complete whaling museum possible. The other is to collect, arrange and care for all that had to do with the home life of Old Dartmouth. Miss Bourne is giving us a wonderful opportunity to do the first and for the present the Rogers’ building will take care of the other.
“In this connection let me say that we would like examples of the work of all of our local artists. We have paintings by Bradford, Bierstadt, Hathaway, Russell McKnight and Wall. We want something by R. Swain Gifford, Charles Gifford, Arthur Cumming, Leander Plummer, Walton Ricketson, Lemuel D. Eldred, Clement N. Swift and all of our artists of the present day. We live in the hopes that the time will come when we shall have a Colonial house complete with all of its furnishings, and at the top a whale walk where we can go and look for the whalers that may never come.
“We dream too of a garden with old fashioned flowers growing and blooming in it, lilacs, hollyhocks, sun flowers and all the rest, not forgetting its borders of box. These are some of our wants and it is the duty and the privilege of the members of this society to help conserve for all times the relics of the past. Knowing your deep interest we feel sure that you will do your part.
“Do you quite realize all that Miss Bourne’s gift to the society will mean? It is more than local. It will be a memorial to strong men who built up a great industry, to brave men and vessels who carried our flag not only into the known but the unknown and uncharted seas of the world. They were the first to anchor off the shores of lands which today are the most valued colonial assets of the older nations. For this and for their part in making the maritime history of our country we make our appeal.”
Additions to the Museum from the following named persons: Myles Standish, Frank E. Brown, Frank C. Barrows, Edgar R. Lewis, George R. Phillips, Miss Clara Bennett, Mrs. Susan A. Garrett, Louis S. Richardson, Rev. Edward Williams, Mrs. John Russell, Miss Gertrude Baxter, Miss Caroline Sayer, H. H. Rogers, Andrew E. Hathaway, Miss Harriet W. Thomas, Mrs. Thomas W. Nye, Herbert P. Bryant, J. & W. R. Wing, Miss Annie Anthony, Charles S. Kelley, Edmund Grinnell, Edward P. Haskell, William Rodman Dennis, Susan Maria Briggs, W. W. Crapo, Walton & Anna Ricketson, Sally and Elinor Cushman, Mrs. Albert C. Sherman, Talbot & Co., Curtis M. Pierce, W. H. B. Remington, Willie Hazel, Captain Jesse Sherman, Miss Emma Hall, Alan Forbes, Lafayette L. Gifford, Miss Sara B. Worth, Dr. Milton H. Leonard, Mrs. Arthur R. Brown, Mrs. George Hussey, Frank H. Gifford, Mrs. William N. Church, Morse Twist Drill Corp., Mrs. Gideon Allen Jr., James E. Moore, William A. Robinson & Co., John T. Besse, Herbert E. Cushman.
Frank Wood, Curator.
President Cushman reviewed the work of the year in an intelligent and entertaining manner, and spoke of the gift which Miss Emily H. Bourne is to give the society. His address was as follows:
“For the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, the year just past has been filled with interesting experiences. When a year ago your officers were called upon to accept the positions as executives of the society, it was gratifying to find a most earnest desire on the part of the members to co-operate with them and to advance its interests. Any call made upon any member has always been responded to promptly and earnestly.
“Anyone having to do with the work “of directing any institution—whether a business or an organization, charitable or otherwise—must have from its members cordial support; and most assuredly can your officers say today that during the last year they have received from you not only the interest financially, but personally.
“We find that during the year we have added about two hundred members, increasing the membership from about 650, March 1st, 1914, to 833, March 1st, 1915. This is a goodly number—about 26 per cent, but we must have one thousand members. We cannot possibly let it be said that a society of our kind has less than that, in a city of 115,000 people.
“Occasionally we hear of the unfortunate conditions of New Bedford as a city. We are optimistic. We believe that New Bedford has always stood for the best, and that it always will. There will always be, as the city grows, conditions which are to be regretted; but with all that, there is always an underlying element and a strong backing of the most conscientious and interested citizens, who are looking for the betterment of this city and its advancement.
“Our society stands in rather an interesting position in this particular. We ask for the support and interest of those people, without regard to social circle and without regard to other affiliations, who have the best interest of our city at heart. We want this society to be the rallying ground about which will center those who are proud of its past, willing to help the present to be of a high order, and looking forward to the future, to carry on the good reputation of the years that were and are.
“In looking at our membership, do you wonder that your officers feel proud to know that that number includes just such people, and is it not therefore an opportune time for us to ask you to look about—for you all have many friends who have the same ideas and the same thoughts—and ask them to join our society, whose aim and purpose is to preserve the old, stand for the best of the present, and leave for the future a record, seen and unseen, of the best of those days.
“Anyone is eligible for membership who has the interests of our society at heart, along the line of our by-laws, article II, which specifies:
“‘The object of this society shall be to create and foster an interest in the history of the territory included in Old Dartmouth, namely, the city of New Bedford, and the towns of Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth and Westport; to promote historical researches; to collect documents and relics, and to provide for their proper custody, and to take and hold historic sites and provide proper care for them.’
“Can you not think of someone, who isn’t a member, who would like to be?
“Your secretary has given to you a very excellent report of the work done by your society.
“Your curator has welcomed, during the last year, many people to our rooms; and the very fact of our having so many visitors there, shows the wisdom of having the rooms always opened, with welcoming hands, to greet not only our own citizens, but the stranger who comes within our gates. Nearly everyone who has been there the last year has expressed surprise that we have gathered together during the last 15 years such a goodly collection. Recently a visitor from one of the largest museums in the country, stated that he felt the Old Dartmouth Historical Society should be proud of what it has done, and believed that in the future it would stand among the old historical societies of the country, in one of the most prominent positions. It is your duty and mine to make it so.
“Your treasurer has shown to you that after taking care of our accounts which came over to us from other years, after caring for all expenses, repairs, etc., during the year, we have paid our bills, and we have something left. We have not had to ask anyone this year to help make up any deficit, and we do not propose to do so in the future. That is also your duty and mine.
“We have to thank most graciously our entertainment committee for the good work they have done. When you note by the report of the treasurer the goodly amount received from entertainments held during the last year, you can but realize that it has not been a small undertaking—that it has meant hard work and earnest work; and it is becoming that we should all express strongly our appreciation of their efforts. I am sure you will join me most heartily in doing so.
“We understand that it is the purpose of the entertainment committee to have two entertainments as an established fact for our society each year—one during the summer, of some special interesting nature, and a Mardi Gras at the end of the season each year, as we did this season. I hope that both of these affairs—as they may be called—will receive your hearty support and enthusiastic interest.
“Your house committee and your educational committee have also carried on a certain line of work, as told by their reports; but there is one committee which has not been mentioned, and that is known as the pantry committee. Now any of you who have visited the rooms at the different receptions and entertainments, know how well they have carried on their work, and I am sure you have enjoyed what they have had to offer you, and that you appreciate it. Let their good work go on.
“This seems to be a fitting opportunity to express our thanks to all of the people who have been so gracious to us during the last year—those who have helped in the way of talks and lectures, and those who have helped in the way of entertaining. It is a splendid thing to be able to call upon people to do this sort of work and to have them respond gladly.
“There has come into our work this year an experience that has been most interesting and most beneficial to our organization. I speak especially of the gift that we are to receive, but I wish to speak a little of the personal side.
“When one gives of what he has, by simply giving what is necessary, that in itself has a virtue; but when one gives because of a vital interest and intense interest in the work which is to be accomplished through the gift, then it becomes more than a simple gift. It inspires—or should inspire—on the part of those who are to receive it, the same sort of spirit.
It should make them intensely interested for the advancement of their society.
“While we cannot all give in the way our good friend has suggested she wishes to do for us this year, yet we can give of our thought and of our best to the work which the society has to do.
“The thoughtfulness and the purpose which has been back of the gift which Miss Emily H. Bourne is to give to us, must be an inspiration to all of us to do our part to carry on the good work. It certainly has inspired me, and I am sure it will you, as from time to time the details of her thought are shown to you, and developed in the substantial way which is her purpose.
“In speaking of the gift, it is her thought to express it as a memorial to her father, but also in commemoration of the whaling industry, and the men who stood for it—not only in their offices, directing and guiding it, but those who went out on the sea amidst the hardships surrounding it. It stands for the strong, sturdy, substantial interests of the olden day, upon which the New Bedford of today was founded; and it will ever stand to represent to the future generation, as well as to the present, that the sturdiness of those days must not be forgotten, but must be developed and continued.
“Miss Bourne’s gift places our society as one of the assured New Bedford institutions of the future.
“In Salem not long since, it was my pleasure to visit the Historical society buildings of that city. We were told that they had been in existence over a hundred years, and had been remembered with kindly bequests from time to time from those interested in its advancement and self-support.
“Our society has grown in fifteen years beyond our fondest hopes. It is the usual custom to consider twenty-one years as the time when one becomes of age. Would it not be a valuable asset to have, before that time, a substantial endowment to care for our future? During the year, there has come to us, through the thoughtfulness of Miss Caroline O. Seabury, one of our first bequests. Let it be well on your mind that you wish your part in the development and care of our society and its interests, not only in the work of today which you can do, but let your influence and thought help to carry on the work in the future, if it is within your means to do so.
“In closing, I can but express to the members of the society my appreciation of their interest and help. When I first accepted the office of president of your society, I felt I was willing to do some amount of work, and give it some thought. You notice I say ‘some.’ The enthusiasm and interest which has been shown by the members has inspired not only your president, but all of your officers, to make extra efforts to see that the interest was not only kept up, as the expression goes, but increased. Your help can but make your society progressive, and show an advancement in the future.
H. E. Cushman.
Miss Carolyn Jones gave the report of the educational committee, stating that several classes from the schools had visited the building during the year. She read a composition on the visit of one of the classes by a little French girl, which was decidedly interesting and entertaining to the members.
The following officers were elected for 1915-16:
President-Herbert E. Cushman.
Vice Presidents-George H. Tripp, Oliver Prescott Jr.
Secretary-Henry B. Worth.
Treasurer-Frederic H. Taber.
Three Directors (for 3 years)-Mrs. Annie A. Swift, Mrs. Clara J. Broughton, Abbott P. Smith.
by Henry B. Worth
“Oxford Village” was the subject of a paper read by Henry B. Worth before the members of the Colonial Club, Fairhaven, May 25, 1915. Mr. Worth’s paper in full is as follows:
For half a century following the King Philip War, Captain Thomas Taber was one of the important men in ancient Dartmouth. He married the daughter of John Cook and this gave him prominence in all directions. His title was gained by a military appointment in 1689 and was always used in distinguishing him from others by the same name. His farm extended from the Acushnet River east to the Sconticut Neck Road, and lay equally north and south of North Street, the south line being approximately half way between North and Bridge Streets.
At his death in 1731, Captain Taber gave the north half of his homestead to his son Jacob and the south to son Philip. The road now called North Street separated these sections. This way has also been known as Farm Lane and Town Lane.
In 1742, Philip Taber sold his farm to William Wood, known as the Glazier, who was a thrifty Quaker of successful business capacity. A few years later he purchased the tract south of his farm and this extended his ownership south nearly to Bridge Street.
Such information as can be obtained indicates that the whaling industry in ancient Dartmouth began at the Head of Apponagansett before 1751, when John Wady and Daniel Wood were owners of two or three vessels. How much earlier it started cannot he fixed definitely, but in 1725 Philip Sherman had a ship building yard where the Methodist church stands, which he sold to Daniel Wood.
This Daniel Wood was one of the wealthy men of his day and related by marriage to John Wady who later was also a rich man. William Wood, Glazier, was a cousin of Daniel.
About 1760 the center of whaling in Dartmouth was established on the Acushnet River. On the west side the Russells took the lead and were closely followed by the men who settled Fairhaven village. At that date no bridge spanned the Acushnet and the best channel was east of the island called “Ram,” Taber’s, Wood’s and Popes island. When the twenty acre purchase was made for Fairhaven no mention was made of any wharf or other accessory to whaling or commercial activity, except that a vessel was being built by Elnathan Pope on Crow Island. Whatever Pope may have had in contemplation, he had not at that date established any whaling or maritime business.
Elnathan Eldredge was one of the Fairhaven syndicate. Two weeks before these speculators purchased Fairhaven, Eldredge alone purchased a neck of land at the northwest corner of William Wood’s farm on the river, comprising six acres, and the object was “for house lots.” This was the Oxford purchase. The deed contains some interesting information. The east bound was an inlet called a salt pond that was just west of the burial place. Hence the pond was at the south end of Cherry Street. The conveyance did not include the place “where the try house and oil sheds stand.” This tract was next west of the pond and was where the Coggeshall and Bartlett Allen houses are located. So, in December, 1760, William Wood had established a landing place, try works for trying out blubber and sheds for storing oil. He retained this property until 1768 when he sold the whole to Eldredge.
The original purchase was the section west of Cherry Street. At this date there was no Main Street north of Fairhaven and the only way for the lot owners to reach a highway was along the Farm Lane or North Street to Adams Street.
First Called Oxford.
For several years after the purchase, Eldredge did not adopt a name for the village. At first it was “Ye Little Town at Ye Foot of William Wood’s Homestead”, then it was “Uppertown.” In a deed in March, 1773, the name Oxford was used for the first time. The name “Poverty Point,” requires examination. It appears in deeds to and from Joshua Howland in 1810 relating to land of Robert Bennett, and had not been used before. About this date two events took place which may have led to the designation. Robert Bennett, the leading man of the village, was overtaken by financial disaster during those depressing years that preceded the war of 1812. It was some of his land that was attached by Joshua Howland. Then the sloop Thetis sailed the year before for Savannah with 34 men on board and was wrecked off Cape Hatteras, and all but five were lost. Nineteen lived in and near New Bedford, but of those that were lost only three lived at Oxford. But the tradition is that there were left in Oxford many widows with children and so the place was called “Poverty Point.” An examination of the vessel’s list does not confirm this theory. Only five lived at Oxford and two of these were saved. The loss of three men at sea would not render the whole village so destitute as to be called “Poverty Point.” The probability is that the name described the people more or less aptly and it clung to the community and was in common use until recent years. This condition was due more likely to unfavorable local conditions than to the shipwreck.
As a speculation, Oxford was a failure. The portion of the tract west of West Street was devoted to a wharf and two or three stores. The section between West and Cherry Streets was intersected by two streets and into twenty house lots. A public pump was built at the crossing of West and Oxford Streets. Storehouses at the wharf were built by Jethro Hathaway, Bartholomew Taber and John McPherson, and Hathaway owned three lots, but none of these men lived there. It was over thirty years before all the lots were disposed of and less than a dozen houses were built. In those years Oxford was not an attraction. But not long before 1800 a development took place that gave promise of better destiny. Main Street was extended north from Fairhaven and the bridge was built across the river. Oxford was connected with two larger communities and it was expected that this would be an advantage.
Robert Bennett of Long Plain became an enthusiastic speculator. He purchased the land between Main and Cherry Streets and along both sides of Main to a considerable extent south. He sold the land in house lots and built and sold houses. It is a well founded tradition that he operated the shipyard west of Cherry Street where the William Wood “try houses” had been. The records show that he became associated with a man named Fearing and started a store at the southwest corner of Oxford Street and Main. He must have attained some success because he built for himself on the east side of Main Street the three-story mansion which is the most pretentious dwelling in the village. But the public improvements that were expected to bring prosperity failed in that result. The bridge ruined the channel on the east side of the river and the business at the wharf at the foot of Oxford Street ceased. The stores were abandoned and the land at the end of the point was devoted to houses. The pump was discontinued beyond the recollection of the oldest inhabitant.
Then came those turbulent years after 1800 when England and Napoleon were at war and each was declaring blockades and embargoes which paralyzed all American business. The New Bedford vessels could bring in oil but had no market in which to sell it. On the west side of the Acushnet River the Russells became involved. It was this depression that caused the downfall of Robert Bennett and swept away his property. It was inevitable that the little village should be heavily burdened. These causes rather than the wreck of the sloop brought the people into such a condition that the place was called “Poverty Point.” It is of some significance that the deeds in which this name first occurs related to land of Robert Bennett. The very successful career of Captain Thomas Bennett, son of Robert, enabled him to redeem the homestead property, and It is still owned in the family.
Mercantile Career Ends.
The construction of the bridge closed the mercantile career of Oxford village. Soon after the War of 1812 the wharf was abandoned and the storehouses were sold. The town pump disappeared and the shipyard west of Cherry Street was only an historical recollection. A few men have engaged in building whale boats, but outside of this industry, Old Oxford has become a residential section. In the disaster of 1810 one lot of land of Robert Bennett is described as having thereon a “nail machine.” This is mentioned in two conveyances of that date and there the subject ends. It is a suggestive item. Probably in his zeal to engage in many enterprises, hoping that success would offset failure, Bennett encouraged some inventor who claimed to make nails by machinery. Fifty years later other capitalists had better success with the factory near Fort Phoenix.
The village store that was at first at the wharf, before 1800, was established at the southwest corner of Main and Oxford Streets. It was conducted by Bennett and William Fearing, but in 1806 the lot was sold to Nicholas Taber and the present house built and occupied by him as the “Rising Sun Inn.” Thoddeus Pickens, a son-in-law of Bennett, then had a store on the lot next west.
Any investigation of the early history of Oxford is hindered by the number of deeds that were never placed on record. Whether this was due to poverty or carelessness cannot be settled, but, it is an exasperating circumstance anywhere and is to be observed to a greater degree in this village than elsewhere. In attempting to trace back the history of the store on the northwest corner of Oxford and Main Streets this defect becomes an obstacle. Probably as soon as the store was discontinued on the corner that Taber purchased, another was started across the street where it has been ever since. But it cannot be known who was the storekeeper until 1828 when it was conducted by John Howland & Co., and later by Joseph Taber.
Previous to Howland there are indications that Noah Spooner and Daniel Clark owned a store on this corner. It seems reasonably certain that for over a century the village store that has supplied this hamlet has been conducted continuously on the northwest corner. When owned by John Howland, good liquor was sold, as was customary in all stores of that period.
Tavern a Social Center.
The tavern, or public house, was the social center of early New England communities, but this struggling village seems to have had only one. Nicholas Taber had a license in 1802 which was before he located on the corner of Main and Oxford Streets, and while he did not own the house on the northeast corner of Oxford and Cherry Streets, there are indications that he had a public house or store at this place.
“The Rising Sun Tavern” had a typical sign that swung at the corner of the streets, which fortunately has been preserved and is now in the custody of the Colonial Club. The house is an excellent specimen of double, two story and two chimney variety of that date, and for over a century was in the Nicholas Taber family.
Oxford was a village without a meeting house until 1850. Before 1800 its inhabitants were too few in number to maintain a church, and, even if they had undertaken the object they were too diverse in beliefs to agree on any single creed. After Main Street was extended from Fairhaven, the Parish Meeting house in the center of Fairhaven accommodated all who were not Quakers and those could attend at Acushnet. In 1850 the village people seem to have felt the need of a general assembly hall for religious purposes and 13 men purchased from John Bunker a lot on the south side of North Street and built a meeting house. The deed provided in very plain terms that “it was to be a free meeting house and not for any particular sect or denomination, and if it ceased to be used for a meeting house the property should revert to the thirteen owners.”
In 1834 Joseph Millett conveyed to the trustees of the M. E. church, a lot on the northwest corner of Main Street and the new bridge, and here was built the church which the Methodists owned and occupied until 1849 when they moved to the center of Fairhaven. In 1851 the Main Street church was sold to the town and for the next half century was used as the town High school.
Oxford had a school before 1800, but it is a very obscure affair. The layout of Main Street in 1795 was extended as far north as North Street and it terminated at a “schoolhouse on land of Bartholomew Taber,” and the building must have stood at the head of North Street on the west side of Main. These early schools were village and not town institutions and so there is no record concerning their career, by whom or when they were started, how they were supported or what teachers were employed. In 1828 John Bunker sold a lot to district No. 11 and there must have been erected some kind of a building. In 1846 it was the stone structure now on the same lot which may have been built earlier.
The New Bedford Academy stood at the southwest corner of Main Street and the new bridge and is the building where this meeting is convened. The lot was purchased in 1798 by Joseph Bates and Isaac Sherman and others of Fairhaven and Oxford erected the building. In 1841 Samuel Borden had purchased all the interests and the lot and building were later owned by Captain John A. Hawes.
A unique feature of Oxford is the burial place, near the foot of Cherry Street. It is mentioned as a land mark in the deed from William Wood in 1760 and later in his will this place was given in the care of his sons to be used for that purpose forever. He describes the spot as being “a little hummock or island on the meadow at the foot of my homestead where were buried persons who were of good account in their day.” Instead of fulfilling the wish of their ancestors, the Wood descendants sold this place with other adjoining land and allowed the spot to be neglected until the Improvement Association rescued it from desecration. Owing probably to a provision in John Cook’s will, which has been misunderstood, it has been inferred that he was buried on this “hummock” and the fact is so stated on the boulder that was placed there as a monument. Without explaining the reasons it is enough to say that there is no evidence that Cook was buried here; that the circumstances point to the conclusion that his last resting place was on the neck at Howard’s Brook, a spot for which the provision in his will applied and for which he showed the keenest interest. All that can be known of the occupants of the Oxford cemetery is the eulogy of William Wood, “persons that were of good account in their day.” Being on the farm of Captain Thomas Taber, it is likely that he and the members of his family were among the number.
Among the footprints left by the inhabitants of Oxford are their dwellings which are interesting because they illustrate every period of colonial architecture. The earliest was Captain Thomas Taber’s homestead built in 1680, only the larger part of the stone end being still standing. Some pictures exist of Black Annis, the old Indian woman who last occupied it, with the building in the background. Some pictures exist which show the chimney. The large fireplace is still standing where over two centuries ago the children of Captain Thomas Taber gathered during the snows of winter in the house that had only one apartment to serve as kitchen, dining-room and parlor.
On the northwest corner of Adams Street and North is the massive center chimney house, the homestead of the late Captain George H. Taber. In some respects it resembles the John Alden house at Duxbury. It was probably built by Jacob Taber, the son of Captain Thomas, previous to 1747. This estate was set off to Captain Thomas Taber in 1673 and is still owned by one of his direct descendants.
On the west side of Adams Street south of North is a long curious house that seems from its three chimneys like a block of houses. While it has an ancient appearance the family tradition is that the earliest part was built by one of the descendants of William Wood about the time of the Revolution and other additions in length were erected later.
On the north side of Oxford Street, between Cherry and West Streets is the central chimney homestead of the late Eben Akin Jr. While some of the early deeds of this place have not been recorded, enough appears to show that this house was built by James Sellers before 1771 and belongs to the large chimney variety of that style common at that period. It was later purchased by Bartholomew Akin.
The house next west presents the same difficulty due to unrecorded deeds, but it must have been there in 1788, and since 1821 has been owned in one of the branches of the Bartlett Allen family.
The speculative activity of Robert Bennett, during the decade after 1797 resulted in the erection of the different styles of house that were characteristic of that period. In the first place there was a center chimney variety, built somewhat on the lines of the Akin house, yet the chimney was smaller. It was the lingering of an old type in a subsequent period when it had been generally rejected in the populous towns. This tendency to hold to the old styles was common in country villages. The Keen and Hathaway house on the north side of Lafayette Street between Cherry and Main and the Francis house on the east side of Main Street are illustrations of the final development of the central chimney dwelling which is found more at Oxford than elsewhere.
The successful house of that period that may be ranked as by far the most popular was the double two-story design with central hall-way and two chimneys, one on each side of the hall. This was the prevailing style generally in New England and to a marked degree in southern Massachusetts and in New Bedford and vicinity. There were several at Oxford. The John Bunker house on the east side of Main Street across from the store; the Taber tavern on the southwest corner of Main and Oxford, and the Nye house next north of the new High school lot are good examples of the two-chimney style. The Nye house was built in 1799 by Reuben Jenney and afterward owned and occupied by Galen Hix, first principal of the academy.
The Dutch Cap style was adopted to a limited extent during this period, but was usually selected by men of wealth because it was expensive to construct and was a good basis for certain kinds of ornamentation, like parapet rails and verandas. Without some embellishment they were like cubical blocks as may be noticed in the Rodman house in New Bedford, at the corner of Spring and County Streets. A good example of this style where the builder was not restricted by Quaker influence is the Robert Bennett house at Oxford, on the east side of Main Street, near the head of Oxford which exhibits the opportunities for elaborate and ornate treatment.
The people of Oxford in recent years have kept their dwellings in excellent repair and what is much more fortunate, they have, in most cases, left the original house unaltered by any attempt at remodeling. A modern house may be satisfactory, but modern ornamentation of an ancient house is always in danger of incongruous result.
Taber Family Reunion: July 23, 1915
by Henry B. Worth
The verandas of the Padanaram Club, were the gathering place yesterday morning for members of the Taber family, who held their fourth annual reunion.
The following officers were reelected:
President — Frederic Taber, New Bedford.
Vice President—Jesse P. Taber, Worcester.
Secretary—S. S. Taber, New Bedford.
Treasurer (newly elected)—Frederic H. Taber, New Bedford.
George H. Taber of Pittsburgh, Miss Martha Taber of Pawling, N. Y., and George S. Taber of New Bedford were reelected honorary vice presidents, while Franklyn A. Taber of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., Miss Mabel Taber of Binghamton, N. Y., and Joseph Taber of Millbrook, N. Y., were newly chosen honorary vice presidents.
Letters of regret read at the business meeting, were from C. Taber Perkins of Syracuse, N. Y., Charles N. Taber of Reynolds, N. D., A. E. Taber of Battle Creek, Mich., Edward G. Taber of Spokane, Wash., James E. Taber of DeWittville, N. Y., Henry W. Taber of Martville, N. Y., and George T. Hart.
An interesting feature of the reunion was the reading of an address, “Thomas Taber of Dartmouth,” by Henry B. Worth. Dinner was served in the Woodhouse pavilion at 1 o’clock.
Mr. Worth’s address was as follows:
New Bedford, Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth and Westport were comprised within the limits of the ancient town of Dartmouth. The original grantees of this section were residents of Plymouth and Duxbury, but only a few took up their abode on Buzzards Bay. No town in the Old Colony contained such diversity of people. A dozen families from Plymouth settled on the east side of the Acushnet River. In religion and civil government they followed the principles of the Pilgrims. The remaining portion of the town was purchased and occupied by Quakers and a small number of Baptists from Portsmouth. R. I., and from Cape Cod. Here was a prolific source of discord and the opposing parties were trained never to yield until brought into submission by competent authority. Massachusetts was Puritan and Dartmouth was Quaker by a large majority.
The Quakers and Baptists were allies against the province in affairs of church, government and education. The small Puritan element in Dartmouth exercised a feeble control in the town, but they had the support of the united province. This situation inevitably led to bitter controversies. Any reports of unsatisfactory proceedings presented at Boston by the Popes, Spooners or Hathaways were cordially welcomed, and the powerful machinery of the province was quickly set in motion to coerce the Dartmouth town government into subjection. This is not the time to describe this intensely interesting episode. So much has been presented to indicate the influences in affairs of the town of Dartmouth. Stated theologically, the town was over three-quarters Quaker and the rest Presbyterian.
Consequently the Quakers controlled every department and yet could not always elect men of their own sect to office because there was the difficulty of taking the oath of office. While the Baptist element was not numerous, yet, owing to the curious political situation, it was better to elect a Baptist than a Presbyterian and frequently Baptists were chosen. In this way the Quakers made good selections and retained men in office for long terms. This was true of Captain Thomas Taber, son of the first Philip. Born in Yarmouth, the family moved to Edgartown, where they acquired a knowledge of Baptist views under the teachings of Peter Folger and then they removed to New London, Portsmouth and finally settled permanently at Adamsville which previous to 1800 was known as Tabers Mills. Through the influence of the Taber family a Baptist organization was gathered in that vicinity before 1680 and still worships in a stone meeting house north of Adamsville. The first minister was Philip Taber, a brother of Thomas.
John Cook was the leading Pilgrim among the Dartmouth inhabitants during the first 30 years of its history. It is said that he became affected by Baptist views and was not in favor with the church at Plymouth. Possibly this similarity of opinion led to friendly relations between the Cook and Taber families. At the age of twenty-one Thomas Taber married Esther Cook who was eighteen.
John Cook was one of the original grantees of Dartmouth, and a prominent land owner. In 1672 he conveyed to Thomas Taber one third of a share of Dartmouth, and in 1683 still more. Part of this interest was located in a large tract on the east side of the Acushnet River, comprising 300 acres and extending from Riverside Cemetery south nearly to the new bridge and from the river eastward over a mile. The village of Oxford was at the center of the water front. In what part of this great farm he placed his house is not known, but without question it was destroyed four years later during the King Philip War. When the inhabitants returned he built a house in Oxford village east of Main Street, in line of Pilgrim Avenue. In the deed from his wife’s father he is designated as “Maison,” from which circumstance it may be assumed that he built the house himself. It was designed according to the Rhode Island plan of that day, one story with gorrell, on the lower floor one or at most two rooms and the south end of stone, tapering into a chimney. In this habitation were born and brought up six daughters and five sons. Esther Cook was the mother of two and in 1672 Thomas Taber married a second time Mary Thompson of Middleboro, daughter of John, a man of large stature and large property. She was the mother of the other nine children.
The stone end house was occupied by the family of William Wood until the Revolution. Its later occupants were tenants and the last was an old Indian woman who about 1850 was taken to the Fairhaven almshouse. A few years later the house was demolished and the stone end chimney remained standing. About 1859 this was partly reduced by a stroke of lightning, but the largest part is still standing where Thomas Taber built it two hundred and forty years ago.
By appointment of the General Court in 1689 Thomas Taber was chosen captain, a title which was given him usually after that date.
In deeds to and from Captain Thomas Taber he is generally designated as “yeoman”, which meant “landowner”. The designation of “Mason” is not used after his first deed. This may indicate that he was by occupation a “farmer.”
His official career was continuous and well occupied. Once he represented the Town at Plymouth, several times he served as moderator of Town meeting, surveyor of highways, constable, Town clerk and eleven terms as selectman. When the Town in 1686 voted to build its Town house on the Hathaway Road at the head of the Slocum Road the committee to attend to that important duty was Thomas Taber and Seth Pope.
Besides indicating his capacity in management of public business, this varied and continuous service shows that he was approved by the majority of his townsmen at a period when there was turmoil and disturbance between the two contending factions.
In his church affiliations Captain Taber did not manifest any positive activity. The Dartmouth Monthly meeting claims him as a member, and in 1708, when there was a vigorous protest of voters against compelling the town to pay an assessment to maintain a Presbyterian minister and meeting house, amongst the signers was Thomas Taber and his sons Philip, Thomas and Joseph. This may have been when they were still Baptists. An examination of such church records as are preserved prove that the members of this family began to appear in the Dartmouth Friends’ meeting in 1715 and in 1730, and subsequently several of the children were married in that meeting. Probably when the province of Massachusetts attempted to compel the Dartmouth voters to contribute towards the Presbyterian minister and meeting, the Taber family passed into the Society of Friends. It is rather incongruous to find among its members a military captain. But in those days it was not considered an impediment. Another important fact appears from a consideration of the records of the Presbyterian church contained in the manuscript books and cemetery. This society began about 1708. The name of Taber does not appear in its annals until after the Revolution. No birth, death nor marriage is recorded. This shows that the Tabers were not Presbyterian, and indirectly confirms the suggestion that this family began as Baptists, and soon after 1700, when the Baptist meeting house, which had been in Dartmouth near the west boundary, was moved a short distance west into Tiverton, the Tabers became connected with the Society of Friends. The Tabers of Tiverton seem to have continued their connection with the Baptist denomination.
One of the chief objects in the life of a colonial yeoman was to rear a large family, encourage them to embark in early marriages and then leave the sons substantial farms. Thus Captain Seth Pope, the richest man in Dartmouth, owned large farms and other extensive possessions and at his death he devised a valuable farm to each of his four sons.
For that day Thomas Taber was a wealthy man and large landed interests had come into his hands. The mills at the head of the Acushnet River were owned by the principal men of the locality, Captain Pope, the Hathaways and Captain Taber. Besides the farms that he had acquired he owned meadow and wood land in different parts of the town. His will was executed in 1723 but his death occurred nine years later. The document mentions his wife Mary and five sons and six daughters. The latter had married men named Perry, Kenney, Hart, Morton, Blackwell and one had remarried her cousin Ebenezer Taber.
According to the custom of that day, besides a life right to the widow in his house and part of the homestead, all movables were bequeathed to his widow and daughters.
On the road from Fairhaven to Mattapoisett, about a mile east of the town hall, is a well known storehouse built by a merchant named Delano. This farm Thomas Taber devised to his son Thomas.
North of the head of the Acushnet River at the road leading to Whites factory was a large farm which he gave to his sons John and Joseph.
His own homestead he divided, the north half to son Jacob and the south to son Philip. North Street is the division between the two sections. His stone end house was in the south half and this was given during her life to the widow.
There was no house on the north half originally and Jacob Taber was obliged to erect a dwelling on that part. On the northwest corner of North and Adams Street is still standing a large massive house that must have been built before the Revolution. It was the house of the late Captain George H. Taber, and is now owned by his son, both descendants of Jacob Taber. If the exterior can be depended on for decisive information, the house was erected by Jacob Taber about 175 years ago.
The life of Captain Thomas Taber covered four score and six years, and was extremely useful and respectable. He served his generation well and without attempting inopportune reforms and innovations, proceeded along the beaten track.
The south half of his homestead was purchased by William Wood, whose family was prominent among the Society of Friends. Shortly before the Revolution he executed his will and made special arrangement for the preservation of a hillock in the meadow in the northeast corner of his farm where, to use his own language, “were buried persons who were of good account in their day.” A boulder now marks the spot and on the inscription is the doubtful legend that there was the last resting place of John Cook. It was the family burial plot where were laid the persons in the family of Captain Thomas Taber and here they were placed in graves that were never marked.
There were many interesting family history stories told this morning, and one of these was told by Franklyn A. Taber of Poughkeepsie, N. Y. His great-great-grandfather, Thomas Taber, was fourth in line from Philip Taber, the first known settler of that name in this country. Thomas Taber was born June 22. 1732, probably in Dartmouth, and in 1760, in the 33d year of the reign of George II, he and his wife traveled through 200 miles of wilderness and settled at Quaker Hill in Duchess County, New York. The farm has since passed from father to son, and the graves of the original Tabers are in the yard. Mrs. Taber was a well known cheese maker, and at the time of the Revolutionary War she agreed to give a cheese to the first colonial general to enter the vicinity. The records of George Washington show that he secured a cheese for which he paid 16 shillings cash.
Among those who attended the reunion were Joseph J. Taber, Millbrook, N. Y.; Theodore A. Taber, Brockton; George A. Taber, Boston; Mr. and Mrs. John A. Russell, Acushnet; Frank E. Taber, Acushnet; James F. Schlutz, Acushnet; Otis T. Aldrich, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Jesse P. Taber, Worcester; Frederick Taber, New Bedford; Mrs. Sarah E. Schultz, John C. Sherman, Acushnet; Charles O. Taber, Providence; Julia F. Taber, Millbrook, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. Silas S. Taber, New Bedford; Mabel B. Taber, Binghampton; Mrs. E. S. Watson, Brooklyn, N. Y.; Mrs. Phebe P. Welden, Central Village; Eben Jones, Middleboro; Miss Gladys Taber, New Bedford; Mrs. M. Maria Sharp, Newport; Mrs. A. Sarah Watson, Newport; George W. Taber, Fall River; Clinton Taber, New Bedford; Miss Sarah Taber, New Bedford; Mrs. Frank E. Taber, Acushnet; Mrs. Frederick B. Hawes, New Bedford; Mrs. A. A. Dunbar, New Bedford; Franklyn G. Taber, Poughkeepsie, N. Y.; George G. Parker, Acushnet.
Proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
Buzzards Bay Canal
July 15, 1915
“I don’t know where it could have been improved upon,” said Walton Ricketson, one of the charter members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, speaking of their outing on Cape Cod Canal and at the town of Bourne July 15, 1915. That was the sentiment of the sixty participating.
From the time Harry L. Pope, manager of the trolley arrangements, started the members upon their way, the forty who made the trip by trolley, until Mrs. Benjamin Wilcox, Mrs. George A. York, Miss Mary Bradford and Mrs. Frank Wood, the servers of the tea in the town hall of Bourne, arose from the tables, the members seemed to be enjoying themselves to the full and so expressed themselves often.
The trolley and motor ride from here to Onset is a beautiful one, the tour of the canal and cut into Cape Cod Bay is one of the most interesting trips in the state, and the address of Commodore J. W. Miller, vice president of the Cape Cod Canal Company, upon the historical features of the waterway, not to mention two picnic lunches, tea and other refreshments, made sure to the members on the outing a most pleasant experience.
Thirty-six members and guests made the trip through the canal. It was hoped that all could go together on the Ideal, but the large number who decided at the last minute upon the water trip made necessary another powerboat, the Velna, in which 15 congenial friends made merry. The Ideal is a 36-horsepower boat and the Velna is but 8-horsepower. That circumstance made the only unfortunate happening of the day.
The speedy boat made the trip in more than an hour’s less time and the members in the Velna were not able to hear Commodore Miller’s address. The Ideal had engine trouble twice, which enabled the boats to stay together better than would have been possible otherwise. The Velna was a mile or more from the Onset wharf before the Ideal got under way.
The members chose to take it in fun as a handicap race, and there was much laughter as the Ideal passed the slower boat near the south toll station, but when the collector boat stopped the Ideal to get the toll, its engine “went dead” again. So the Velna went ahead again and was a mile into the canal before the Ideal once more began its welcome “put put.”
“Perhaps this will be the tortoise and the hare and we’ll beat you back yet,” shouted one of the passengers on the Velna as another overhauling was made. But they were mistaken as the engine of the Ideal ran steadily until the stop at the Onset wharf on the return.
The pause at the collector’s station took the attention of all from the trip into the boat and while some were watching the captain’s efforts with the carburetor, other eyes fell upon their lunch baskets and soon all were making away with sandwiches, olives, contents of thermos bottles and all the good things which mother or sister or the restaurant waiter had packed into the boxes.
Much interest was displayed in the working of the three draw bridges over the canal. The Velna had a mast which made necessary the lifting of the spans. Just beyond the Bourne highway and street car bridge, the Bourne town hall, in which the speaking was held later, and the library, the gift of Miss Emily H. Bourne, stood upon the left and right banks of the canal.
The captain did but two things: answer questions and run the engine. It is certain that the former duty took the greater part of his time. Ho has made the arbiter of all kinds of disputes. “Does the canal run east and west or north and south?; Is Onset northeast or southeast of New Bedford?; Does the tide run out all one way or from a half way point each direction?; Can a tug turn around in the canal?”; and many similar questions were left to the master of the boat for decision.
The return trip was made in just half the time as the engine was run at full speed. The special street car was awaiting at the wharf and in a short time most of the members were seated in the beautiful town hall of Bourne (Buzzards Bay). Many walked across the bridge to see the library before and after the addresses.
Miss Emily H. Bourne, the donor of the library to her home town, has given the new building to the Dartmouth Society of New Bedford and one of the features of the day was the pilgrimage to Miss Bourne’s home as a sign of the society’s appreciation. After the speaking, tea was served and the members finished emptying their baskets.
The party broke up at 6:30 with many votes of thanks to Commodore Miller for his address, to President H. E. Cushman for the admirable arrangements, and to Harry L. Pope for his work as manager of the financial and transportation facilities of the trip. New Bedford was reached at 8:30 by those in the special street car, after a delightful trip through the Cape country at sunset.
The list of people who took part in the outing is as follows:
Miss Sally Taber, C. W. Holcomb, Nathaniel B. Russell, Edward Denham, Catherine W. Chandlor, Mr. and Mrs. O. N. Pierce, B. P. Allen, Mrs. Clara Kingman, Miss Emma C. Watkins, Mr. and Mrs. P. G. White, Miss Goldthwaite, Mrs. Worth G. Ross, Allen F. Wood, Mrs. Horace Nye, George N. Alden, Miss Myra Gifford, Mrs. C. N. Swift, Mrs. James L. Hammond, Miss C. M. Hopkins, Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Tripp, Miss Katherine Hough, William A. Robinson, Miss Julia Delano, Miss Lily Swift, Miss Gertrude Baxter, Miss Clara Pierce, Mrs. William B. Jenney, Walton Ricketson, Frank Wood, Edward D. Brown, Miss Anna G. Brawley, Miss Susan F. Haskins, Harry Pope, Miss Mary Taber, Mrs. Cornelia Winslow, Mr. Hersom, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Robbins, Abbott P. Smith, Herbert E. Cushman, Mrs. Cushman, Miss Kidder, George Hale Reed, Job C. Tripp, Mrs. E. Cushman, Mrs. L. B. Barker, Miss Allen, William Huston, Miss Mary E. Bradford, Mrs. Hackett, Miss Hacker, Miss K. S. Swift, Mrs. W. N. Church, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Marshall, Mrs. Sherman, S. J. Besse, Miss Klebs, Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Van Nostrand.
President H. E. Cushman, when the first party had assembled in the town hall at Bourne, made brief remarks in introducing Captain Miller, the speaker of the afternoon. He said that in appreciation of the kindly thought of Miss Emily H. Bourne for the benefit of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, as expressed in the new building which she plans to present to the society, the plans of which the president held in his hands, that it seemed fitting that the pilgrimage should have been made to Bourne on Cape Cod, the town in which both Miss Bourne and her family have been so largely interested, and for which they have done so much, the speaker mentioning the gift to the town of the handsome library building located to the right of the town hall. President Cushman said that Captain Miller had kindly consented to tell the members of the society about the historical aspect of the Cape Cod Canal, which most of the party had just been through.
Captain Miller was greeted with enthusiasm, and said it was of especial gratification to him that he could talk of the historical aspect of the canal, and not on a financial or engineering feature of the ditch. He spoke as follows:
“Modern research has brought to light the fact that Verrazano, while blundering along the coast in the Dauphine from Hatteras to the northward not only entered the Hudson, but, on the 22d of April, 1524 anchored in Narragansett Bay. He then, during the beginning of May, passed through Vineyard Sound and called the cape to the northward ‘Pallaveino’ in honor of a member of the court of Francis I under whose orders his voyage was made. His log states that the shore ran to the east “within which space we found shoals which extend from the continent into the sea fifty leagues. Upon which there was over three feet of water; on account of which great danger in navigating it we survived with difficulty and baptized it Armellino.’
“The superstition of a sailor did not deter Bartholomew Gosnold, the captain of The Concord, sailing from Falmouth, England, on Friday, March 26, 1602. After a long voyage across the western ocean, land was sighted. The small craft kept on, passing safely through the shoals to the westward, a crew of thirty-two men landing on certain islands, which they named after Queen Elizabeth. John Brereton, one of the ship’s company, reported to Sir Walter Raleigh that ‘coming ashore we stood awhile like men ravished at ye beautie and delicacie of ye sweet soile.’ He then goes on to tell ‘of divers cleare lakes of fresh water,’ which seems to prove that the ship must also have anchored near the later New England Falmouth.
“Three years afterward the Frenchman DeMonts nearly came to grief upon the cape and rightfully named the spot Mallebarre.
“Their earliest thought was to connect the numerous lakes and streams existing within twenty miles of Plymouth and there to build a channel between what was known as the North and South seas. Even then humanity demanded an inshore route towards New Amsterdam, the home of their friends, the Dutch, if Plymouth was to avoid famine on shore and death at sea.
“So it came about that on September 2, 1627, after the terrible winter, when the Old Colony was threatened with starvation, that Myles Standish was sailing his shallops towards the country of the Shawnees. Thence, with his boats pulling up the Scusset river, a distance of three miles, he took his crew to an elevation of only twenty-nine feet above the sea, and in the distance saw before him, anchored in the Manomet River, a small flotilla. This was commanded by a man named Isaac de Resieres from New Amsterdam. The Dutchmen had come to relieve the famished Pilgrims and ‘trading there in sugar, linen and other commodities’ the first commerce between Hudson and Massachusetts began on the line of the present canal.
“A few years later Sir Edmund Freeman, together with nine others, were the pioneers at the same spot. He had arrived at Lynn on the ship Abigail in 1635, and was subsequently seven times assistant governor at Sandwich. His daughter Mary fell in love with a young man, who several years later arrived from Devonshire (he was born in 1630), but the orthodox Reverend Tupper refused to marry them, whereat there was a pretty ecclesiastical row; Freeman being fined for not attending church, and Edward Perry for belonging to the Society of Friends, but they were married. Also Perry’s sister to Freeman’s son. From this union of Quakers there ultimately came those distinguished fighters, Nathaniel Greene, Christopher Raymond Perry of Revolutionary fame and the two brothers, Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew Calbraith Perry of the War of 1812, the latter being the man who opened Japan to the trade of the world.
“The various instances, historic and otherwise, mentioned above are pertinent to our subject, as well as to the whole future of our country. The two foremost nations of the world, both used to the hardships of the sea and imbued with religious fervor, provided the first settlers to a savage wilderness adjacent to a stormy coast. They reached that coast long after the Spaniards had colonized the gold and silver fields of the tropics. The New England colony, as was well said by Edward Everett, was ‘rich in the want of gold.’ The Pilgrims also brought with them a religious toleration greater than that of the Puritans, and the influence of the Quakers of Sandwich ultimately created a lasting impression upon Rhode Island.”
The “I-told-you-so’s” of the canal was the closing part of Commodore Miller’s address. He traced the various attempts and plans for the canal since the time of Governor Winthrop and the colony, the surveys ordered by President George Washington, and observed that people had come to think that the feat was not possible.
The sand, the strong tidal currents, and numerous other popular and technical difficulties were mentioned as things for which persons had hoped to be able to say “I told you so.” Just then the speaker was able to give a practical demonstration of what the canal was doing.
The bridge gong outside began to ring and soon 2,000 tons of coal were passing under the draw. “That barge will get to Boston a day and a half sooner than by the old route,” said Mr. Miller. As much tonnage goes around Cape Cod yearly as through the Suez Canal and twice as much as is expected to use the Panama,” he said.
“But sentimental and humanitarian reasons really had weight with August Belmont as well as the obvious commercial and financial ones,” said the speaker. “Hundreds of lives have been lost and numerous vessels in the stormy trip around the Cape which is now unnecessary. The canal will be a wonderful help in case of war as a quick route for transporting troops and materials. Finally it is interesting and pleasing to know that the canal passes through the estate of the Perrys of Colonial days of whom Mr. Belmont is a descendant.