OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 30, 1920.
- REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT, Herbert E. Cushman
- REPORT OF THE CURATOR, Frank Wood
- REPORT OF THE SECRETARY, Henry B. Worth
- NEW BEDFORD IN THE BEGINNING by Walter H. B. Remington
Proceedings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society’s
New Bedford, Massachusetts
March 20, 1920
The annual meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held last evening in the Free Public Library building, when the annual reports were submitted, officers were elected and the members voted to raise the fee for life membership from $25 a year to $50.
The reports showed a slight falling off in membership, 782 at the beginning of the year to 750 at the close. Two life members died during the year, but ten new life members were elected, making the total number of life members 45, more than ever before.
While the treasurer’s report showed a larger balance of cash than usual, this is due to the fact that the balance at the end of the year includes money that is to be re-invested as it represents the liquidation of some investment funds.
President Herbert E. Cushman spoke of the society’s expenditures on the old Friends cemetery on the Russells Mills Road, which for the current year were large. He said that it is the purpose of the society to put the burying ground in good order. It is a particularly interesting cemetery, he said, because it was carried out according to the custom of burying in order of death in rows of graves, and that families are widely separated. The old New England names found on the stones marking earlier graves and the changes that crept in as the population changed, form another interesting feature of the cemetery. The place is being gradually put in order, and he suggested that it was worthy of a visit.
The annual report of the treasurer, Frederic H. Taber, showed cash on hand at the beginning of the fiscal year amounting to $224.32 and receipts of $7600.51, a total receipts of $7824.83. Of this amount the expenditures were $7040.22, and the balance of cash on hand $784.61. The statements of assets and liabilities showed the Land and buildings carried at $54,300, other assets and cash, $29,141.76, a total of $83,441.76.
Report of the President
by Herbert E. Cushman
“Your society has finished one more year of its existence, and in that year there has been much to look back upon with pleasure, and we believe that the society has made progress and shown its ability to be a live organization.
“Recently, when our curator and his wife visited a convention of historical societies in Hartford, it was interesting to note a remark that was made that your society seems to be not a museum where we look at things but a museum where people can see the collections from the older years, and at the same time be alive and have something doing.’
“Much credit is due to the ladies of our organization, who have by their efforts in the exhibitions and teas held during the last season, done much to encourage your officers, and add much to the interest in the work of your society. I think you will all agree with me when I say that we thank them, and urge them to let the good work go on.
“We have been fortunate in the last year in receiving from the estate of Miss Mary B. Green a goodly amount. This will be a great help to the officers of the society, and will enable it to accomplish many purposes which otherwise it could not. It can but be an example to others to follow, because when they see how this has helped the society, we feel sure it can but have its influence on others who wish to have their part in the same good work.
“The income from this fund will be expended carefully in the work of the society, and also in purchasing material which from time to time is offered us, of great value, and which should be a part of our museum work. Also it will enable us to repair our buildings and put them in good condition.
“Last year you will recall that we made an appeal for a fund, the income to be used to buy from time to time objects that might be interesting in our museum. Since that time Miss Florence Waite has sent us a thousand dollars, in memory of her father and mother, known as the Benjamin H. and Martha J. Waite Memorial fund, the income to be used for the above purpose, and a record of the same you will find in the treasurer’s report, and also in the report of the secretary.
“The loyalty of our members, the payment of the dues, and the consideration given us by the sustaining members, has placed this organization on a financial basis that hardly seemed possible a few years ago, and that in itself is the finest recommendation that the society has for its existence, for where one is willing to give today their interest certainly is for its best good.
“I wish to thank all the members for their kindly interest and helpfulness, and I am sure as the years go by, that our society will grow in its good standing in our own locality, and its prominence among the best museums of this country.
“We have here the noble barque Lagoda, which no one can duplicate, because we have led the way in making alive the reality of the past, and it is our purpose to build upon that the activities of the present and future.
“I ask and expect the co-operation and hearty helpfulness of all our members.”
Report of the Curator
by Frank Wood
“It is hard to realize that two years have gone by since I submitted to you in person an annual report of the Museum Section, and it is a pleasure to me to be with you this evening.
“The year of 1919-1920 has been a successful one both in the way of interest and in additions to the museum collections. The Andrew Snow collection has been installed in new cases and deservedly attracts a great deal of attention. The scrimshaw work fills a large case and I think is well displayed. Someday I hope to get our friend, Mr. Pease of The Mercury, to write an account of some of the logs and he will find much interesting material to draw from. Some of the logs are beautifully illustrated and these have been placed in cases by themselves so that they can be readily seen.
“One of the most important things that has been accomplished is the marking of the pictures. Brass plates with names and so far as possible the dates of birth and death have been affixed to the frames and the result is very satisfactory. We have room for more portraits and we hope the public will bear in mind that no more fitting place could be found for portraits of New Bedford people than in the rooms of the Historical Society.
“Early in January I attended a meeting of the New England branch of the Association of American Museums at Hartford. This association is made up of all of the important museums in the country. The meetings are most interesting and inspiring, and I am sure that it would be of great benefit to our society if we could arrange a meeting of the New England branch here in New Bedford, sometime after our new hotel is completed. I must confess that I was mightily scared at the idea of appearing before them and think I told them so, but they turned out to be quite human and really a most charming and interesting lot to meet. I was asked by the curator of a fine and largely endowed museum what we did to awake interest in ours, as his was quite dead, and I told him that we had a live board of directors, and live committees who kept things going, that people came and came again and again, that we had teas and special exhibits and dancing around the Lagoda and that we believed by mixing hospitality and gaiety with the more serious things we were best preserving the traditions and atmosphere of this old-time New Bedford.
“Last summer our society met with a great loss in the death of Captain Smith, the able caretaker of the Lagoda. I am sure he loved every plank and rope, and the beautiful work he did on the boats and rigging—real seaman’s work, that it would be almost impossible to duplicate at the present day—remains with us a most fitting memorial of the man. We have been fortunate in finding another old sailor to take his place, who is not only faithful to his duties but much interested in all of the work of the museum.
“I wish to bring to your attention the importance of co-operating as much as possible with the tercentenary celebration at Plymouth. Old Dartmouth was a part of Plymouth Colony and we not only owe it to ourselves but to Plymouth as well, to do our part by making our museum especially attractive during the summers of 1920-1921. We shall have many visitors and we want to make the city proud of us.
“In closing I desire to thank our officers and directors for their ever ready cooperation and help, and to express for the Old Dartmouth Historical Society our thanks for the many objects of value and interest that have been presented to us.
These are as follows:
- Mrs. Alice S. Weeks—An old doll.
- Mrs. Lucy Mendell Stratton—Large framed water color by Benjamin Russell, taking in her last whale off Point Barrows, 1869. Given in memory of her husband Robt. B. Stratton who was first mate of the Oriole.
- Mrs. Anna A. Thompson of Niagara Falls—Sioux Indian bows, quivers and arrows. These were obtained by Albert Bierstadt from the Indians in the early sixties, also Gilbert Island sharks tooth sword brought home by her father Capt. Thompson. United States Shippings Board-Emergency Fleet Corporation- war posters issued by them.
- Mrs. Ella H. Smith and Rodolphus H. Holmes, Vineyard Haven—Five log books ships Eliza Adams, 1847; Saratoga, 1849, 1850, 1851 and 1852; Condor (two), 1835, 1839; Arab, 1842.
- Henry B. Worth—Log books of ships Inez, Jno. G. Costors, and Atlantic. These were kept by Capt. Calvin G. Worth of Nantucket.
- Bert Swift—Tusks of boars, tooth sea elephant, pruning knife, dart used to drop from aeroplanes, box made from tamana wood and a cane brought home on a whaler.
- Abraham Manchester, Adamsville-An old Rumlet and earthen bottle.
- Mrs. Mary J. Swift—Old Quaker marriage certificate.
- Frank H. Gifford—String sleigh bells and whalebone whip, old ink stand and books.
- Miss Lucy Dillingham. Portrait of Edward S. Cannon at age of 14.
- Miss Rebecca W. Hawes—Copies of Mercury, cup and saucer that were given to her mother by Capt. Rowland R. Crocker, autograph of George Claghorn, old documents and letters.
- Joshua H. Delano, Fairhaven—Nails used in building whaleboats, 1840 to 1865.
- Miss Mary E. Bradford—Engraving by Landseer Lithograph.
- Friends Meeting House, Newport—Photograph on porcelain of Mrs. Rachel Howland. Steel engravings of George and Martha Washington.
- George Fox Tucker—Coupon to seat for lecture by Charles Dickens at Liberty Hall, March 27, 1868.
- Mrs. Anna Starbuck Jones—A brick from the old Coffin house, Nantucket.
- T. Chapin, Marion—A speaking trumpet that was used by his grandfather, Capt. Abraham Hayward. Capt. Hayward was confined in the prison ship, Dartmoore, England, 1812.
- Harry Neyland—Piece of wood from the Commodore Perry’s flagship, the Niagara, and a bolt from the Santa Maria.
- Eugene Perry—Pair old oil glass lamps.
- Mrs. Lemuel T. Terry—Scrap book, and invitation to the coronation of the king and queen of the Sandwich Islands, February 12, 1883.
- Estate Miss Annie E. L. Borden-Four portraits.
- Henry E. Bachman, Philadelphia—Seven umbrella handles made of walrus tusks.
- John Smith—Rolling pin, made on board a whaler.
- William B. Smith—Press to make jackass cheese.
- Mrs. John W. Potter—Log book, ship Olympia, 1847, and cooper’s tools.
- New Bedford Storage Warehouse Company—Album of photographs of whaleships and wharf views.
- Abbott P. Smith—Fox and Geese board from Gideon K. Howland farm, Smith’s Neck.
- Mrs. John W. Russell—Model canoe from South Pacific, foot warmer, bellows, yarn reel and old deeds and documents.
- Bert Swift—A very fine pair of yoke ropes made on board man-of-war.
- Harry West—Portraits of his father, Capt. Isaiah West, and uncle, Capt. Harry E. West.
- J. & W. R. Wing—A blubber hook.
- Mrs. Charles M. Hussey—A fine narwhale tusk and shells.
- The First National Bank—Bust of John E. Williams, at one time cashier of the old Marine Bank, and a sketch of the old bank building.
- Bequest of Harriet N. Church—Portrait of her father, Captain Isaac W. Davis, and a fine water color of the merchant ship La Duchess D’Orleons, of which he was master.
- William W. Crapo—Old documents and publications.
- From a friend—Some very beautiful hair jewelry.
- Mrs. A. Martin Pierce—Water color of old Fort Taber.
- Miss Anna and Walton Ricketson—An ivory miniature of Joseph Ricketson, cashier of the old Bedford Bank, 1816-1834.
- Harry M. Plummer—A memorial to his brother, Thomas Rodman Plummer, and to his son, Charles W. Plummer, an officer in aviation who was killed and is buried in France.
Report of the Secretary
by Henry B. Worth
“The secretary presents the record of the principal items claiming special mention, regarding the society during the past year.
“The following meetings have been held:
“In the Unitarian Chapel. Sept. 25, 1919. to attend lecture on ‘Old New England Gardens’ by Loring Underwood, a novel and attractive theme, presented in fascinating method and based on the philosophy of substantial beauty. It is a gem in the lecture line.
“A large number gathered at the rooms on Water Street, on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 25, l919, to hear the paper on the Development of the New Bedford Water System by Edmund Wood. A number had previously visited the pumping station at Quitticus. The paper described the extension of the system which included the reservoir at High Hill in North Dartmouth and the purchase of the land needed for the conduit leading from the Middleboro ponds. Mr. Wood was a member of the New Bedford water board during the entire period of construction, and being intimately familiar with all the details was fully qualified to describe the enterprise, and delivered an exceedingly valuable paper.
“The society has utilized its unusual facilities for social entertainment. The Bourne Museum, around the ship Lagoda, is an attractive place for festive gatherings. The deck of the ship constitutes a picturesque stage and the entire hall has a peculiar charm that must be observed to be understood.
“Jan. 1, 1920, two hundred were present at the New Year’s party. A Mardi Gras festival was held Feb. 1, 1920, and a few were in attendance, but the situation was extremely unfavorable. The hardest winter ever in memory of men was at its height, the streets almost impassable with snow and walking practically impossible; sickness everywhere prevailed and most people were content to stay at home. A delightful evening had been planned and would have been appreciated by a large number under different conditions.
“Visits to the museum by school classes have been continued, but unfortunately, owing to the absence of the curator no record has been kept.
“The membership of the society has slightly decreased, the net loss being 30, and the present membership standing at 750.
Those who have died are as follows:
Mrs. Emma Fraser Seagle, Mary Rodman, Mrs. Horace K. Nye, George L. Dunham, Mrs. Cornelia G. Winslow, Mrs. H. H. Crapo Smith, Clifford P. Sherman, Thomas W. Cook, Charles G Tripp, Annie A. Swift, Mrs. Mary J. H. Wilmarth, Mrs. James C. Briggs, Hattie Sherman, Albert S. Sherman, Annie H. Wing, Annie B. L. Borden, Dr. William G Potter, George W. H. Gilbert, Dr. Charles D. Prescott, Mrs. Clara N. Rotch.
Mr. Worth said: A serious loss was sustained in the death of Mrs. Clement N. Swift, who has been on the board of directors 13 years and represented the town of Acushnet. Small and sprightly in figure, yet possessed of untiring capacity for energetic work, and during the long number of years in office she was a most enthusiastic and devoted member.
Annie Amelia Nye, daughter of Thomas S. H. Nye of Acushnet and Annie Eliza Deblois of Boston, was born in Macao, China, May 8, 1848. Her father was lost in a typhoon in the China Sea while she was yet an infant and her residence was in the United States and partly in China until she became ten years old. Then she went to Ireland to live. Here she continued to reside until Oct. 5. 1895, when she married her Cousin Clement Nye Swift and then lived in Acushnet, where she died May 1, 1919.
At a meeting of the executive board Sept. 17, 1919, Mrs. Bessie B. Snow was appointed to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the year, but being unable to serve, the board appointed James E. Stanton Jr.
“The printed publications have comprised two bulletins. No. 47 included the proceedings of previous meetings and the extracts from the diaries of John Quincy Adams and his son, Charles Francis Adams, which related to visits to New Bedford. No. 48 contained Edmund Wood’s paper on the New Bedford water works and a valuable editorial by Z. W. Pease in the New Bedford Mercury on Arnold’s Garden and the Rotch family.
“The tendency during the past six years has been to develop the museum and give special attention to modern affairs. During the first ten years, the museum collection steadily increased and many monographs were prepared and presented on the early history of Old Dartmouth. Thus there was rescued much data concerning the ancient events and persons. In the present period of development, people seem better satisfied with objects which they can see rather than think about. The museum, so rich in quantity and interesting in variety, certainly appeals to the eye. The research work has been mostly confined to subjects where persons now alive were to a great extent eye-witnesses. These compilations, like that on the local banks, water works and personal reminiscences, are of great value and in the future will be appreciated by readers seeking full and accurate details. In consequence of these two tendencies, however, the early history of Dartmouth has not received much attention.
“While the treasurer has presented a complete report of the finances of the society, showing details of receipts and expenditures, all arranged in a technically accurate account it is always interesting to consider, how much of an endowment has been accumulated and how it has been gathered. Such a review shows better than any other item, the financial policy of the institution.
“The permanent funds of the society have come from four sources. As soon as the by-laws were adopted and the life membership fees fixed at $25, 16 members paid this amount at once and the sum of $400 was placed in a permanent fund. This has been increased by the admission of 55 life members, making this fund $1375.
“When the New Bedford Lyceum closed active work, it had on hand investments aggregating $6000. These were donated to the Old Dartmouth.
“Two memorial funds of $1000 each were established by Miss Florence L. Waite and Abbott P. Smith.
“All legacies have been placed in the permanent fund. There have been received from estates: Clement N. Swift, $25; Annie M. Washburn, $100; Caroline O. Seabury, $500; and M. P. B. Greene, $17,800, and a balance is expected later. These amount to $27,800, which is the present endowment, and only the income is to be expended. Here are substantial indications that the community regards the Old Dartmouth with confidence and appreciates the work that is being done. The officers have large aims and hopes for the future. While the society has attained great results, there are further lines that can be followed and the public will receive the benefit. To reach these objects, there will be need of increasing the permanent funds, and our friends may have the assurance that all such donations will be carefully protected and used for the purposes of this institution which is one of the valuable educational forces in the community.”
Annual report of Annie Seabury Wood reported for the entertainment committee:
“I have been asked as chairman of the committee on special exhibits and teas to make a report for that committee which consisted of Mrs. Herbert E. Cushman, Mrs. F. Gilbert Hinsdale, Miss Grace Dana, Miss Rosamond Clifford and Mrs. Frank Wood. In a circular which was sent me in September we announced that a tea would be held on the first Saturday of each month through the fall and winter. We kept to our promise faithfully through January. Then the weather, the walking and the grip conspired to frustrate our plans. However until then the afternoon teas had been very successful. In October Miss Annie Anthony in Quaker dress gave a little monologue.
“In November we held an exhibition of samplers and worked rugs, and gave a demonstration of the process of making the rugs. In December we had a good display of early American furniture and an informal talk on the subject by Clifford W. Ashley.
“We owed a great deal of our success in these exhibits to Mrs. Hinsdale, who is keenly interested in old rugs and furniture, and who gladly loaned us her choice possessions.
“For New Year’s afternoon we announced The Dansant with “Dancing around the Lagoda.” The result was gratifying and we turned over to the treasurer the net proceeds of the affair, amounting to more than $70.
“We have established a box for voluntary contributions and with its contents the curator has already paid for one-half the cost of the brass plates on the portraits.
“The committee had planned to take up its work again on the first Saturday of April. We instead, will serve tea on the 19th of April, following Mr. Remington’s paper on ‘Old Days in New Bedford.’ “
Election of Officers
The following list of officers, submitted by the nominating committee, consisting of E. P. Haskins, George H. Batchelor, and Miss Florence L. Waite, was elected:
President — Herbert E. Cushman.
Vice Presidents — George H. Tripp, Oliver Prescott.
Secretary — Henry B. Worth.
Treasurer — Frederic H. Taber.
Directors (for 3 years) — Annie Seabury Wood, Robert C. P. Coggeshall, Oliver F. Brown.
Director (for 1 year) — James E. Stanton Jr.
It was voted to change the by-laws relative to the fee for life membership in the society, making it $50, instead of $25.
New Bedford in the Beginning
by W. H. B. Remington
An interesting paper on old New Bedford was presented yesterday afternoon at a Patriots’ Day meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Walter H. B. Remington, city clerk. At the close of the reading of the paper tea was served by the members of the entertainment committee of the society.
Mr. Remington’s paper follows, in full:
TOWN RECORDS, VOL I.
Town Meetings, Marriages, Deaths, Jurors, Town Lines, Deeds, Oaths of Officers, etc., Town of New Bedford.
is the title of a small, leather-bound book which is esteemed as one of the chief treasures of the office of the city clerk of the city of New Bedford.
It is the story of this book which I desire to place before you, and since the larger part of the material of the story is from the volume itself, it may not be amiss to term it a sort of book autobiography.
One or two words of explanation at the beginning may make the story clearer. The book is a record book, and, following the style of public records, it tells what was done in the simplest terms. If you do not read between the lines, as it were, you do not make the story complete. In this case the between-the-lines reading is the history of that period of the life of New Bedford covered by the volume,—the first two decades of the town’s existence. This history is set out in various published books. I have taken the liberty, where the story would be benefitted thereby, to piece out the prosy record by borrowing from the relations of the local historians.
In making these selections, I am considerably indebted to Daniel Ricketson’s History of New Bedford, and I would like to say, to the New Bedford man or woman who has not read Mr. Ricketson’s History, that he has missed something which he can ill afford to lose, if he is a lover of the city.
Mr. Ricketson’s written story of old New Bedford is, perhaps, as good a monument as his retiring nature would desire, but I do believe that some public appreciation is due his memory, and make this suggestion: That the least the city can do to show proper feeling toward the man who has preserved so much of the old New Bedford for future generations, is to name a schoolhouse for him.
Now let us proceed to the story of our book, Town Records, Vol. 1.
Its first page contains a transcript of the “Incorporating Act”, passed by the legislature of Massachusetts in 1787, whereby the easterly part of the town of Dartmouth, in the county of Bristol, was incorporated a separate town, by the name of New Bedford.
The original Dartmouth, as you know, included what is now Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Acushnet and Fairhaven. It you dig deeply enough into the history of this section you will find that there was a belief in Plymouth, in the early days, that the territory of Dartmouth even extended into what is now Rhode Island, but that is not a part of this story.
At the time of its incorporation New Bedford contained about 700 people, and was about 13 miles in length, north and south, and three miles in width, east and west. After Fairhaven was set off, in 1812, (Acushnet was set off later,—1860) the town was diminished to about 11 miles in length and two miles in width.
The territory of the new town of New Bedford, as described in the act of 1787, is doubtless recognizable, in a general way, but I doubt if many of the present residents could locate the bounds on a dark night from the wording of the act, in which the lines are given as follows:
“Beginning at a bridge lying across a stream that runs through the beach by a place called Clarks Cove (This was Tripp’s Brook, and is now represented by the old outlet of the Tripp’s Brook sewer); thence running northerly as the main branch of the stream runs, till it comes to a little bridge across the road at the foot of a hill about twenty rods to the eastward of the dwelling house where James Peckham, deceased, last dwelt; (the corner of Allen and Orchard Streets); thence northerly in a straight line to Nathaniel Spooner’s saw mill (the old mill at the foot of the hill on Plainville road, west of the Shawmut post office, most recently known as Turner’s Mill); from thence northerly on the west side of Bolton’s cedar swamp till it comes to the dividing line between Dartmouth and Freetown, near the place called Aaron’s Causeway (where the present boundary stone is located, near Braley’s Station on the N. Y., N. H. & H. Railroad); thence east twenty-two degrees and one half north in the dividing line between said towns to a rock, known by the name of ‘Peaked Rock’ (on the Long Plain road near the old Water Works reservoir); thence southerly by the country road that leads from Dartmouth to Boston (the Long Plain road) one hundred and eight rods to the southwest corner of Ebenezer Lewis’s homestead farm; thence east about three hundred rods in the dividing line between Rochester and Dartmouth to a large white pine tree, marked on three sides; thence south six degrees and one half east in the dividing line between Dartmouth and Rochester to a heap of stones by the sea; thence westerly, in the first mentioned bounds, with all the islands heretofore known to be a part of Aquishnet Village.”
The description is very clear. If it were not for the fact that the “white pine tree, marked on three sides,” was cut down about four scores of years ago to make box-boards, and the “heap of stones by the sea” was used, long ago, as fodder for the stone crusher, or ballast for boats, you could perambulate the line as easily as the New Bedford and Dartmouth and Rochester selectmen did, five years after the incorporation, a record of which perambulation appears on a subsequent page.
Following the “Incorporating Act,” in our book comes a copy of the warrant for the first town meeting in New Bedford. This is under the ‘hand and seal of Elisha May of Attleborough, and is directed to “Edward Pope, Esq., one of the principal inhabitants of the town of New Bedford.”
“Edward Pope.” says Daniel Ricketson, in his history, “was a man of eminent virtues, and for many years was one of the most prominent citizens of the place. He was for some time a judge of the court of common pleas, and is usually mentioned as ‘Judge Pope.’ He was, previous to his death in 1818, collector of the port.”
A true copy of the return of Edward Pope, Esq., indicates that the said Pope notified “the freeholders and other inhabitants that are qualified to vote in town meetings, to meet together on the 21st day of March inst. (1787) at ten o’clock in the forenoon, to choose town officers and “transact and do any other matters and things necessary to be acted on for the benefit and well ordering of the public business of said town.”
The first town meeting, as the record shows, was held in the Congregational Meeting House, which stood near the Parting Ways in Acushnet Village, and was noted as the meeting house in which Dr. West, that famous old preacher, held forth for so many years while the community was in its making.
Capt. Franklin Howland, in his History of Acushnet, (written in 1903), treats rather interestingly of the town meeting places of old Dartmouth. From his book it appears that Dartmouth had no special house for the purpose of holding town meetings for more than fifty years after its incorporation. During this time it was the custom of the voters to meet in private dwelling houses, where they transacted the town’s business. Dartmouth was about 15 miles square, and there seems to have been difficulty in the selection of a town meeting place which would suit all, the factions in the different sections being unwilling that any other section should be favored.
Somewhere about 1714, according to Howland’s story, “the town (Dartmouth) voted to buy a lot which was located on the Rhode Island Way, about half a mile northeastward of Smith Mills Village, and near the head of Slocum Road.” The Rhode Island Way was the travelled way from Plymouth through Acushnet Village and westward through Smith Mills to Rhode Island, the home of Massasoit.
In 1737 the first town house in this location, which was about 16 by 24 feet in dimensions, was replaced by a new house, “nine feet between joints and 22 feet wide and 38 foot long, with a chimney at one end, with a suitable roof and windows in sd. house.
“Here,” says Howland’s History, “the town meetings were held till New Bedford, which included Acushnet and Fairhaven, was incorporated in 1787. Then the inhabitants of the east side of the Acushnet River held the balance of power, and the seat of legislation was established on Acushnet soil. The question of the location of a town house for the new town was a subject of discussion and indecision at annual meetings for twenty years.”
“Meantime the meetings were held in the Precinct Meeting House near Parting Ways. The members of the church frequently protested, both orally and by vote, against the misuse of the meeting house. When they could endure the filth and destruction resulting from these gatherings no longer, they embodied the warning in an official message to the town authorities, concluding as follows:
“‘If the town does not restrain its voters at town meetings from standing on pews and seats and going into the pulpit, the precinct will not admit them into their meeting house.’
“This threat apparently did not accomplish the desired result, as later the society voted as follows: ‘Whereas, the holding of town meetings in the Congregational Meeting House is injurious to said house, and causes considerable trouble in the course of a year to cleanse the same, therefore voted, that Edward Pope, Esq., Obed Nye, and Samuel Perry, Esq., be a committee to agree with the town upon the terms said town may meet therein for the transaction of public business, and in case the town shall refuse to comply with the terms proffered by said committee, they are to notify the selectmen not to warn any town meeting to be holden in said house after the expiration of the present year. Said committee to make report on the last Saturday of September next, 1805.”
This condition of affairs went on for a year or two without much satisfaction on either side, until, as shown by our town record book (May 27, 1808,) the rent of the meeting place was raised from $8 to $25 per year.
This appears to be the first recorded case of rent profiteering in New Bedford—but not the last, I am sorry to say.
The warrant for the town meeting of May 27, 1808, contained the following article: “To know the mind of the town what measures they take to provide for a town house for future meetings, as the town is forbid by the Precinct of the Old Congregational Meeting House ever meeting after the present year in their meeting house on the business of the town, according to a copy of their vote delivered to the selectmen.”
The meeting “voted almost unanimously to build a house for town meetings.” “A motion being made to build the house on the east side of the river, and seconded, it was voted in the negative.” “Voted, that the town house aforesaid be built within half a mile of the bridge at the Head of the River, either east or west of said bridge.”
“Voted, to choose a committee of five men to find a suitable site or place eligible to build said town house upon, and to get the lowest terms of the owner of the land for a lot sufficient for the house, and for accommodating the horses and carriages which may be necessary at town meetings, also to agree upon the size and model of the house, and to ascertain as near as practicable the cost of the building complete, and to make their report at an adjourned meeting.” The committee named was Caleb Congdon, John Delano, John Hawes, Joseph Whelden and Alden Spooner, Esq.
This committee reported, at a meeting held July 9th, that they had inspected several sites. The first choice was a lot offered by Bartholomew West “in the corner next the Friends’ Meeting House, where a fourth of an acre will be sufficient to accommodate the town, for a dollar and a quarter a rod.”
Just think of it! Fifty whole dollars for the first municipal lot. This site was chosen, and John Hawes, Nathan Bates, and Seth Spooner, Esq., were elected a committee “to carry on the building to its completion, with power to procure all the materials, on the credit of the town, with full power to hire a sufficient sum of money if it is found necessary before the tax can be collected.”
The town house, according to the recommendation of the committee, was to be 40 feet by 50 or 55 feet, one story high, thirteen feet post, to be seated with seats to rise above each other from the center, with a gallery to have several seats on the side. The committee recommended that the building should have 15 windows, and “in our opinion,” the committee further reported, “the probable expense will not exceed twelve or thirteen hundred dollars.”
It was voted to raise $1300 to defray the cost of the lot and building, and the committee was directed to have the town house ready by the middle of March, 1809. The committee attended to its duty and the next annual meeting, held April 3, 1809, was held in the new town house.
To quote again from the History of Acushnet: “This building continued to be used as a town house until Fairhaven was set off from New Bedford in 1812, when the former town refused to buy it, the south enders of the town hoping to get a new one nearer the village. New Bedford having no use for it then, the house was sold and moved to the northwest corner of Second and School Streets, where it now stands. (This was written in 1907; and the old house may be seen there today.) It was used as a house of worship by the First Baptist Society until they constructed the present church on William Street.”
Having followed the town meeting places through the ages, let us return to our record book and to the record of the first town meeting in New Bedford, held March 21, 1787.
In accordance with the first article in the warrant, the meeting chose Abraham Smith as moderator. Abraham Smith was a blacksmith, and his election as presiding officer for the first town meeting indicates that he was a strong-arm as a politician, as well as in his ordinary calling. He may have used his blacksmith’s hammer as a gavel, for all we know. At any rate he was so good a moderator that he was not long after made the first postmaster of New Bedford and held the postmaster’s office tor a long time.
Having chosen a moderator, the townsmen elected John Pickens as town clerk and treasurer, and John West, Isaac Pope and William Tallman as selectmen. After selecting Bartholomew Akin, Joseph Taber and Thomas Kempton as assessors, the meeting appointed Walter Spooner, Jethro Hathaway and William Tallman as a committee to settle with the town of Dartmouth respecting the public lands and buildings, stock of powder and other town property and to divide the town into four districts, providing that one constable should be chosen for each district.
The record of the meeting concludes: “Adjourned this meeting to the first Monday of April next at two o’clock p. m., then to be held again in this house. Attest, John Pickens, Town Clerk.”
The signature of Mr. Pickens testified to the satisfaction with which he concluded this first record of the town’s doings. With a little imagination it is easy to see him as he dipped his quill into the ink-horn and secured a goodly supply of real ink. And then, possibly with the tip of his tongue protruding from the starboard corner of his mouth, and with his head cocked to one side, he bore down on the virgin page with a free hand and wrote out his “John Pickens” as proudly as his compatriot, John Hancock at an earlier period and on another public document, affixed his never-to-be-forgotten signature. Not satisfied with his name alone, in a spirit of liberality, and with an evident desire to give the new town good measure of service, old John Pickens then executed a flourish and scroll which mark his first official act as town recorder as a good job, well done.
Today, after the passage of considerably over a century, this signature indicates clearly the kind of men who first had charge of the destinies of the town. Like John Pickens’ signature, they were bold, positive and fearless, and their works have lived after them, standing out clearly on the pages of local history as does his name on the page of our ancient leather-bound volume.
Fortunately, we do not have to depend upon imagination for a first hand picture of the first town clerk of New Bedford, for Mr. Ricketson has drawn a likeness for us in lines that define as clearly as a black and white sketch.
Some time after the incorporation of New Bedford—in 1803, to be exact—the first banking institution of the town, the old “Bedford Bank,” was formed, and John Pickens was chosen cashier. This institution lasted until 1812, when its charter expired, and, because of the hard times incidental to the second war with England, the charter was not renewed. There was no bank in New Bedford from then until 1818, when the Bedford Commercial Bank was founded, and John Pickens was employed by this bank in a clerical capacity.
In a description of his personal recollection of the banking rooms of this bank, which was located on Water Street on the site of the old Bedford Bank (and where the Historical Society building now stands), Mr. Ricketson thus outlines old John Pickens:
“Behind the desk, upon the left hand of the bank room, might usually be seen, busily employed in writing, a tall and elderly gentleman, his cropped gray hair brushed back from his forehead, with a white neck-cloth closely drawn about his throat, in a pepper-and-salt colored suit, the coat long-skirted, with large pockets on the sides, one row of buttons, and of Quaker curve, but with a collar, and small-clothes with knee buckles, which, with the style of shoes worn by the older men of that day, complete the personal appearance of the venerable and worthy ex-cashier of the old Bedford Bank, John Pickens, Esquire.”
A foot note says: “The following are the inscriptions taken from a white marble shaft in the old graveyard at Acushnet Village: ‘John Pickens, of New Bedford, died July 31st, 1825, aged 82 years. He was an officer in the Army of the Revolution and afterwards served the town in various offices. He was long esteemed for his piety, integrity, and exemplary life. Mary Spooner, his wife, died Nov. 26th, 1809, aged 65 years.'”
Incidentally 1 was surprised to find that I had a personal interest in this record.
Mary Spooner, the wife of John Pickens, was a descendant from William Spooner, the founder of the Spooner family in America and one of the original proprietors of Dartmouth. Mrs. Remington is also a descendant from the same William Spooner.
And so it seems that the wife of the first town clerk of New Bedford and the wife of the present city clerk are blood relations. And it would also seem that the town clerk job sort of runs in the family,—by marriage, at least.
The adjourned meeting, held April 3, 1787, was for the election of state officers, the first state election in which New Bedford participated. By the returns it is shown that “Hon. John Hancock, Esq.”, received 171 votes for governor, to 41 votes cast for “Honbl. James Bowdoin, Esq.” Further progress toward the election of the first town officers was made at this meeting, surveyors of lumber, and inspector of fish and four constables being chosen. At an adjourned meeting, held on the 8th of the following May, surveyors of highways, wardens, tythingmen, fence viewers, cullers of staves and hog reeves were chosen, and the town government was complete,-even though there was no common council as a part of the organization.
On the 28th day of May things began to run along in New Bedford. The first action of the day was “voted, That there be one person employed as town school master in the town.”
It was also voted, at this meeting, “That the wages of the selectmen, assessors, town committee and others who may be employed by or shall serve the town, shall be fixed at the rate of four shillings per day.” (About 50 cents, present money.) This compares, as you will see, with the rate of a dollar an hour which the union man demands today.
The town treasury was as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, apparently, as witness this vote-cast at the same town meeting: “Voted, that John Pickens, town treasurer, as soon as sufficient money thereof comes into the town treasury, shall purchase a ream of paper for the purpose of making books convenient for the records and accounts of the town.”
It may be fairly presumed that the old book before us, in which the record was made, was the result of this vote. If that is the case, the ream of paper which John Pickens purchased when there was sufficient money in the treasury was a good investment. The paper of which the book is composed is in splendid condition today, in spite of its slight yellowness, and it was undoubtedly made from the best linen rags and other first class paper stock.
Wages for the street department were fixed at this meeting as follows: “For a man with a tool or instrument suitable for the work, four shillings per day; for a cart, two shillings per day; for a pair of oxen, four shillings per day; for a plough, one shilling and sixpence per day—that is, whilst in service.”
Note the saving clause, “whilst in service.” No loafing on the job, in those days, and getting paid for it; no one day off in eight, with full pay. The politicians of the new New Bedford were looking after the treasury; not after the votes of the laborers.
On Sept. 15th, 1787, at a meeting which is described in the marginal side index as the “6th and last adjournment of the annual meeting,” is the record of the first street layout in the town of New Bedford. I wonder how many living today will recognize the bounds. The entry in the record is as follows: “Voted, That the following return of a street or highway be recorded by the town clerk in the town book, to wit:
“New Bedford, Sept. 8th, 1787.
“An open street or highway laid out; beginning at the northeast corner of George Cleghorn’s houselot at the waters edge; from thence a straight line to the northwest corner of Jabez Hammond’s lot; from thence two degrees southerly to the end of Ephraim Kempton the Second’s wall; and from thence, as the wall stands, to the road that loads from New Bedford to the Head of the Acushnet River.’
This is the record of the layout of North Street, from the river to County Street.
George Cleghorn’s houselot here referred to, was located at the southeast corner of North and North Second Streets, as it is today, which location will be remembered by some as the site of former wood yard maintained by the city of New Bedford for its poor department. The waters of the river approached nearly to Second Street, and this was the site of George Cleghorn’s shipyard, as well as his residence. Here he built the ship Rebecca, the first American whaler to double Cape Horn and obtain a cargo of oil in the Pacific Ocean, launching the vessel from this yard in 1785, two years before the incorporation of the town. Cleghorn, it will also be recalled, gained considerable fame as a shipbuilder, and was in charge of the construction of the famous United States frigate Constitution—”Old Ironsides”—which was launched in the Boston navy yard at Charlestown, in 1787.
This street (North Street) was the scene of an historical event a few years before its acceptance. On the 5th of September, 1778, as all the readers of New Bedford history know, General Gray’s expedition of the “New London fleet,” sent to punish the people of New Bedford for their activities against British shipping during the war which was then being waged by the colonies against the mother country, landed 4000 British troops at Clark’s Cove. Laying waste as they went, these soldiers proceeded up the country road (now County Street) to Acushnet village, then, turning after crossing the Head-of-the-River bridge, where there was a skirmish, proceeded down the Fairhaven shore to Sconticut Neck, where they took to their boats and returned to the vessels of the fleet.
“Not far from the original Kempton house,” says Daniel Ricketson. “upon a road which led up to the country road from the shore, now North Street, three men, by the name of Russell, Trafford and Cook, were shot by the British troops Sept. 5. 1778. These men were passing up this road, which was then only a cart-way through the woods, in the evening of the day on which the village was burnt, the said 5th of September. It being moonlight, one of the party, who was armed, saw standing against a tree a British grenadier, at whim he fired, killing him; when immediately a volley of muskets was discharged upon these three unfortunate men, killing one outright, and wounding the other two, who died within a few days.”
A smallpox scourge was almost coincident with the establishment of the town. The disease, which was then a dreaded and almost fatal disease, made its appearance in 1787 and continued, by spells, for a period of nearly eight years. About one in seventy of the entire population of the town succumbed to it.
An attempt was made, as the record shows, to establish a pest house for inoculation for smallpox, but the proposition was turned down by the voters at the town meeting held June 29th. A year afterward (June 10, 1788, to be exact), our record book shows that the annual town meeting authorized the first municipal hospital in New Bedford (and incidentally it was the first public building) by the following vote:
Voted. To build a pest house (for the reception of those who have the smallpox) of 28 feet in length, 16 feet wide and 7 feet posts, with double floor below and single floor overhead, a chimney at one end with one fireplace; and a room petitioned off at the other end. Roof and walls to be boarded and shingled, & to have two glass windows—one of 18 squares and the other of 12 squares.”
Not quite so elaborate as the latest proposed municipal hospital, but it paved the way.
Continuing with the record: “Voted. That the pest house to be built shall be set on Ebenezer Willis’ land on a piece of ground known by the name of Willis’ wheat-field,’ and that he, the said Ebenezer Willis or his heirs be allowed six shillings for every person carried to said house that is able to pay the charges him or herself, being in full for said house standing on said land, and also for liberty to pass and repass to and from said house on all necessary occasions; and the town to know no expense on that account.”
This vote, as appears from an endorsement written in handwriting not that of the town clerk, and doubtless the handwriting of Ebenezer Willis, was assented to by Mr. Willis.
It was then “Voted. That the selectmen, in conjunction with Ebenezer Willis, do either procure materials and get the said pest house built, or agree with some person or persons to do the same as conveniently as may be.”
The Willis homestead, built by one of the original proprietors of the land covered by the town, was located on County Street, between Pearl and Willis Streets, on the same ground where the John Avery Parker mansion stood until it was pulled down by F. William Oesting, a few years ago, to make room for the present dwelling houses there. Willis’ wheat-field, where the first municipal hospital was located, was probably in the vicinity of the present common. The north line of the Willis land was the south line of the present Linden Street. Willis’ Point, which in my boyhood days was a clearly defined rocky point of land jutting into the river abreast the common, and which at the present time has been swallowed up by the New York, New Haven & Hartford R. R. freight yard, undoubtedly obtained its name from the Willis ownership.
The small pox situation was evidently giving the townsmen considerable trouble in 1792. In a warrant for the town meeting called for the 22d day of [May of] that year, John Chadwick, constable, was directed, “pursuant to a request from a number of respectable inhabitants of the town of New Bedford qualified to vote in town meetings, to meet together in the Congregational Meeting House on Tuesday, the twenty-second day of May, instant, at two of the clock afternoon, then and there to take in to consideration said request for establishing an hospital for the inoculation of the small pox under such rules and regulations as may be tho’t (note the ultra modern spelling) best, and act and do at sd meeting whatever may be thought proper to prevent its spreading in a natural or unlawful way.”
This meeting appointed a committee of nine persons to draft a form of regulations for the inoculating hospital, to be laid before the town at some future adjournment. And it was also
“Voted, That if any person or persons shall be carried to the pest house in consequence of having the small pox contrary to law, shall pay twelve shillings for each and every day that he or they may be confined in said house.”
Being sick contrary to law was expensive, in those days.
The committee on regulations, at a meeting held on the 31st of July, 1792, reported a very stringent and complete set of regulations governing the small pox hospital, and Capt. Edmund Pope, Jethro Hathaway, and Samuel Hathaway were appointed a committee to carry the regulations into effect, being obliged to give bond for the faithful performance of their duty.
Later, West’s Island, (which is now in Fairhaven, but was then in New Bedford territory), was named as the place where the inoculation hospital should be located. West’s Island having proved an inconvenient place for the inoculation hospital, it was decided that two houses, one on each side of the river, (and note here the showing of the sectional difference which afterwards resulted in the division of the town) should be designated for the purpose.
In this connection the record shows a rather curious vote, if it means exactly what it says:— The vote reads, “Voted, That from and after the l5th day of November next no person shall have the small pox in more than two infected houses in this town.”
Whether or not this vote did the trick, the fact remains that, so far as the record shows, the small pox epidemic was checked;—probably legislated out of existence.
During the summer of 1792 John Pickens, who had served the town as town clerk and treasurer since its incorporation, removed from the town, and, at a meeting held August 14th, 1792, Lemuel Williams was chosen town clerk, treasurer and assessor, in place of Pickens, resigned.
The handwriting of Mr. Williams, while it is not as good as that of old John Pickens, is yet very legible. Williams was a lawyer; he continued in the town clerk’s office until 1799, when he resigned to go to congress from this district, which was then the Barnstable district.
On the 6th day of June, 1798, the town meeting considered, for the first time, the request of the proprietors of a proposed bridge over the river to Fairhaven, and voted, unanimously, to consent to the suggestion for erecting the bridge from the west side of the river to land between the villages of Fairhaven and Oxford, providing a sufficient draw be made on the east and west channels for the passage of vessels.
While the bridge geographically joined the two parts of the town located on the east and west sides of the Acushnet River, it was really a means of adding to the breach in sentiment, far wider than the river, which had by this time begun to show itself. The building of the bridge so altered the flow of tidal water by damming the current at certain points that the channel to Oxford Village, the “east channel” referred to in the town meeting vote, was partly filled with sand. This channel had been a sure means of reaching the wharf property at Oxford, and the change practically ruined the place as a shipping point. The depreciation of property because of this bridge gave rise to the term “Poverty Point”, as applied to the point of land on which Oxford Village was situated, a term which continues to this day, among the old timers.
A little later, as will be shown further on, different opinions as to the European political situation caused bitter feeling between the factions represented by the two sections of the town, and the final separation, by legislative act, was brought about in 1812.
Street department matters and the first eight-hour day occupied attention in 1799, and a committee was appointed to recommend some change in the system which had been followed since the incorporation of the town. This committee reported to the meeting held May 13, 1799, through William Tallman, the chairman, and the report was accepted. One of the provisions, relative to work seems done of interest. It provided “that every able-bodied man that shall faithfully labor on said roads eight hours, providing himself with the necessary tools, shall be entitled to four shillings and in the same proportion for a longer or shorter time being six-pence an hour; and that four miles of [travel] to and from work shall be equal to one hour’s labor; that a yoke of oxen, being four years old or upwards, so laboring, shall be entitled to the same wages as a man; a cart or plough half as much; and all shall be to the satisfaction of the surveyor.”
The boss politician of New Bedford’s swaddling-clothes days—a sort of Charles S. Ashley of the period—as the record reveals, was “The Honbl. Walter Spooner.” This honorable gentleman was one of the selectmen of Dartmouth before the set-off of New Bedford, and after New Bedford became a separate town was moderator at town meetings, and was voted for for almost every position in the gift of his townsmen. The “Spooner Memorial,” published by Thomas Spooner of Ohio in 1871, thus summarizes this early New Bedford politician’s accomplishments:
“Walter Spooner was first called to fill the office of selectman in Dartmouth in 1758, and thence on to the close of his days he was in public life a most distinguished and ardent patriot during the Revolutionary War. No man of Old Dartmouth has ever held more prominently the confidence of the people. In 1761 he was chosen representative to the general court and so continued for nine years. In 1769, being elected a member of the council of the Province, his name in company with Bowdoin, Hancock and Otis, was rejected by Governor Bernard; but in 1770 he was admitted to the council, and held his seat for 17 years. He was a member of the convention which framed the constitution of Massachusetts in 1779; in 1781 he was appointed by Governor Hancock chief justice of the court of common pleas for his native county. He was a delegate to the Massachusetts State Convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States. He was one of the presidential electors for both terms of George Washington. In 1791 he was the chairman of the Massachusetts commissioners appointed to adjust the boundary line between that state and Rhode Island. On reaching the age of 70 years he retired from public life, being so induced, it is said, by his sight of so many of his acquaintances who had outlasted their usefulness in public life.”
Our record shows that in spite of his many outside interests, the Honbl. Walter Spooner willingly served the town in any capacity, during its early days, serving on many committees selected at town meetings, including a committee appointed to “prosecute every person who shall by any means be inoculated for smallpox contrary to law.”
And now we come to the third town clerk who had to do with Volume 1 of the New Bedford records, namely John Proud.
The first article in the warrant for the town meeting of November 12, 1799, was “to choose a town clerk instead of Lemuel Williams, who is about to resign.” Williams, you will remember, had been elected to congress.
I have been unable to find out much directly concerning John Proud, but there are sufficient indirect evidence of his goings and comings to give us a fair acquaintance with him.
From a brief mention of a John Proud in Arnold’s History of Rhode Island, this John Proud being an officer in the Revolutionary War, I am inclined to believe that he came from Newport to New Bedford.
There is a town record of the birth of a child named John G. Proud, on Nov. 28, 1788, to John Proud by Lurana Tower, his wife. And there is also a record of the birth of a child to John Proud and Lurana Tower, his wife, at intervals of about two years until the number of children reached eight. William Logan Fisher, who married a daughter of Samuel Rodman, in the course of some reminiscences which he wrote about 1858, says, among other things, “the handsomest children at the end of the last century were those of John Proud, for a long time town clerk, and Samuel Rodman.” Inasmuch as Mr. Fisher was married to Mr. Rodman’s daughter, his description was undoubtedly judicious, and can be relied upon.
During the period under consideration, and probably while he was town clerk, John Proud kept a grocery store, and he undoubtedly sold rum, as did most of the grocers of that time. At any rate, he had a license. His store was located where the south end of Driscoll, Church & Hall’s wholesale store now stands, at the corner of Union and First Streets.
After May, 1790, it would seem that John Proud moved away from New Bedford for a time, because the birth records in Volume 2 of the New Bedford records show that “John Proud’s child by Lurana Tower, his wife, John Proud, was born in Troy, and county of [Rensselaer[ in the state of New York, 13th day of August, 1792.” This entry was made by John Proud himself, December 11, 1799, very shortly after his election as town clerk, probably one of his first acts after election. He was one of the town clerks who believed that births should be recorded.
John Proud wrote a splendid hand and his writing stands out on the record today like copper plate. When it came to the matter of signature, old John Pickens didn’t have much on John Proud, who was also there with a flourish. As to spelling, alas! John Proud had little cause to be vain of his name, inasmuch as the record shows that his way of spelling “road” was “R H O A D,” and when it came to “choose,” Mr. Proud always wrote it “C H U S E.” At a meeting in 1803 he recorded the appointment of a committee to prevent the waste of “O I S T E R S” and other shellfish, and at another time the appointment of a committee with power to do as they may seem “F I T T.”
Old John Proud’s spelling is not the only interesting feature of the record of this period. At a town meeting called for Sept. 23, 1805, the second article in the warrant was. “To take some legal steps to prevent smoaking segars in the streets.” It was
“Voted. That the town consider the practice of SMOAKING segars in the streets to be very improper at all times, and that the law be put in force against all who shall be detected, and that a committee of seven be appointed to carry the law into effect.”
Accordingly Gamaliel Bryant Jr., Stephen Hathaway, William Tallman, Timothy Delano, Elkanah Tallman, Elisha Thornton Jr., and Abner Bourne were appointed on the committee.
Perhaps you can imagine what would happen to Gamaliel, and Elkanah and Elisha if they could awake today from their long sleep in the old graveyard on Burial Hill, or Griffin Street, or wherever their bones have been laid, and have an opportunity to attend a modern moving picture show (uncensored by the Y. W. C. A.) at which the leading “vamp” smokes at least two boxes of cigarettes to each reel.
During the first part of the last century the unpopular and disastrous embargo act, applying to all ships in the ports of the United States, had become effective, and at a special town meeting, held August 23, 1808, it was voted unanimously, “that a respectful petition be drawn to be presented to the president of the United States, requesting that the existing embargo be repealed or suspended, in whole or in part.”
A committee consisting of John Mason Williams, Samuel Rodman, Joseph Ricketson, Thomas Nye Jr., Killey Eldredge, Alden Spooner, Esq., and Samuel Perry, Esq., was appointed to draft the petition. It would seem from the report, that things had been cut and dried, because the record reads, “The committee retired to draft the petition; when completed they returned, and the same being read by John M. Williams, their chairman it was accepted by unanimous vote.” The selectmen, Alden Spooner, Esq., Roger Haskell, and Thomas Nye J. were “entrusted to have a fair copy made and forwarded to the president of the United States without delay.”
At a special town meeting called for June 23, 18ll, the condition of national affairs had reached such a state that it was “Voted to address the president of the United States respecting the alarming situation of the country.” and a committee, consisting of Thomas Rotch, John M. Williams, Samuel Rodman, James Arnold, Gilbert Russell, Thomas Nye and John Alden was appointed to draft the petition. The draft was made and accepted by the meeting before it adjourned.
The town meeting records in this book, Volume 1, end with the meeting of January 4, 1812, at which time it was “Voted, unanimously, that the inhabitants of sd town will oppose the granting of the prayer of Ebenezer Keen and others for a division of sd town now pending in the legislature of the commonwealth.
John Mason Williams was chosen to represent the town before the legislature in opposition to this petition which was a petition for the set-off of Fairhaven. A grievous difference of opinion had arisen, it will be recalled, between the residents of the two sides of the river as to the national attitude regarding European politics.
A foot note at the bottom of page 238 of this volume indicates that the town meeting record is continued in Book 4, page 1. This note is made in handwriting not that of John Proud, probably that of John Mason Williams, the record stating that Williams acted as town clerk pro tem for the meeting. “John Proud, town clerk being absent by reason of sickness.”
It may not be amiss to follow, briefly, the record in book No. 4, where the copper plate handwriting of John Proud continues until the meeting of Monday, June 13, 1815, when he made his last entry.
The next entry is made in a different hand. This is the meeting of Dec. 9, 1815, which shows that John Pickens (the first town clerk come back again), was elected town clerk for the remainder of the year “in room of John Proud, deceased.” This record is written, as a foot note made by John Pickens shows, “in the known handwriting of Joseph Ricketson, one of the selectmen of the town,”
In another town record book, Volume 3, I have found the following entry:—among the deaths recorded on page 323:—”John Proud, town clerk during many years past; of long decline; died Nov. 28, 1815, aged 68.”
Peace to his ashes!
Following the town meeting records the pages of Volume 1 are filled with various entries. Books and papers were evidently appreciated to their full value, in those days, and expenditures were cut down to the lowest terms. Any spare leaves in a record book were, apparently, used to record the miscellaneous doings which are required to be perpetuated by record, and in consequence Volume 1 contains, after page 296, a hodge-podge of matters.
There are intentions of marriages, recorded by John Pickens, clerk, covering a period from 1815 on; followed by intentions of marriages recorded by Killey Eldredge, who succeeded Pickens as town clerk in 1820. These records of intentions of marriage are followed by records of the oaths of qualification of various officers from hog-reave to selectmen.
On page 368 begins a record of births, the first one being recorded by John Pickens, town clerk, May 12, 1818. A sample of the birth records of that time is illustrated by the first entry, viz:— “Zaccheus Parker was born in the City of New York about the end of September, A. D.. 1801. He is the son of Avery Parker, who was born in this place and finally ended his days in it,—by his wife, Hannah (Earl) who was born in the City of New York. This account is given me by the mother of sd. Avery.”
The wording of the record leaves it open as to whether Avery Parker’s days were ended by his wife, but it is safe to say that the man who recorded it meant us to understand that Zaccheus was Hannah Earl’s son.
Family groups are found in these pages, the record having apparently been made by some person interested in the family affected at some convenient time after all the children were born.
Beginning on page 39l is a record of the meetings of the selectmen for the drawing of jurors. These are continued in a later part of the book.
On page 400 is an account of the pilgrimage of the selectmen of Rochester and New Bedford on Sept. 12, 1782, over the town lines for the purpose of renewing the bounds. This was the first perambulation of the town lines participated in by the New Bedford selectmen. In accordance with a wise old law the authorities of the different towns and cities are obliged to check up the bound-stones once in five years.
Beginning on page 405 is a “Journal of Roads connected with the adjacent towns, taken from the records of Dartmouth, and put down according to the order of time the roads were run.”
On page 440 is a record of the pews in the new meeting house in New Bedford, and a mixture of town bound perambulations and the drawings o£ jurors follows.
Near the end of the volume, on page 577, is a “Record of Persons Carried Out of Town,” the early town method of deportation of undesirables, of which the following is a sample:
Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
To Either of the Constables of the Town of New Bedford in the
County of Bristol—Greeting:
Whereas, Abigail Burges, single woman, belonging to the town of Rochester in the County of Plymouth in said Commonwealth, hath removed herself into said town and being likely to become chargeable, * * * These are therefore in the name of said Commonwealth to require either of said constables forthwith warn and give notice to the said Abigail, if she may be found in your precinct, forthwith to depart out of said town of New Bedford and come no more therein at the peril of the law in that case made and provided, & make return of this warrant with your doings thereon, to either of the selectmen as soon as may be. Given under our hands and seal this third day of November, A. D. 1792.
Selectmen of New Bedford.
And the constable’s return, as appended:
Nov. 5th, 1792.
Pursuant to the within this day I have notified & warned the within named Abigail Burges to depart out of said town and come no more in, as directed.
John Chadwick, Constable.
To which is added the town clerk’s attestation, as follows:
The foregoing is a true copy of the original precept with the endorsement.
Lem’l Williams, Town Clerk.
It is to be presumed that Abigail, thus driven out of the sacred precincts of New Bedford, went back to the woods of Rochester and stayed there the rest of her natural life—and ever after.
The last entry in the old book is the record of the transfer of a pew in the Congregational Meeting House in the Village of Bedford from Sally Hammond, administratrix upon the estate of Thomas Hammond, Esq., to “Manasser Kempton, Jun. of New Bedford, County of Bristol and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Gentleman.”
The old record book has passed through many hands, and is ornamented, on many of its pages, with check-marks made by people who now rest with their fathers and have themselves long been forgotten. The wonder is that it has been preserved as well, or at all.
When one recalls the customs of the old days, times when the town clerk kept the town record books in the little closet by the chimney in his dwelling house, without any semblance of fire-proof boxes or vaults, and subject to the hundred and one mishaps liable to occur in even the best regulated families, it seems remarkable that this old record book should have been handed down through so many generations undestroyed. It is, indeed, a link between the New Bedford of the past and the New Bedford of today.
In my own mind I have often wondered how the old book escaped the clutches of the late lamented James B. Congdon. Mr. Congdon, as perhaps you may have heard, was one of the most prolific writers and copiers of old records and matters of historical interest. Many a night he must have burned the midnight oil poring over old records and transferring portions of their contents to the many manuscript pages which he left behind.
When I entered the city clerk’s office I found there a tradition that once on a time Mr. Congdon borrowed several volumes of birth and death records of the town for the purpose of tracing some genealogical subjects in which he was interested. Those books are not a part of the office records now, and the story goes that when Mr. Congdon died the books were stored somewhere in his dwelling. Long they reposed in the attic, and when the final settlement of the Congdon family affairs was made, the attic was cleared and those record books, with other priceless historical material, found their way into the hands of the junkman, and so were lost forever.
It is not so many years ago, as you will recall if you are a reader of the local newspapers, that an early volume of Common Council records was discovered among the effects of Miss Sarah Hewins, the daughter of Luther G. Hewins Senior, who was clerk of the Common Council, many years ago. This book had been stored with other books in Deacon Hewins’ attic until everybody had forgotten it, and after a period of fifty years it came to light.
This seems a good time to ask you, if any among you chance to come across any old books which seem like record books of the town or city, that you will not hesitate to inform the city clerk, in order that such records may be restored to the city’s archives, and preserved for the benefit of the citizens of the New Bedford of tomorrow.
W. H. B. Remington.
OLD DARTMOUTH TEA
General Edwards Made a Short Speech to Members at Gathering Yesterday Afternoon
Major General Clarence R. Edwards, who visited the Old Dartmouth Historical Society yesterday afternoon, after the luncheon at the Wamsutta Club, and inspected the bark Lagoda, stayed long enough to make a short speech to the 75 members who assembled to hear Walter H. B. Remington’s paper on old New Bedford. He spent about half an hour at the Bourne memorial and the rooms of the society.
Miss Florence L. Waite and Mrs. John S. Howland were in charge of the tables, and tea, coffee, crackers and doughnuts were served.