Number 14

Being the proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held at the Fairhaven Town Hall, on June 22, 1906.


by L. A. Littlefield


by James L. Gillingham

[Note.—The "Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches" will be published by the society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson's Book Store.]

Proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
Fairhaven, Massachusetts
June 22, 1906

A Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held in the Fairhaven Town Hall June 22, when two interesting papers were read, the speakers and subjects being L. A. Littlefield on “Fitting Out a Whaler,” and James L. Gillingham on “Captain Seth Pope.” In connection with his address, Mr. Gillingham presented the society, in behalf of Miss Alice Fish, an ancient cradle which for several generations has been in the possession of the Pope family.

In opening the meeting, President Crapo said he recalled with pleasure a meeting held by the society in the Town Hall two years ago. After referring to the papers read on that occasion, Mr. Crapo said: “I have often thought that sometime there should be presented a paper giving an account of the separation of Fairhaven from New Bedford, to contain a complete account of the causes which led up to the division, with a mention of the men who were conspicuous in the dispute, the discussions on the subject in town meeting, and the debate, if any, in the legislature, at the time of the incorporation of the town.

“It has been understood that there was difference in both religious and political feeling on opposite sides of the river, but it is certain that the men on both sides had one trait in common-a rigid adherence to whatever they believed. The Quakers of New Bedford far outnumbered the other denominations, and their wealth was greater. But while Fairhaven might have been outvoted in town meeting, and been less wealthy than New Bedford, Fairhaven never surrendered.

“The crisis came in 1812. New Bedford was for peace and Fairhaven voted for war. Fairhaven stood defiantly to maintain the policy of ‘Free-ships and sailors’ rights,’ and subsequent events have justified her patriotic ardor.

“In the olden days of the whaling industry, the wharves on both sides of the river were lined with mechanics, fitting ships for long voyages to distant seas. The fitting of the whaleships for these long voyages required thoroughness and integrity of workmanship. Hulls were examined, weak spots strengthened, spars rigged and sails overhauled, and new bolts put in. The outfits were assembled by able whaling merchants, assisted by experienced shipmasters. The details of this work will be told to you by the members who will now address you.”

Fitting Out a Whaler

By L. A. Littlefield

The descriptive paper I have prepared will treat of the subject in a general way, from a landsman’s point of view, who has had a very limited observation of the work of fitting out a whaler.

I did not become a resident of New Bedford until the year 1880. At that time the whaling business had become almost extinct, so far as this port was concerned, and it was an event of considerable interest to see a whaler fitted out.

Few people of this generation have any concept of the magnitude of the whaling business that was carried on by our New Bedford merchants fifty or seventy-five years ago.

The first whaler fitted out in New Bedford that we have any record of was the sloop Manufactor, Captain John Taber, master, the description of which was written by Mr. Ellis Howland, who discovered the captain’s log book, and published it in the Evening Standard of April 20th, 1901.

The Manufactor sailed April 9th, 1756, and the voyage lasted 24 days. At that period it was not necessary to go far from land to capture the whales, as they frequented these shores, and many were captured by small boats putting out from land. From this small beginning developed an industry of great importance to the country.

Starbuck state in his History of the Whaling Industry that in the year 1831, 240 whaling vessels were fitted out in this and neighboring ports, requiring, among other things, 36,000 barrels of flour, 30,000 barrels of beef, 18,000 bolts of duck, 3,000 tons of hoop iron, 6,000,000 staves, and 2,000 tons of cordage, besides large quantities of iron for harpoons, lances, spades, blubber hooks, caboose grates, and the smaller supplies, such as molasses, beans, rice, tea, coffee, sugar, etc. The annual consumption of copper amounted to 700,000 pounds.

From a report made by the late James Arnold of New Bedford, to the National Convention for the Protection of American Interests, in 1841, the following figures are taken: “Number of vessels engaged in the whale fishing, 650; tonnage, 193,000; requiring 16,000 officers and men. To outfit and equip these vessels for one voyage it required 1,300,000 barrels of iron-hooped casks, costing $1,820,000. Food and other supplies brought the total equipment up to $10,620,000. The estimated value of these ships as they sailed was $20,120,000.

“In 1858, 65 ships were fitted out in New Bedford, costing, in round numbers, $1,950,000. Some of the items mentioned are 13,650 barrels of flour, 10,400 barrels of beef, 7,150 barrels of pork, 19,500 bushels of salt, 97,500 gallons of molasses, 20,000 pounds of rice, 78,000 bushels of potatoes, 1300 bushels of onions, 400 barrels of vinegar, 32,500 barrels of water, 1,000,000 staves, 260,00 feet of heading, 1000 tons of iron hoops, 520,000 pounds of copper sheathing and yellow metal, 2600 gallons of new rum and 1000 gallons of other liquors, besides many other articles in the same proportion. The advanced wages alone amounted to $130,000.

“The increasing cost of fitting out the vessels and the increased length of voyages required to obtain a cargo of oil, were some of the causes of the decline of the industry. The sperm whaling voyages had increased from two to four years, and it was practically abandoned as a separate business after it became necessary to make voyages of four, five and sometimes six years, and then seldom returning with a full cargo. The voyages becoming so extended, it became necessary to refit each season at some of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Honolulu became an important fitting-out port.

“The business of refitting becoming so important that it has been said, ‘The whaling fleet made Honolulu.’

“A number of enterprising merchants removed to that port from the United States and purchased and outfitted whaleships. The first whaler belonging to Honolulu being fitted in 1832 by Henry A. Pierce of New Bedford.”

Proceeding with the more particular description of fitting out a whaleship, let me say: The good ship has been moored at the wharf since her arrival from her last voyage, chafing at her moorings like an old race horse that has been returned to her stable, seemingly impatient at her restraint, till at last the owners decide to fit her out for another voyage, either for the sperm whale, or, may be, for the right whale of the Arctic.

The ship does not present an attractive appearance as she lies, practically dismantled, it being the custom to strip everything movable of her rigging and spars when she has finished her voyage. But what a change will be wrought in a few weeks, when she lies in the stream ready to sail, with sails flapping in the breeze and colors flying from every top.

The sailmakers are now busy in the great sail lofts, overhauling the rigging and sails belonging to the ship, inspecting every sail and rope, and repairing everything that is not considered strong enough to stand the strain which will come when the ship encounters the gales and hurricanes of the tropics.

One of the first and most important things to look to before sending the ship out is to see that her hull is sound. Her timbers and planking are thoroughly examined to see if there are any signs of decay. Sometimes holes are bored into her timbers, as they may be decayed inside, when to all appearances they are sound.

The method of placing the ship in a position to enable the carpenters and caulkers to repair her hull before the days of ship railways was to heave her down to the dock. This operation was accomplished by running heavy falls, or tackle, from her maintop to a heavy ring bolt fastened to the wharf, and heaving her down until she lay entirely out of water on one side, or, to use a nautical phrase, on her beam ends.

The ship lying in this position the workmen could, by using large float stages moored to the vessel, repair every part of the hull, the ship’s position being regulated by the tackle which held her down.

The caulkers now make her seams tight by forcing oakum into them with mallet and iron. When this is done the hull is covered with sheathing up to waterline, and the whole covered with sheet copper or yellow metal, a metal made especially for that purpose. If the ship is destined for a voyage into the Arctic Ocean, where she has to encounter heavy ice her bows must be reinforced with heavy oak plank, and an iron shoe on her fore foot, to protect her from the heavy blows of the huge ice blocks.

There were probably no stronger ships ever built than the old whaleships that sailed from New Bedford. They were built upon honor, as the saying is, from the best selected live oak timber that grew in our forests, and it was a common thing for these ships to remain in service for a term of 50 or 75 years, and even longer.

Among the very old vessels engaged in the whale fishery, I will mention the following:

  • The ship Maria was in commission 90 years.
  • The ship Rousseau was in commission 87 years.
  • The bark Triton was in commission 79 years.
  • Ship Herald was in commission 70 years.
  • Bark Midas was in commission 60 years.
  • Bark Mercury was in commission 57 years.
  • Bark Winslow was in commission 54 years.
  • Ship Ocean was in commission 75 years.
  • Ship Barclay was in commission 57 years.

Many others could be mentioned which were in active service 50 years or more. The ship Rousseau was, perhaps, the most prominent vessel in the history of our whalers, but the ship Maria had a remarkable career, possibly as romantic as the Rousseau, and deserves special notice.

The Maria was built by Ichabod Thomas on the North River, in Pembroke, Mass., in 1782, in the same yard in which the Beaver, one of the famous “Tea ships,” and the Bedford, of Nantucket, were built, the latter being the first ship to fly the United States flag in a foreign port. The Maria would probably have had that distinction instead of the Bedford had she been finished.

L. Vernon Briggs says in his History of Ship Building on North River: “The Bedford lay at Nantucket several years during the Revolutionary War, and in 1782 the Maria came, new, from Ichabod Thomas. She was not finished, and the Quaker merchants having private information that peace was near, and as the Maria could not be dispatched in time, they hauled down the Bedford and sent her to London.”

The Maria was owned many years by Samuel Rodman and his heirs. In 1856 Mr. Hardy Hitch, who, 64 years before, had assisted in making a suit of sails for her, was again employed in the same service.

The Maria was broken up in 1872 at Vancouver’s island, after 90 years of service, during which time she touched at nearly every seaport of the globe.

While the work of fitting the ship’s hull is going on, there are many men busy making ready other things that will be necessary for the coming voyage. The coopers are making huge casks to hold the whale oil, some of which are filled with the ship’s stores, such as clothing for the crew, hard bread, etc. Some are packed with staves and heads for other casks, to be put together as needed.

Referring to the hard bread, or hardtack, it was the custom of the owners to purchase the necessary quantity of flour and take it to the bakery and have it made into hard bread, instead of buying the bread outright from the baker.

Mr. Samuel Watson carried on a bakery of this kind many years in a building on Center Street, in New Bedford.

The shipwrights are putting the whaling gear, such as harpoons, lances, and spades for cutting in the whale, in order, and making new ones to take the place of those lost on the previous voyage.

In later years the bomb gun and lance have been important implements for killing the whale, and every whaleship carries a supply of them. The bomb gun is a heavy cast brass gun, weighing 22½ pounds, and is made to shoot the bomb into the whale. It is a very powerful and effective weapon. The bomb is a brass tube filled with powder, has a sharp pointed head, and is constructed so that it will not explode until in enters the whale. The old method of killing the whale was by throwing a sharp lance into a vital part, and required more skill to operate. A whaleship carrying four boats, carries three shoulder guns, seven darting guns and 330 lances. The modern Arctic steam whaler carries 10 or 12 shoulder guns and about 20 darting guns. The bomb gun was invented by Captain Eben Pierce of Fairhaven, and the first gun was made in Honolulu.

We must not forget the boatbuilder, who is now busy repairing the long whaleboats which are used in capturing the whale. Probably one or two new ones are needed to replace those lost, either by carried away by hurricanes or stove by an angry whale in his dying struggle.

A well-equipped whaleship usually carries five boats on her davits, and two or three spare ones on deck.

In the list of supplies mentioned by Starbuck required for the whaling vessels fitted out in the year 1858 were 450 whaleboats. Quite a fleet of small craft if assembled together.

The whaleboat deserves more than a passing notice, and a brief description of one and its equipment will be of interest. Quoting from Captain Davis, in Nimrod of the Sea: “It is the fruit of a century’s experience, and the sharpened sense and ingenuity of an inventive people, urged by the peril of the chase and the value of the prize. This paragon of a boat is 28 feet long, sharp and clean cut as a dolphin, bow and stern, swelling amidships to six feet, with a bottom round and buoyant. The gunwale amidships, 22 inches above the keel, rises with an accelerated curve to 37 inches at each end, and this rise of bow and stern, with the slipper-like upper form, gives it a duck-like capacity to top the coming waves, so that it will dryly ride when ordinary boats would fill.

“The boat is equipped with a line tub, with 300 fathoms of hemp line coiled in the same, a mast and sprit sail, and five oars. The harpoon and after oar 14 feet long, the tub and bow oar 16 feet long, and the midships 18 feet long, are so placed that the two shortest and one longest pull against the two 16 feet oars, which arrangement preserves the balance in the encounter when the boat is worked by four oars, the harpoon oar being apeak. The boat is steered by an oar 22 feet long.

“The gear of the boat consists of two live harpoons, or those in use; two or three spare irons, secured to the side of the boat, and two or three lances secured by cords in like positions. The sharp heads of all being protected by well-fitting sheaths. A hatchet and a sharp knife are placed in the bow box for cutting the line in case of emergency, a water keg, fire apparatus, candles, lantern, compass, bandages for wounds, waif flags on poles, a fluke spade, boat hook, and a dragging float completes the equipment of a whaleboat.”

The ship carpenters and caulkers having finished their work of repairing her hull, she is allowed to float on an even keel again and the riggers are busy alow and aloft, tarring and slushing the standing rigging, setting the topmasts, hoisting her spars and yards into place, bending on sails, reaving new sheets, splicing and lashing and making everything above decks strong and secure. Men are swinging at each mast, in their boson chairs, scraping and oiling the same, until they look like new sticks. On deck the painters are brightening up the bulwarks and the outside of the ship is shining with a fresh coat of black, except the false portholes, which are painted white, giving the ship the appearance of a formidable man-of-war.

I am told that the custom of painting portholes was originated when the oceans were infested with pirates and privateers. And many an old whaleman could relate thrilling tales of encounters with these bloodthirsty rovers.

Below decks the cabin and forecastle have been renovated and look quite inviting to the landsman who knows little of what a whaling voyage means. The ship now begins to look like a new craft just off the stocks, but there remains a great many things to do yet before she will be ready to set sail.

The cables and anchors must be overhauled, extra cables stowed away to be used in case she should break away from anchorage in a gale, spare yards or spars are lashed on deck, which may have to be brought into service as jury masts, as it sometimes happens that the ship loses some of her masts and spars in a tropical hurricane.

The try works, used for rendering the oil from the blubber, must be overhauled. These are large cast iron pots set in brick furnaces, and situated forward of the main hatch.

There is also a large copper tank attached to the works, which is used as a cooler for the oil, which is bailed into it and cooled before being run into the oil casks.

The supplies for the voyage are now being stowed away in the hold. Barrels of beef, pork, hard bread and numerous other things in the food line, also the water casks, oil casks and wood for the galley and try works. Some of this wood presents a peculiar appearance from its having been “a-whaling before.” It looks like a pile of greasy clubs as it lies on the dock, but if you should examine it closely you would fine some very fine pieces of wood, such as mahogany, rosewood, black walnut, etc., it having been obtained in foreign ports, wherever the ship happened to be when in need of a supply.

Every ship carries a medicine chest, which contains a supply of common remedies that will be needed, also bandages, splints, etc., for setting broken limbs. Every captain is apt to be called upon to act as surgeon, and many a serious and difficult operation has been performed by the captain of a whaleship on the high seas. A good supply of New England rum seems to have been the principal item of the medicine chest.

The stock of liquors in the medicine chest at the commencement of a voyage would be about as follows:

  • Ten gallons New England rum.
  • Two gallons Holland gin.
  • Two gallons brandy.
  • Two gallons port wine.

It would be impossible to enumerate in a paper of this length the articles required to fit out a vessel for a whaling voyage. In an outfitting book of a whaler sailing in 1865 over 600 items were entered.

Some of the items were:

  • 2475 barrels of casks for the oil.
  • 19 cords of wood.
  • Under the head of provisions were:
  • 134 barrels of beef.
  • 90 barrels of pork.
  • 90 barrels of flour, baked.
  • 70 barrels of flour, packed.
  • 1100 gallons of molasses.
  • 2 boxes of sugar.
  • 1000 pounds of dried apples.
  • 1050 pounds of butter.
  • 700 pounds of codfish.

Besides a supply of rice, peas, beans, corn, meal, etc.

Under the head of cabin stores we find tea, coffee, chocolate, spices, 300 hams, 100 bushels of potatoes, salt, pepper, essences, and in fact most of the necessary articles that go to make a comfortable living.

The ship also carried a complete set of carpenter’s tools. A large assortment of ship chandlery, comprising 133 articles, was carried. This included nearly everything in that line, from a fishhook to a grindstone; four of the latter were taken.

In this list are six muskets, 10 handcuffs, powder and balls, shot, etc., nails and rivets for repairing the boats, needles and thread, lanterns and pots and pans for the caboose.

Then we come to the naval stores, tar and rosin, tinware, crockery, copper ware, craft and blacksmith’s tools, iron hoops, boats and lumber to repair them with, paints, cordage, spare sails, stationery and sundries. The ship carried merchandise for trading with the natives. This included tobacco, calico, prints, ginghams, etc.

The average cost of fitting out a ship 40 years ago was about $20,000, depending on the amount of repairs required. The cost of fitting out a modern steam whaler for one season in the Arctic Ocean is about the same amount.

Perhaps there is a bit of humanity, in the shape of a small boy, stowed away among the casks, who will make his appearance when the ship is a safe distance from port.

Life stock, such as chickens and pigs, are sometimes included in the ship’s supplies, to be used as luxuries for the officers’ mess.

Everything being fitted, the decks are cleared and scrubbed, “holy-stoned,” the sailors would say, as this work is usually done on Sunday, when at sea.

The noble ship is now fitted out complete, so far as the riggers, carpenters, caulkers and painters are able to make her, but she still waits for a master and crew, to take her on her voyage. The owners or agents have not been idle during the fitting out, and have shipped a captain and crew, and the day of sailing is waited for anxiously by everyone interested in the ship.

The officers and crew of a whaleship are shipped on what is called a lay, that is, they receive at the end of the voyage a certain percent of the catch of oil, according to their stations.

In the year 1807, on a whaler sailing from Nantucket, carrying 21 men, the shares were as follows:

Captain, 1/18; first mate, 1/27; second mate, 1/37; two end men (probably boatsteerers), 1/48 each; five men 1/75 each; cooper, 1/60; boy, 1/120; five black men, 1/80 each, one black man, 1/80 on 400 barrels; one black man, 1/90; one black man, 1/85; one black man, 1/90 on all but 400 barrels.

The vessel made a two year voyage, and the catch amounted to $37,661.20. The crew’s share amounted to $24,252.74. The boy’s share amounted to $310, but probably the slop chest absorbed a large percentage of that. Cases have been known where a boy would return from his first voyage in debt to the ship, owing to his patronizing the slop chest too extensively.

To those who may not understand the significance of the slop chest, I will explain that the ship carried certain supplies that were needed by the crew, such as clothing, tobacco, etc., and sold them to the men as they required them, the same being charged against their share of the voyage.

In more recent years the lays were:

Captain, 1/14; first mate, 1/25; second mate, 1/32; third mate, 1/47; fourth mate, 1/52; boatsteerers, 1/75; coopers, 1/72; cook, 1/150; able seamen, 1/140; green hands, 1/175; boy, 1/250.

The crew is worthy of notice for a moment. It is made up of many different grades of character, from a minister of the Gospel, who is going on a voyage, hoping to repair his broken health, to the criminal, who wishes to get away from the clutches of the law. There are also many nations represented in the crew, the Brava Portuguese predominating in later years.

The sailing day being set, the ship hauls out into the stream, and with flags flying she presents a gala appearance as she rides gracefully at anchor. Ashore there are many anxious hearts beating, dreading the approaching day when husbands and brothers must depart from the loved ones. The day arrives, and all is bustle and hurry getting the last things aboard before sailing.

In the meantime the ship has dropped down below the fort, with the crew aboard, a necessary precaution to prevent desertion, as some of the men have repented their action already and would gladly give up the voyage if possible.

The tug is ready to take the officers of the ship and their friends who wish to see them off, aboard, and the last and one might say the most important article of the ship’s outfit is the chronometer, which the captain carries carefully in his hand, now goes aboard, and she is ready to hoist anchor and take her departure.

The pilot takes her down the bay and out beyond the islands, and with many a handshake and “God speed the voyage,” the friends go over the side to the tug boat, and the good ship sails on, perhaps, to return laden with wealth, and perhaps, to leave her bones to bleach on some foreign shore.

Captain Seth Pope

By James L. Gillingham

“Nearly ten years had passed since the Mayflower had dropped anchor under the ice of Cape Cod, when on May 30th, 1630, the good ship Mary and John, ended at Hull the voyage which began at Plymouth, England, on March 20th previous. Among the voyagers was a young man, of the age of 22 years, Thomas Pope. He, with many of his fellow colonists in June following settled in Dorchester.

“From the Plymouth Colony records we learn that in the years of 1633 and 1634 a tax of nine shillings was levied upon him as a resident of New Plymouth. Oct. 6, 1636, by the court of assistants, to the general court, there were five acres of land appointed to him, ‘at the fishing point next Slowly field;’ and by this court he was authorized to build a dwelling house upon his land, ‘provided he procure sufficient security with him, to be bound in fifty pounds bond for his good behavior in the said house or family.’

“This provision mighty seem uncalled for from this young bachelor, but the aggressive, impetuous and resistive characteristics he developed in after life make it appear to have been a wise precaution timely exercised. Undaunted, unremitting efforts are traits he has transmitted to his posterity.

“The five acres proving too small a dooryard for the enterprising colonist, he and his two companions at the fishing point were authorized by this court in November following to divide the entire land at that place equally between themselves.

“That he was a man of courage and seeking adventure is shown by the fact that he was one of the forty ‘souldiers’ whose names were reported to the general court in June, 1637, as volunteering to go with Lieutenant William Holmes, as leader, and Thomas Prence as the member of the council of war, to the assistance of the Massachusetts Bay colony, and the colony of Connecticut, in their was against the Pequin (Pequot) Indians.

Before starting on that service he was married by Governor Edward Winslow to Anne Fallowell, daughter of Gabriel and Catherine Fallowell, at New Plymouth on July 28, 1637. A daughter, Hannah, was born to them in 1639. His wife, Anne, dying in 1640, he sold his homestead at the fishing point next Slowly field to George Bonam on Aug. 29, 1640, for 22 pounds sterling, to be paid in Indian and English corn.

“The court of assistants on Nov. 2, 1640, granted to him five acres of meadow towards Gavans Colebrook meadow, in the ‘South meadows,’ towards Agawam. At an earlier general court it had been decreed that the boundaries of New Plymouth extended on the south to Sandwich and on the west to the ‘South meadows.’

“Thomas Pope, while a man often at strife with his neighbors, and restive under the authority of others, was a man of standing in New Plymouth, and efficient in the public service.

“At the general court on June 4, 1645, he was chosen one of the two constables of New Plymouth.

“On May 29, 1646, he married for his second wife, Sarah Jenney, daughter of John and Sarah Jenney of New Plymouth.

“To them was born, at New Plymouth, on Jan. 13, 1648, a son, Seth Pope. This eldest son of Thomas is the Captain Seth Pope of Dartmouth. Three other sons and three daughters were later born to them. Two of these children met death at the hands of the Indians at Dartmouth in 1675.

“Thomas Pope, from the birth of Seth, until after June, 1670, evidently remained a resident of New Plymouth, and had various connections with the general court there.

“In June, 1647, for slandering James Cole, he settled the suit by payment of part of the costs.

“In August, 1648, he was one of the 12 men to hold the inquest on the body of the child of Allis Bishop, which she had killed.

“In June, 1651, he was elected one of the two highway surveyors of New Plymouth, and was re-elected to that office in 1652. In July of that year he served on the inquest on the body of Robert Wille or Willis. In October, 1656, he served on the inquest on the body of Titus Waymouth, who had injudiciously imbibed too much cider. In June, 1658, he was one of the five referees to establish a division line between lands of two of his neighbors.

“In March, 1659, he was required to give bonds of twenty pounds for good behavior for one year. His own boundary line was in doubt, so was his temper over the dispute.

“During the next August the court of assistants appointed three referees to settle the dispute of the boundaries between the lands of Thomas Pope and William Shirtlife, at Strawberry Hill, or Reed Pond, in New Plymouth, his homestead.

“In October, 1659, he is fined ten shillings ‘for abusive carriages’ at the mill at New Plymouth towards Thomas Lettice. His controversies with his neighbors caused him to seek another place of habitation, with his increasing family.

“In June, 1662, he was one of the 24 ancient freemen, and servants, authorized by the general court, if Saconett Neck could not be purchased from the Indians, to select some other undisposed of place for their accommodation. Wills of deceased persons were obscure in intent and difficult of interpretation in those days, as well as at the present, and as one of the executers of his mother-in-law’s, Mistress Sarah Jenney’s will, in June, 1663, the advice of the general court was sought as to whom a young colt belonged, one of the three legatees being dead. This momentous question was not settled by the governor and his assistants and the deputies for three years. Then it was decided that the first horse found, whether mare of colt, belonged to the surviving legatees, one of whom was his daughter, Susannah.

“In December, 1663, he was again involved in a controversy with his neighbor, Gyles Richard Sr., in regard to a disputed boundary line between their lands; and in the excess of his zeal to protect his rights and secure his property he wrestles with Gyles, strikes the wife of Gyles and carries off the wood lying at their door. His fine is only three shillings and four pence; he is ordered to return the wood, and to give bond of twenty pounds for good behavior for three months.

“In February, 1665, the court appoints three referees to settle the disputed boundary lines between his lands and those of Gyles Richard and John Barnes, by establishing new bounds in place of the lost ancient bounds.

“Between Pope and Barnes there was a cartway and each claimed the right to the sole use of the land, and the children playing in the way had been driven out. The complaint against him for trespass was disposed of by the decree that he should go no more through the land of Barnes.

“In June, 1668, he was one of the jury who found Nathaniel Soule guilty of the ‘telling of a pniscious lye.’ The fine for such a misdemeanor was ten shillings.

“In October, 1668, he had caused a horse of Richard Willis to be attached, and the horse had promptly and mysteriously disappeared. For three years this controversy held the attention of the general court. Finally it was decreed that if anybody could be found who could show a better title to the horse, when it too had been found, then the horse was not to be restored to Mr. Willis.

“The culmination of his troubles at New Plymouth, came when in June, 1670, he was fined ten shillings ‘for vilifying the ministry.’ Freedom of speech and action for him must be found elsewhere, so he turned his face toward the setting sun, and came to Dartmouth.

“The town of Dartmouth had been incorporated as a township in 1664. The lands within the township had been purchased from Wesamequen and Wamsutta by their deed of Nov. 29, 1652. Evidently the negotiations for this purchase had been pending for some time, as persons in whose interest the purchase was made at New Plymouth on March 7, 1652, executed an agreement as to how many shares the owners of the lands should have therein, and who should be the owner of each share.

“Local historians have differed in establishing the time the ancestor of the Pope family came to dwell in this part of the colony, and the location of the homesteads of his descendants.

“In this paper I shall but briefly refer to but five generations in direct line of succession from Thomas Pope.

“I find no authority for the statement that Thomas Pope came to Dartmouth earlier than the year 1670, nor that he was the first white man who made his habitation in that portion of Dartmouth now known as Fairhaven.

“At the time of the purchase of the lands from the Indians, in 16562, the region adjoining the river was known at New Plymouth as Cushenah and Acushenah.

“In 1659 John Cooke and his family left New Plymouth for settlement on the new purchase.

“In October, 1660, the general court decreed that ‘Cushenah is required to pay by rate for common charges the sum of £1 1s.’ That there was a settlement at Cushenah in 1660 is evident from the vote passed at that session, that ‘Captain Willett is to be sent unto to put those that have lands at Sowansett into some way for the levying and paying of their rates.’ ‘The like to Arthur Hathaway and Sarjeant Shaw, for theirs att Cushenah.’

“In 1662 Samuel Jenney was appointed a constable at Acushenah, and in 1663 William Spooner was appointed the constable. In June, 1663, the general court decreed: ‘It is ordered by the court that a rate * * * * be levied on the several towns of this jurisdiction for the defraying of necessary charges of the colonies * * * * * the neighborhood at Acushenah 10s.’

“After the incorporation in 1664 constables were regularly chosen, John Russell was the deputy to the general court at New Plymouth in 1665, and John Cooke was deputy from 1666.

“In 1666 the inhabitants were authorized to appropriate the fine of £5 due from five Indians, and apply it to the cost of a bridge. In 1667 the first selectmen of the town were chosen, John Russell, Samuel Hicks and Arthur Hathaway, and the first collector of taxes, Samuel Hicks.

“In April of 1667 the court ordered that, ‘For Dartmouth, Sarjeant James Shaw to exercise the inhabitants in arms till the next June court, and that then the town are to present some to the court to be settled in office, according to order; and that the said Sarjeant Shaw advise with John Cooke, Samuel Hicks and John Russell, in case of any danger presenting for the best defense of the place in such respect, and to see how men are provided with arms and ammunition, and to return the defects to the said court.’

“At the June session John Cooke was appointed to solemnize marriage and to administer oaths to witnesses; and later in the session he was further empowered to issue warrants for attachment of property or summons of persons, returnable to the general court, and also to issue subpoena to witnesses. Giving him the powers of a clerk of our inferior courts of today, but not having the right of trial of any cause.

“When Thomas Pope arrived at Dartmouth he must have found a settlement of a considerable number of persons, although their dwellings were widely scattered. It is probable that the removal of the parent from New Plymouth caused the son, Seth Pope to likewise try his fortunes in a new community. At this time he had not acquired those traits of industry and thrift which he later developed. Tradition says that he appeared at Sandwich as a peddler, but the authorities, fearing that he might become a public charge, requested his removal to some other locality. When and where he was married to his first wife, Deborah, is not known. Probably at Dartmouth and about the year 1673. The tradition further says that in his indignation with the authorities at Sandwich, on leaving that settlement he declared that he would return and buy a goodly portion of the township. This awakened ambition he was able to accomplish thirty years later.

“He then came to Dartmouth, and began a career of industry and thrift that soon made him a leading merchant, an honored representative and the first trial magistrate in Dartmouth.

“Neither Thomas Pope, nor his son, Seth Pope, were among the original shareholders of the land purchased from Wesamequen.

“When he came to Dartmouth it was probable that he went to the home of his father, which was located west of the present Sconticut Neck Road and south of the present Washington Street. Here had been built a log house and a grist mill.

“In the records of the proprietors of the Dartmouth land Seth Pope acquired interests in the original shares.

“One of the original owners of a share was ‘Mr. Jenney,’ as copied in the records at our local registry of deeds, and ‘Mistress Jenney,’ as it appears in other records. She was the mother-in-law of Thomas Pope, and as her two sons, Samuel Jenney and John Jenney, were early settlers in Dartmouth, and as Robert Bartlett, also one of the original shareholders, who had married Hannah, the eldest daughter of Thomas Pope, had also settled in Dartmouth, it is probable that the various relatives of Seth Pope had built their homes at no great distance from each other, this precaution being necessary because of the hostility of the Indians at this period. This is evident from the fact that in July, 1675, Susannah, the second daughter of Thomas Pope, who had married Jacob Mitchell, with her brother John, the third son of Thomas Pope, and her husband, were killed by the Indians near the present southwest corner of Spring and Walnut Streets, in Fairhaven, while they were trying to reach Cooke’s garrison from their home in the east part of the town. The layout of the road down Sconticut Neck in March 30, 1730, locates the residence of Seth Pope’s homestead as being near the present northwest corner of Washington Street and the county road leading northward to Dahls corner. And the layout of that part of the present Spring Street, each of Rotch Street, to the same County road, made March 7, 1736, confirms this location.

“The dwellings in Dartmouth were destroyed by the Indians in 1675, and Seth Pope, with his wife and other relatives, were driven to seek shelter, probably in New Plymouth, where Thomas Pope still owned is dwelling at Strawberry Hill, or Reeds Pond. There John, the eldest son of Seth Pope, was born Oct. 23, 1675.

“The first reference to Seth Pope in the Plymouth Colony records is in March, 1677, when he was one of the jury of twelve men to try three Indians for the murder of John Knowles, John Tisdale St., and Samuel Attkins. This jury returned a verdict that the evidence was ‘very suspicious’ against the first two Indians named in the indictment, but that against the third there was no evidence. The court, evidently believing that an absent Indian was preferable to a present one, sentenced all three to be sent out of the country.

“It was probably about the year 1677 that Seth Pope built his homestead at the location I have described and began the active life he ever after led in the town of Dartmouth. September 1, 1677 his son Thomas was born.

“The general court in March 1679 allowed to Seth Pope seven shillings to be demanded of some Indians for expense of time in their behalf, in returning guns.

“In June 1680 Seth Pope was a member, from Dartmouth, of the grand inquest of 25 to serve at the general court of that year.

“Thomas Pope died, sometime between July 9th, the date of his will, and November 2nd, 1683, the date of the bond of Isaac Pope and Seth Pope as administrators of his estate. By the will of Thomas the homestead of the deceased was devised to the youngest son Isaac, and comprised about one hundred and seventy acres, and in its area was included the older and central part of the present town of Fairhaven, from the railroad on the south to Bryant Avenue on the east and Bridge Street on the north. By this will Seth Pope received ten shillings.

“In colonial days a representative form of town government prevailed. The general court at New Plymouth was the source of authority to the townships.

“In June 1685 Seth Pope was elected a selectman of Dartmouth. He was re-elected a selectman in 1686, and in this year he was appointed by the general court a lieutenant of the military force of Dartmouth, and took the oath of fidelity. In the records of the general court for 1689 he is first referred to as ‘Captain Seth Pope,’ when he served in the general court as a deputy from Dartmouth. He was re-elected a selectman of Dartmouth for 1689.

“Evidently Captain Pope saw service under Captain Church during the Indian troubles of that time. At the August session in 1689 of the general court, three commissioners were chosen as a council of war. Certain instructions to the colonists were adopted. Among them may be noted the following:

“’4. That such due encouragement may be given to soldiers, that if it may be there may be enough raised to go voluntarily, without such encouragement to be six shillings per week, money or monies value, for each private soldier and eight or ten pound per head to one company, or soldiers, for every fighting man of the enemy, whose scalp shall be brought in to such person or officer as shall be appointed to take notice or knowledge thereof, and also to have all the persons as they shall take & captivate, and all portable plunder divided amongst them. And if any soldier of ours shall be maimed in said war, and thereby disabled to maintain themselves, he or they to be provided for, relieved & maintained in such capacity as he or they lived in before concerned in said war, and also to have victuals and ammunition allowed while upon the expedition.

“’7. That care be forthwith taken to engage the Mowhawke Indians with us against our said enemies by sending some meet person to them with a present, and to treat with them in order thereto.’

“By this general court it was further:

“’Ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that if any person English or Indian apprehend and bring before authority any man that is an Indian enemy, he shall have ten pounds for a reward if he bring him alive, and five pounds if killed, provided it be evident it be an enemies Indian.’

“’Any English or Indian notifying any military or civil officer of plot or conspiracy of Indians against English to receive ten pounds reward, if English or freeman, if servant to be freed. The military officers of each town to encourage English or Indian to volunteer to go out under command of Captain Church.’

“In 1689 Seth Pope was a deputy from Dartmouth to the general court at New Plymouth. Here he gave evidence of having inherited the independence and defiance of his parent when he considered his rights infringed. The record of the session held December 25, 1689, shows that he was present at the session, and that a vote was passed that he, with nine other deputies, who had been fined twenty shillings each ‘for not appearing and attending said court, or disorderly departing therefrom,’ be remitted the fine, ‘it being the first offence in that kind.’

“He must have become again offended at the acts of the court, for the record of the session also contains the statement that Seth Pope, and three others, are fined twenty shillings each ‘for their disorderly departing from this general court.’ The record has attached the endorsement, ‘all released except Mr. Cushing, May 20th, 1690.’

“At the May, 1690, session of the general court, Captain Seth Pope is chosen one of the three associate magistrates for the county of Bristol. He was a deputy from Dartmouth to this session and was re-elected for the session of 1691.

“An order passed June 5, 1690, reads:

“’Ordered by this court, that after this year the associate or county magistrates, be chosen by the freemen of the several counties.’

“At this June session he was re-elected associate, or county magistrate, for ‘this present year, for the county of Bristol.’

“It was also ‘Ordered, that the several associate, or count magistrates, meet at their several county towns, to be sworn, at such time as they shall be warned by orders from the magistrates of the several counties. At which time they are to hear and determine according to law any criminals, and do any other thing within the power of a count court except trying of actions.’

“’Ordered, that every of said associates, or county magistrates, have the power of a magistrate within their respective counties.’

“Seth Pope had purchased parts of the shares of original proprietors of Dartmouth lands, and the session of the general court of 1685 and 1686 had to consider petitions for partition of these lands brought by William Wood and others against Seth Pope, John Cooke, and others. The plaintiffs were not-suited in each instance, and on the second petition were required to pay costs of 32 shillings.

“These suits evidently led to the giving of the deed of William Bradford to Seth Pope and 55 others, dated Nov. 13, 1694, to confirm the title of the original proprietors and their successors in title to the lands of Dartmouth. This is the first deed in which Seth Pope is a grantee which is recorded in the land records of the north district of this county, of land located within the bounds of Dartmouth, now Fairhaven.

“In 1691 he served on a jury to determine an important question relating to the boundaries of the town of Middlebury.

“After the union of the colonies of New Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay in 1692, the former office of county magistrate was filled by the appointment of the governor, and the magistrate was called a justice of the peace. He was appointed to this office by Governor William Phipps, May 27, 1692, and his commission was renewed by Governor Joseph Dudley, Nov. 8, 1707; it was also renewed on Jan. 25, 1709, and Dec. 10, 1715, his last appointment to that office being by Governor Samuel Shute on Nov. 12, 1717.

“He was again elected a selectman of Dartmouth in the years 1699, 1702, and 1705.

“Following the cessation of the wars with the Indians, the township struggled under a heavy tax for the support of the united colonies, and in June, 1695, Captain Seth Pope was sent on behalf of the town to appear before the general court at Boston to urge a reduction in the rate levied on Dartmouth.

“After the deed of William Bradford to the proprietors of Dartmouth lands in 1694 he acquired title to large areas of land, particularly in the portions now Fairhaven and Acushnet, and by various exchanges of lands enlarged the areas of land he already owned, particularly adjoining his homestead.

“Among these deeds is one from his brother, Isaac Pope, dated March 13, 1711, of ‘one half of acre lying and being by Coshenet River and Herring River on which stands a warehouse in Dartmouth, with a convenient cartway down to it.’

“Herring River, on the Acushnet River, was the now obliterated mill pond, east of Main Street, in Fairhaven. For this conveyance he deeded to Isaac Pope 35 acres out of the 800 acres he had received, as a shareholder in the Dartmouth lands, in the partial division that had been made of those lands.

“Another of these deeds conveyed to him from Georg and Benny Shaw, from the share of their grandfather, John Shaw, dated Feb. 27, 1694, of ‘fifty acres of said upland and seven acres of meadow being already laid out at a place called Wissquamcusset, near the head of Sconticut Neck in the township of Dartmouth.’

“Between this last lot and his homestead there was conveyed to him by Thomas Hathaway, Nov. 11, 1696, ‘thirty-two acres of upland and one and one quarter acres of meadow adjoining unto the foot of it, the same land adjoining unto and lyeth between the home lot of the said Seth Pope and some other of his lands on the southerly side of his home lot.’

“Seth Pope did not confine his ventures in business to the land. He owned shares in various vessels which carried on a profitable coastwise trade. In 1683 he owned a part of the sloop Hopewell, which was commanded by his son Thomas in 1702, and in 1790 was part owner of the sloop Joann and Thankful.

“Having become one of the largest owners of land in Dartmouth, and one of its wealthiest citizens, he puts into effect his decision to own a valuable part of the town of Sandwich.

“About 1790 he purchases a farm in Sandwich for his eldest son, John, upon which he lived with his family. Later he becomes the owner of numerous other valuable properties in the town.

“His wife, Deborah, died in February, 1711. The date of his second marriage is not known, but is prior to April 1, 1720, the date of his will, in which his wife is named, ‘Rebecca.’

“Having lived a life of honorable and active public service and of successful private enterprise, he died at his home in Dartmouth on March 17, 1727.

“His will and the codicil gave to the son John the land and dwelling house he occupied in Sandwich, together with other large tracts of land in that township and elsewhere; John dying November 18, 1725, by the codicil dated Feb. 18, of the legal year of 1725, or Feb. 18, 1726, of the calendar year, the devises to John were given to the members of his family.

“To his third son, Seth, he gave the land and dwelling house he occupied in Sandwich, with the grist and fulling mill, and their lands, together with other large tracts of land, in that township, during his life, with reversion to his heirs.

“To Elnathan, the fourth son, he gives the Spring Brook farm, of 546 acres, at Perrys Hill, and several tracts of land on Sconticut Neck, including the place called ‘Winsegunsett,’ or today ‘Winchigansett.’ To the fifth and youngest son, Lemuel, he gives ‘my homestead on which I now dwell and which is now in my possession and occupation,’ this containing 307 acres, and one-half of the wharf and warehouse, and other lots of land in Dartmouth. The other half of the wharf and warehouse going to his four daughters.

“He was not unmindful of his spiritual advisor, leaving him ten pounds per year for two years.

“His Negro boy, Robin, was left to assist his widow, Rebecca.

“The three-eighths part of the grist mill and saw mill which he owned at Acushnet was given in different shares to two of his daughters.

“The inventory of his estate, appraised at Dartmouth, May 12, 1727, including three Negro and four mulatto slaves, showed personal estate of 1930 pounds, approximately of $9300.–, and the real estate in the county of Bristol of 10,070 pounds, with other real estate in the county of Barnstable of 3463 pounds, approximately of $65,700.–, a total estimated value of over $75.000.–; and the fears of the officials of Sandwich of his becoming a public charge failed of realization.

“In the old burying round at Acushnet, a little west of the Parting Ways, is an ancient monument with the inscription, ‘Here lyes buried ye body of Seth Pope, of Dartmouth, who died March ye 17th, 1727, in the 79th year of his age.’

“The martial spirit of Thomas Pope, and of his son, Captain Seth Pope, was inherited by the third generation, Captain Lemuel Pope, who was born in Dartmouth, Feb. 21, 1696, died there May 23, 1771, aged 75 years. He was a captain of militia. Inheriting a large portion of his father’s estate, industrious and successful, he was a man of influence, and prominent in the public affairs of the town. He married Feb. 4, 1719, Elizabeth, daughter of Ephraim Hunt of Dartmouth, and to them were born twelve children. The ninth child, Luen, inherited the homestead formerly of Captain Seth Pope, and he retained it until 1778, when it was conveyed to John Alden. The ancient dwelling is gone, but the land is now owned by Seth Alden, a descendant of John Alden.

“The eldest son of Lemuel Pope was Seth Pope. Born March 4, 1720. The story of his life, especially during the Revolutionary struggles, has in it more romance than that of his ancestor the Captain Seth Pope of Indian War times. He was a leading man, not only at home, but in the colony, both in civil and military affairs. At one time he was a captain, later commissioned a colonel. Chosen by his townsmen as one of the committee to consider the action which should be taken by the colonists relative to the British taxation; the report, accepted by the town, recommended non-importation or goods from Great Britain, and advising the raising of funds in aid of the colonial congress; in 1775 being chosen a member of the committee of safety; engaging in the battle of White Plains; held a prisoner in the prison ship, where Fort Green now is located in the harbor near New York; he set an example of patriotism, which his second son, Nathaniel Pope, emulated on May 14, 1775, as commander of the first successful provincial naval expedition of the Revolution, when two provincial vessels were recaptured from the British sloop of war, Falcon, in Buzzards Bay.

“The hatred of a Tory neighbor for the patriotism of Colonel Pope caused his homestead, at Acushnet, to be burned by the British in their memorable march of pillage and destruction from Clarks Neck in New Bedford to Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven in 1778.

“Colonel Seth Pope on July 30, 1741, married Abigail Church. To them were born six children. To his son Nathaniel, who married Mary Barstow, of Mattapoisett, Oct. 14, 1790, were born six children; and some of the descendants of his sons, Nathaniel and Wilson Pope, and of his daughter, Lucy Barstow Fish, are today honored citizens of Fairhaven.


At the conclusion of his address, Mr. Gillingham said he had the pleasant duty of making a presentation, in behalf of Miss Alice Fish, daughter of Mrs. Lucy Barstow Fish. Mr. Gillingham then presented to the society the ancient cradle in which five generations of the Pope family have been rocked. It was built in 1680 by Captain Seth Pope, for his children. It was inherited by Lemuel Pope, then Colonel Seth Pope, Nathaniel Pope, Mrs. Lucy Fish, and last by Miss Alice Fish.

President Crapo said that the gift was received with many thanks to the donor, and would be treasured as one of the society’s most precious and valued relics.

Last modified: May 26, 2014