OLD DARTMOUTH HISTORICAL SKETCH
Being the proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, held in the rooms of the Society, on December 15, 1904.
BENJAMIN CRANE AND OLD DARTMOUTH SURVEYS
by Alexander McL. Goodspeed
FRIENDS HERE AND HEREAWAY
by Mrs. Mary Jane Howland Taber
[Note.—The "Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches" will be published by the society quarterly and may be purchased for ten cents each on application to the Secretary and also at Hutchinson's Book Store.]
New Bedford, Massachusetts
December 15, 1904
The seventh regular meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was held in the rooms of the society, December 15, 1904, at 8 o'clock, the president, Mr. Crapo, presiding.
In introducing Mr. Alexander McL. Goodspeed, Mr. Crapo said:
From the earliest days the boundary lines which separate tribes and communities and mark the limits of individual holdings, have been interesting subjects of research and inquiry. It is the desire and ambition of men to acquire exclusive ownership of parts of the earth's surface. In feudal days prominence and power went with the possession of large areas. In all ages landed proprietors have been men of mark.
The disputes concerning boundaries have been attended with angry contentions and bitter warfare. The land surveyor was the umpire in peaceful settlements. His work was accepted and preserved. The charts made by him of ancestral acres enabled succeeding generations to secure accurate divisions and subdivisions. These land surveyors were men of learning. They ranked with the educated men in their communities.
Among the prominent names in the early history of Dartmouth is that of Benjamin Crane, land surveyor. Much of his work has been preserved and is today referred to and consulted in litigations concerning titles.
There is no locality which furnishes a study of titles and boundaries more interesting and intricate than old Dartmouth and the adjacent region. The grant from the Indians was a vague one. It had only one clearly defined boundary line–the thirteen miles "bordering the sea." The further description was limited to "eight miles inland" without courses or bounds. But it mattered little in those days, when land was plenty and settlers few. When new comers entered the territory, however, came the necessity for more accurate and positive descriptions.
No one can better explain the evolution from the rude surveys of former days to the precision and accuracy of modern methods, than our fellow member, Mr. Goodspeed, who will now address you upon "Benjamin Crane and the Old Dartmouth Surveys."
Benjamin Crane and Old Dartmouth Surveys
By Alexander McL. Goodspeed
In attempting a brief sketch of the life and work of Benjamin Crane, the first surveyor employed by the Dartmouth Proprietors who has left a record of any considerable importance, the difficulty of making such sketch interesting is very apparent. Courses and distances and the difference in the variation of the magnetic needle and of the standards of measurement at different dates and in different localities, while they have a peculiar fascination for some are entirely devoid of interest to others. Yet the results of all investigations along these lines, if reliable and accurate, are valuable and a discussion of these subjects is, to some extent, necessary in an analysis of the work done by Crane from 1710 to 1721 while he was surveyor for the proprietors.
But before entering upon this branch of our subject we will recount briefly the incidents in his life which are well authenticated of which there are existing [contemporaneous] records. So far as appears there are few traditions of the man which can be said to be at all reliable and it is to be regretted that there is so little to be found recorded in regard to him.
Benjamin Crane was born in the year 1656. He was the eldest son of Henry Crane of Milton, Mass., a well to do iron worker and a man of some prominence in the community in which he lived. The first incident in the life of Crane of which there appears to be any record is the following copied from an original paper on file with the Massachusetts Archives:
"To the honored Counsell now siting in boston. In obedience to a warrant reseved from the honoured major Clarke bearing deate the 19 of the 9 mo 75 for the takeing a list of the names and the Dlivring of thier armes amonition and cloathing of those Souldiers last appoynted for the service of Countrey we have accordingly called them together and we find them suffitiently provided with amonition and cloathing tow of them well fitted with firelock guns: the other tow namely Joseph Tucker hath a matchlocke gun and Benjamin Crain hath no gun his gun being all redy prest away from him for the countries seruis: the names of those souldiers last apoynted for the countries seruis are as followeth viz John fenno Daniel henshaw Joseph Tucker Benjamin Crain.
Milton the 23 day Nath Badcock Ser
of the 10th mo 1675 Thomas Vose"
Although we have no authentic information of the boyhood and youth of this remarkable man up to the age of eighteen years when in 1675 we find him starting into active life as a youthful soldier into active life as a youthful soldier in what is known as King Philip's War we may safely assume that he had what was, for those times and in this western wilderness, a good education and that his early training well fitted him for the work he afterwards accomplished.
His career as a soldier appears to have been short. He was a member of Captain Isaac Johnson's company and was present at the sanguinary fight with the Indians at the Narragansett Swamp December 19, 1675, and was desperately wounded. The attack over the tree into the Indian fort was led by Captain Johnson who was killed as he advanced with his company and no doubt Crane was in the thickest of the fight which finally resulted in what a recent writer has styled "one of the most glorious victories ever achieved in our history."
We find in Drakes Indian Chronicle and from other sources that Benjamin Crane and John Lovell with many others were at the house of Mr. Robert Carr January 6, 1675-6 and that Lovell acted as nurse. This was on the island of Rhode Island, where many of the wounded were carried after the fight and where, the ancient chronicles record, they received every attention and excellent care, some of them for a long time. We find no further evidence, however, that he served in the army after recovering from his wounds. The account books of John Hull the treasurer of the colony during King Philip's War, now in the possession of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, show a credit Aug. 4, 1677, to "Ben Crane" of £3 14s, 6d, but his name is not in any list of soldiers subsequent to December 10, 1676, when it appears in the list of members of Captain Johnson's company now on file with the Massachusetts Archives. Whether or not he remained in this vicinity, in Rhode Island, or returned to his native town of Milton is not quite clear. He appears, however, to have been a citizen of Milton and rated there from 1683 to 1693, to have been admitted into full communion of the church at Milton, of which the Rev. Peter Thacher was pastor February 21, 1691-2, and to have resided there until he removed to Taunton, where his brother, John Crane, two years his junior, who married Hannah Leonard of Taunton, December 13, 1686, had preceded him and where, February 8, , they together purchased a tract of land of 300 acres in extent in that part of Taunton now known as Berkley, extending from the Taunton Great River on the west to the highway from Taunton to Freetown on the east. A partition of this land was made by the brothers in 1705 and the bound stone which was then set up on the division line between the land set off to Benjamin and that of his brother John still stands today just west of the old road to Freetown. On its southerly face is cut in the quaint characters of long ago the inscription: B C-1705; and on the northerly face: J C-170. The figure 5 is missing from the north face, as the edge of the stone has been broken off, carrying this figure with it.
Both of these men were carpenters, and as late as 1710 Benjamin Crane is referred to in deeds as Benjamin Crane of Taunton, carpenter, though Nov. 19, 1702, he signs a layout of lands in Taunton as surveyor. Both of these men were also surveyors and both were employed to some extent in surveys of lands in Taunton before Benjamin came to Dartmouth, Oct. 10, 1710, an event which he records in his field book as follows: "The accompt of my work at Dartmouth from 2d Octr 1710 on which day I went from Taunton to sd Dartmouth and surveyed Wm Sowls place."
Prior to this, July 11, 1710, Mr. Jacob Thompson of Middleboro and Mr. Benj. Crane of Taunton were "Invited & Improved" by the Court of General Sessions "as sirueighers" to lay out Dartmouth lands and "John Reed Junr, of Freetown William Manchester of Tiverton peter Blackenmore & (******) Hammond of Rochester or any two of them" were "Improved" to assist in the work "so as every proprietor may have according to his just due," as the record reads. An entry in the records of the Court of Quarters Sessions Jan. 19, 1710-11, shows an appointment of Benjamin Hammond and Benjamin Dexter as assistants in the laying out of Dartmouth lands. It does not appear that Mr. Thompson or any other of the above appointees except Crane, Hammond and Manchester took any active part in these surveys. Mr. Crane had full charge of this work up to a short time prior to his death, which occurred in Dighton, now Berkley, Oct. 13, 1721. The latest entry appearing in the field books in Cranes's handwriting is in book A, is dated July 28, 1721, and is a layout of land for "Thom briggs" at the head of Quannins cedar swamp.
Benjamin Hammond, who succeeded Crane and who was chosen surveyor by the proprietors June 27, 1723, a year and eight months after Crane's death, and William Manchester were his assistants.
These proprietors were originally 37 in number, to whom was granted by Wamsutta a tract of land described as "all the tracts or tract of Land Lying three miles Eastward from a Riuer Called Cushnett, to a certain harbor Called Acoaksett to a fllat Rock on the westward side of the sd Harbor and whereas the said Harbour divideth itself into seureral branches, the Westermmost arm to be the bound" * * * * * "and from the sea upward to Go so high that the English may not be anoyed by the hunting of the Indians in any sort of their Cattle."
The proprietors named in this deed were Mr. William Bradford, Captain Standish, Thomas Southworth, John Winslow, John Cook and their Associates. There appear to have been thirty-five shares, two shares being divided between two individuals each. This deed is dated November 29, 1652. Later comers were purchasers and there were many subdivisions of shares to these new purchasers.
June 8, 1664, Acushena, Ponagansett and Coaksett were made a township by the Court, to be called and known as Dartmouth and in the Province Laws of 1701-2 Chap. 10 we find an order settling the boundary line between Dartmouth, Little Compton and Tiverton.
There is also a confirmatory deed from William Bradford to Manasseth Camton and fifty-five others dated November 13, 1694, and by this it appears that at this time Dartmouth was owned by fifty-six individuals called proprietors.
The work of Crane and his assistants was the survey of lands already laid out and the survey and laying out of undivided lands to proprietors and purchasers, and these surveys covered the large part of all the lands in what is now Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven and Acushnet. Proprietors and purchasers had already settled upon lands which had been set off to them and we find many returns of surveys of farms, homesteads and homestead farms of these early settlers as well as returns of layouts of undivided lands.
In Crane's field book seven on page twenty-five we find this entry: "benj. Hammond came to worke ye first day of June 1713," and it is probable that William Manchester was Crane's sole regular appointed assistant prior to that time.
In this connection it is interesting to note that subscribed to many of the surveys or different lots of land in what are known as Cranes's field books are found the initials "b.h." and "w.m." indicating possibly that these surveys were made by Hammond or Manchester and not by Crane. Some surprise has been expressed that Crane himself could have covered so much ground, as he would be compelled to if he had personally superintended all the work, and that he could have made surveys in places so far removed from each other on the same or succeeding days. It is quite probable that both Hammond and Manchester made independent surveys under the general direction of Crane, and that the lots so surveyed were indicated by their initials in the field books. A penny an acre was the price paid or voted to be paid for a survey of all undivided lands by vote passed at a meeting held August 14, 1716. This would appear a small compensation to a modern surveyor for the arduous task undertaken. A peck of corn for every share laid out was the price fixed in 1627 by the court.
Benjamin Crane was not the first who was employed in the survey of Dartmouth lands. There was at least one man, John Mumford, who has left a memorial of his work in a plan of Gooseberry Neck drawn by him and bearing his signature dated March 3, 1706-7, now in the possession of the present owners of the Neck, which appears to be the earliest existing plan of any land in this vicinity.
It would be interesting to know what became of plans that Benjamin Crane and his assistants made and to which frequent reference is made in the field books. They, or any of them, would be a valuable acquisition to the public records if they could be found. Undoubtedly plans were made by these early surveyors of all the land surveyed as at that date the method of computing areas was by dividing them up into triangles and measuring the areas of these triangles on the plans. The method later in vogue by the use of the traverse table and double meridian distances was not invented until many years later, the traverse table in 1791. So it was absolutely essential that plans should be drawn of all lands surveyed. Who can say what has become of those made by Crane. Possibly they are stowed away in some old chest or barrel in garret or cellar in the possession of one who has no knowledge of their inestimable value. It is not impossible that they may yet be resurrected from their long entombment. Such things sometimes happen. But a year or two since about 500 such plans of lands in Rochester, a part of them made by the same Benjamin Hammond above referred to, and the remainder by his successors in the Rochester surveys, dating from about 1739, were found and are now in the Registry of Deeds at Plymouth, where they were placed by Mr. Swan, the commissioner of public records, after having been carefully mounted and bound in books for preservation. An examination of these plans shows how carefully they are scaled and what is extraordinary they scale today exactly the same as they did nearly 200 years ago, the paper show no evidence of the usual shrinkage of ordinary paper. The care with which this work was done and notes made by the draftsman on some of these plans corroborate the statement already made that areas were computed from plans of surveys, and Crane's notes in a few places refer to computations of areas by means of plans.
An examination of an old work on surveying now in the public library, published in 1700 by John Wing, shows that the method then in vogue for arriving at areas of land was by a system of triangles platted with the aid of the plane table and chain or otherwise, the bases and perpendicular of these triangles being measured on the plat and the areas computed from these measurements. It is evident from the references made to plats by Crane that this was the method used by him which was simpler though probably somewhat less accurate than the modern one of working out the areas mathematically by use of the traverse table and double meridian distances.
Chamber's Encyclopedia in 1751 gives the same as the method then in use.
There can be no question as to the position which Benjamin Crane occupied in the community, a man undoubtedly of the strictest integrity, of great industry and possessed of that culture and education which would make him a leading man in the place and at the time in which he lived. There is no doubt that he was a religious man as we find in his note books such sentiments as this "ye fear of ye Lord is ye beginning of wisdom & to depart from evel is understanding June ye 27th 1713 amen."
The causes which led to his employment by the Dartmouth proprietors are stated in the records. It appears by the record of a meeting held at the Town house in Dartmouth, Nov. 4, and by adjournment Nov. 14, 1709, that much dissatisfaction existed among the proprietors and that charges had been made that "the suruayer with those that haue assisted in Laying out ye Lands of Late being persons concerned in ye Lands haue made unreasonable allowanc in proportioning ye same to themselves & their friends more than the quality of ye land hath required." An agreement was entered into at this meeting that an application be made to the Court of Quarter Sessions "to apoynt three unconcerned persons such as sd Cort shall think fitt one being a suruayor under oath for the work to lay out their Land according to the proprietors orders for sd 800 acres deuition" and one year was to be allowed to complete the work. This vote was confirmed at a meeting held the last Friday of March, 1710 and by adjournment the third Tuesday in May of the same year and Captain Thomas Grey, Lieutenant William Fobes and Lieutenant Samuel C. Crandall were appointed a committee and "surueyors" to make a full inquiry in order to determine if any proprietors had more than their proper proportions of land "hauing Reference to quantity & quality to take an account of it & to make Report thereof at the next proprietors meeting that shall be appointed after ye first day of December next" with the provision that "if they refuse or neglect to attend sd seruice then the Justeses of the Court of Quarter Sessions to be requested as in the former vote to nominate and appoint three persons uninterested as in the former vote."
We find no record of what was done by the above appointees but it is safe to assume that the business of adjusting conflicting claims among discontented proprietors was too arduous a duty and that they did "refuse or neglect to attend sd seruice" with the result that Crane and his assistants were appointed by the court; and faithfully and efficiently did they perform the task set for them. He appears later in 1716 to have been invited to settle differences which had arisen over lines in Tiverton and an unsuccessful effort was made to have him run these lines. John Mumford of Newport was there as a surveyor in 1730, perhaps our John Mumford of the Gooseberry Neck plan.
The Dartmouth proprietors records so far as they are preserved contain frequent reference to Crane and his work and it is everywhere in evidence that he possessed the entire confidence of his employers and that his work was eminently satisfactory. As a testimonial of this confidence a vote was passed at the proprietors meeting held May 22, 1722, seven months after his death, which was as follows: "It is further agreed and voted that what Land Benjn Crane our Late Surueyor has surueyed according to the proprietors acts as may appear by sd Cranes Journal or Returns of any Land surueyed to any proprietor or shall stand as a good suruey to euery such proprietor."
Benjamin Crane was chosen a deputy to the general court from Taunton in 1702-3 and 1703-4 and from Dighton of which Berkley was then a part in 1721 the year of his death. If evidence were needed that the soldier in King Philip's War, the surveyor of Dartmouth lands, the deputy from Taunton and Dighton and the Benjamin Crane who died in Berkley are the same we have the further fact that the heirs of Benjamin Crane of Berkley are named among the Narragansett grantees to whom lands were granted in the town of Greenwich, Narragansett No. 4, in 1733, and in the inventory of the estate of Benjamin Crane of Berkley filed with the probate court records in Taunton, Nov. 2, 1721, we find, "Item one suruayers chaine and deuiders" all of which aid in identifying the Benjamin Crane, who died in Dighton, Oct. 13, 1721, as the soldier in King Philip's War and the surveyor of Dartmouth lands. It would be a great acquisition to the treasures of this society if it could now obtain possession of this old "chaine." The problem of the standard of measurement used by Crane in his surveys would then be solved, a matter now somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Crane was chosen by the general court, Nov. 30, 1720, with John Thompson, Esq., and Hon. Samuel Thaxter, a committee to run the divisional line between the easterly end of Norton and the other part thereof conformable to orders of the general court passed March 17, 1710.
The home of Crane, his dwelling house, was in Berkley near the present highway over West Berkley bridge, a little more than a quarter of a mile west of the highway from Taunton to Freetown, with the well two rods south of the "fore dore" of the house. He had no home in Dartmouth, but appears to have "boarded around," as it is called in old-fashioned parlance, wherever his work took him. He notes in one of his memorandum books as follows: "I see one eare of Indian Corn bearded in that pece of corn that Mr Hunt planted before my dore at Landlady Jennes B. C." And further we find "ye accompt of ye places I kept at on ye General survey off Dartmouth Lands at Kerbies 3-nights at George Lawtons 3 nights at Mathew Wings-1-night," &c.
That Crane believed he had proved the proneness of the average human being to profit at the expense of someone else appears from one of various quotations in his field book. It is "This is a brave world we live in, to Lend to Spend and to give in: but to begg and to borrow and to gitt a mans own it is ye worst world that ever (was) known. Probatum East." The Latin is a little faulty, but the meaning is plain.
After the death of Crane in 1721 Benjamin Hammond was chosen surveyor at a meeting of the proprietors held June 27, 1723, as the vote reads "to Lay out our seuerall deuisions of upland and seder swamp until the whole be fully finished and Compleated according to our acts and orders & to giue Returns of what he lays out or of any already Layd out where there is no Returns giuen also our surueyor or comtee is Impowered to procure ye seuerall Jornals of our former Surueyors that may be useful in ye finishing our seueral deuitions and George Laton Richard Sisson John Kirbie Isaac Smith Thomas Hathaway Nathaniel Delano Pollepus Hammond & John Akin are chosen or either two of them to be a comtee to assist ye sd surueyor in sd work." April 26, 1725 it was voted "that the aforesaid comtee procure the seuerall Plats & Jornals that Did belong to the former Surueyor which may be of use for finishing sd work."
In December of this year, 1725, occurred an event greatly to be deplored, which we find recorded as follows: "Whereas In December 1725 That then the former book of Records belonging or did belong to the Proprietors and Purchasers of Dartmouth for the County of Bristol in New England wherein were all the acts and devisions for the settlement of their lands, meadows & cedar swamp Record was Burnt by accident and several other wrightings and returns of survey also with said book to the great loss and damage" &c. It would be interesting to know what this accident by which these records were destroyed was. The call for a meeting dated June 7, 1733, gives us some information. It says "and said devision being almost Compleated by an accident of fire the said act for granting said devision was burnt with & in ye House of ye clerk of said proprietors & an attested coppie cannot sence be produced" &c. This clerk was Thomas Hathaway, and undoubtedly it was his house which was burned.
The record goes on to state that "it is very ill convenient for yt the Journals of our former surveyor-Benj-Crane & Plots of the General survey should be kept so remote from us as in the town of Rochester by reason yt the Proprietors are often wanting the same searched to make their rights appear or to git Returns taken off the same: yt there be some Person choose at said meeting to Procure said Journals & Plotts & a meet Person chose to keep the same for the future." This meeting voted only to dissolve. But at a meeting held January 8, 1733-4 it was "voted yt Henry Tucker and Thomas Smith be the two Persons choose to go to Benjn Hammond and Procure the Plts and Jornals of the former Survey of Benjn Crane our former Surveyr and deliver them to the next meeting to be held by Adjournment".
It is noticeable that the proprietors' records nowhere refer by name to any surveyor other than Benjamin Crane and Benjamin Hammond prior to 1733. Probably surveys prior to the advent of Crane in 1710 were private surveys which were superseded by the extensive and elaborate survey of Crane and his successor. It is certain there were earlier surveys, by whom, with the exception of John Mumford already referred to, it appears to be impossible now to determine.
It is evident that in 1735 the proprietors had either obtained possession of or access to the journals of Benjamin Crane, as the records show that October 6 of that year the work of transcribing from "Benjamin Crane's Journal" into the new proprietors' record was begun.
We can hardly conceive how serious to the proprietors was the loss of the old records but they had some comfort in their trouble. Their old surveyor had been dead more than four years but he had left behind him the results of years of patient and painstaking endeavor to preserve for his employers a complete memorandum of his work in the notes of surveys made by him from 1710, when he began his work until the close of his labors shortly before his death in 1721. These notes contained in twelve ordinary pocket memorandum books were finally gathered into the possession of the proprietors' clerk and thanks to the care of successive custodians are now deposited in the Public Library and with the exception of a few lost leaves and a few pages that are partly illegible they are in a fair state of preservation and they are of great value. The idea which seems to possess the minds of some that a record may become too old to be of value except to the antiquary is a mistaken one. It may be that age adds value to the record. In settling disputed boundaries or the ownership of real estate the belief that the occupation of lands for a certain length of time gives ownership has been referred to recently by an intelligent writer as a popular fallacy and the court proceedings of this and other states show the value as evidence of ancient papers. It is hardly proper at this time to express an opinion as to how our courts would regard these books if offered as evidence, but it is to be hoped and I believe the time will come when we will have a judicial determination of this question.
Beginning with the year 1728 about seven years after Crane's death an effort was made by the proprietors to gather in and make a new record from the "returns of surveys" made out by Crane and in the possession of the various proprietors. The results of their labors are found in five books of records now in the custody of the Public Library, copies of which in two large volumes are deposited in the registry of deeds at New Bedford and are made evidence by statute. It is to be regretted, however, that this work was not as complete or as accurate as it should have been. I refer not to the later copying but to the work of gathering in and copying the returns begun in 1728. An examination of this record discloses the fact that beginning with the first book, what are apparently returns of surveys brought in by the proprietors were copied in blocks, interspersed with later surveys. Beginning with the thirteenth page of book four from that point forward the books contain copies from Crane's field books interspersed with claims. Many of the records are duplicates, but strangely enough the record stops before completing the work of copying all of the field books and no doubt these field books still contain much uncopied matter which appears nowhere else.
And right here permit me to make a suggestion. It is very important that these books which are the only existing original records of the ancient survey of Dartmouth which then included what is now Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven and Acushnet, be carefully preserved and further that they or their contents be made easily accessible and available by the public generally. They are not alone valuable to the antiquarian. Errors in the copies which have been found to exist and the incompleteness of the copies referred to above make very apparent the necessity that some step be taken to put this valuable material in a safe, convenient and available form for use. The only way in which this can be done is to place the work in the hands of an expert and have the whole either reproduced photographically or put into print for distribution. This it would seem should be done at once as every day's delay endangers the security of a record which if lost cannot be replaced. It is marvelous that these books have been preserved in safety so long.
Perhaps in view of the statement made above that in 1735 the proprietors had either obtained possession of or access to these journals as they are called, it should be stated that in 1757 they were not yet in the proprietors' hands. For at a meeting held August 1, 1757, they voted "that Stephen West Humphrey Smith & Bartho Taber be a committee to Procure all ye Jornals of all our former surueyors so far as they can & carefully examine the same and after due examination emmediately to Lodge all sd Jornals in the Proprietors' Clerk office there to Remain for Neuer after & to be esteemed equail with our Proprietors' Book of Record except that Part which shall appear to sd comitte to be corrupted or falty by any other hand writing & so by them Cancelled or written upon Disallowed by sd Comitte to be esteemed Good for any Proprietor or Purchaser that has lost their Returns of Suruey of any of their lands" &c.
In addition to Crane's field books those of Benjamin Hammond and Samuel Smith, a later surveyor are deposited with the Public Library making fourteen books in all. There were no less than nine surveyors who were engaged at different times in laying out or surveying the lands of Old Dartmouth, but the man who stands among them all, like Saul among the prophets of Israel, is Benjamin Crane.
The work that he and his assistants, Benjamin Hammond and William Manchester did, both in character and extent, surpasses that of all the rest.
It is interesting to note some of the difficulties by which Crane was handicapped in his work, to use the vernacular of the turf. Every surveyor knows that in running out old lines by courses given he is likely to find errors in his own or his predecessor's work. Crane found the same difficulty and not possessing a modern engineer's or surveyor's hand book filled with convenient tables and formulae, he is constrained to construct a table for use as he says "for ye rectifying of errors." We find several attempts at this in his field books and one quite complete table which is a table of tangents to the radius 60 rudely constructed and somewhat inaccurate, but no doubt serviceable in finding the true course by his compass when in running a line by a former survey he "missed the corner."
In his field book seven on page 1 we find what appears to be an attempt to construct such a table which reads as follows: "for ye rectifying of errors for 10 take 10 for 16 take 15 for 21 take 20 for 27½ take 25 for 24½ take 30 for 41 take 35 for 50 take 40 for 60 take 45. Rectifie other numbers by those above according to proportion take care to doe it Right." How he obtained the above results cannot of course be determined. It is very probable that it was from measurements on the ground or on a plan drawn to a scale. The above, however, does not appear to have satisfied our surveyor as in book A, as it is designated, on the last leaf is found a more complete table of tangents for angles from 12 to 45 degrees inclusive. It would be interesting to know just how this table was constructed. Tested by modern standards there is an error of from 1-4771 to 1-78 in the length of these tangents. It begins "for ye rectifying of errors for 12:120 fraction take 12; for 14½ take 13; for 15 take 14" and concludes "for 60:45" giving an approximately correct tangential distance for every degree from 12 to 45, the only absolutely correct distance being the last. His rule given for the use of this table is "in this table multiply ye error by 60 & diuide ye product by ye Long Legg." That this was original work with Crane admits of no doubt as no existing standard table of tangents of that time could have contained so many inaccuracies and if he had possessed a table of tangents it would not have been necessary for him to have constructed this one. This illustrates some of the difficulties under which Benjamin Crane and his assistants did their work.
One other matter remains for discussion and that is Crane's standard or unit of measurement. This has already been the subject of some discussion and no very satisfactory results have been arrived at. It is inconceivable that Crane, who had been selected to adjust conflicting claims and to settle disputed boundary lines and who accomplished so much in a manner so satisfactory to all parties in interest should have done anything but accurate work with the instruments that he used. It is undoubtedly true that the lines run by Crane measured by our modern standard overrun and this surplussage as it has been termed has been accounted for by some who have had their attention called to it as a certain percentage thrown in for good measurement. It is said that our ancient surveyors had a habit of taking a pace or two beyond the end of their chain before putting down a marker. This is a very attractive theory, as a pace, a little less than three feet, added to a four rod chain would just about make the difference between Crane's measurement and the modern standard but though an attractive theory it is very unsatisfactory to any one at all familiar with the work of the civil engineer or surveyor.
Then too there was no necessity for liberal measurements of this kind as there was a regular allowance for poor land, all land laid out being compared with a standard called "the sample" and the area was "qualified" for a less number of acres, the "qualified" number being that with which the proprietor or purchaser was charged. A large number of tracts were qualified by Abraham Tucker's homestead east of Paskamansett River and others by Philip Taber's homestead adjoining the Tiverton line on the west. Benjamin Crane is not the only surveyor who has been charged with throwing in a few inches or a few feet for good measurement, but in all such cases an intelligent and careful examination will disclose a definite scheme and will show that the apparent surplus was the result of accurate measurement, nothing more and nothing less; and we have the right to assume that the courses and distances given by Crane were correct at the time his record was made and allowing for the difference in the magnetic variation and also in the standard of measurement his lines can be accurately run out today.
The United States Coast and Geodetic survey furnish us with all that is needed to determine the difference in the variation of the magnetic needle. It remains to discover Crane's standard of measurement.
We now have to inquire what was the length of Benjamin Crane's rod or perch. We have little data and very likely there is little data now obtainable from which we may estimate the length of the rod used by Crane nearly 200 years ago. It is interesting to note that Crane never mentioned a chain in his field notes as all his distances are given in rods, yards and feet though he had a chain as the inventory of his estate shows. There are two methods of determining this standard of measurement. From recorded standards of that time and from a comparison of measurements of measurements of as many of the old lines run by Crane and described in his returns as can be identified. In doing this we may feel assured that the work done by this ancient surveyor was carefully done and was as accurate as the instruments he used and the character of the country he traversed in his surveys made practicable. We have the further knowledge that a large number of his surveys "close up," as it is termed in the vernacular of the profession, remarkably well, and this is one of the best proofs that his work was done in a scientific manner with the methods then in vogue.
It has not been my good fortune in my search for information on this point to find any standard referred to as matter of record though it is evident from the records that such standards existed and were a matter for comment and the lack of them in some measure for criticism. For instance: In the Taunton proprietors' records we find that a lot of land in Taunton on February 15, 1710-11 was "measured by Taunton Town measure" and Benjamin Crane was the surveyor. It would be extremely interesting if we could bring out from the buried past some reliable information as to what the "Taunton Town measure" used by Crane at that date was. It is quite possible, even probable, that the standard was the same he used in the early surveys of Old Dartmouth as he left Taunton and came to Dartmouth Oct. 2, 1710 and Dartmouth at that date had no standard, as we learn from a fragment of a record of the court of quarter sessions referring to the Town of Dartmouth summoned to appear in July, 1714, that one of the selectmen came and "declared that as for stocks they were provided that a standard for weights and measures they had not, but were upon endeavors to procure and that they had chosen William White sealer for that Town." It appears then that prior to July, 1714, after Crane had been surveying Dartmouth lands for nearly four years and had completed the larger portion of his work here, the town of Dartmouth had no standard of weights or measures and it was probably some years later before such standards were procured. Though the statute perch or rod of England at this time contained 16½ feet and for "coppice woods &c" 18 feet, yet there was a great diversity of standards in use in different localities. We are informed in 1751, thirty years after Crane wrought that the customary perch is various in various countries, in Staffordshire it is 24 feet; in the forest of Sherwood 21, the foot there being 18 inches "pes forestae"; and in defining the word Chamber's Encyclopedia (1751) says pole "in surveying is a measure containing 19 feet and one-half called also perch and sometimes rod." It appears to have varied in England in different localities and at different periods from 10 feet to 24 feet in length. In other countries the standard was still variable and as late as 1824 we find the English parliament complaining that different weights and measures, some larger and some less are still in use throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and fixing the statute yard of 1760 as the standard. It is safe to assume that at the time Crane's surveys were made there was in this locality no definite standard, that is the standard fixed by statute was not in common use, and it is not necessary to assume that Crane used a rod sixteen and one-half feet in length in his measurements. The old treatise on surveying published in 1700 by John Wing already referred to gives a method of reducing the statutory measure of Edward First of sixteen and one-half feet into customary measure stating that "through long custom there is at this day other Perches used as 18, 20, 24 and 28 Feet to the Perch: it is therefore necessary to show my Surveyor how he may readily reduce the Statute-measure into Customary." He further states that "Woodland measure is 18 feet to the Perch." The term acre was applied to an area sixteen perches in length and ten perches in width as fixed by statute in 1395 but as the rod varied from 12 to 24 feet some of these acres contained four times as many superficial feet as others.
The subject of metrology as applied to ancient monuments and structures of various kinds has been a fruitful theme for discussion by various writers but metrology as applied to old surveys seems to have attracted little attention.
There are no doubt many lines of Crane's surveys that can now be identified and the distance between the original boundaries determined by measurement. A few such measurements would give by comparison sufficient data from which to determine the length of Crane's rod. Inductive metrology has been said to ascertain the general truths of the units of measure in use, from the particular facts of those multiples of measures which ancient remains preserve to us. In ascertaining the units of measure of ancient surveys it is not necessary to use multiples of measures as we have the actual measurements by the old standard given in the notes of these surveys as they were measured at that time. One element of uncertainty is therefore avoided and we have only to find a sufficient number of old lines to eliminate any error resulting from inaccurate measurements of individual lines to determine accurately Crane's unit. It has not been my good fortune to obtain much reliable information in regard to these old lines, but from such as I have obtained I am of the opinion that Crane's rod was very nearly seventeen and two-tenths feet in length, perhaps a little more, or possibly a little less.
Many attempts have been made to reproduce Crane's lines on paper and to make a complete plan of all lands laid out or surveyed by him. The late Mr. Elisha C. Leonard appears to have been engaged in this work for years and the results of his efforts are now with his genealogical and other papers, the property of the city and deposited in the Public Library. Others have been and still are engaged in the work with the same end in view, a complete draft of the ancient surveys of Crane, Hammond, and Smith. The work is fascinating, the matching together of these old lines, and where the lines come together easily very pleasing; but there are difficulties which make the work a distracting puzzle and might almost overthrow the reason of a man having less than the most robust and rugged mental equipment.
So far as we can learn no stone marks the last resting place of Benjamin Crane. In the old "Fox Burying Ground" in Berkley is the grave of his brother "Ensign John Crane" who died, as the stone over his grave reads, "August 5, 1718," three years before his brother. This is the oldest burying ground in Berkley and many of his family and related families are buried there. It is reasonable to assume that Benjamin Crane is also there buried in an unmarked grave. But he needs no monument. The work he did is his best memorial. Thorough, painstaking, accurate, his industry and his devotion to the business of life, humble and homely though it was, have written for him a far more enduring memorial than any that could be carved in stone. So long as the history of Old Dartmouth endures his name will be known and honored by those who appreciate the worth of this upright, active, useful life.
In introducing Mrs. Taber, Mr. Crapo said:
There is no name in the past or present history of Old Dartmouth more prominent in numbers or more distinguished by character than that of Howland. Three mayors of New Bedford have borne that name, and the mother of a fourth, George H. Dunbar, was a Howland. The official terms of these four mayors cover many years of creditable municipal service. When we cross the line and enter present Dartmouth we find a Howland the chairman of its board of selectmen, and when we go over the river to Fairhaven, we find another Howland chairman of the selectmen of that town.
I remember having frequently in my boyhood seen George Howland and his faithful colored servant, John Briggs, or as they said in those days, "the hired man." Amusing stories were told of John Briggs' ready wit and sensible comments, some of which are remembered to this day. George Howland was a sturdy Quaker and an eminent merchant. In stature he was of medium height, muscular and broad-shouldered. In his movements he was alert and active. He was positive in his opinions and never hesitated to express them. He was a man of clear judgment and highly respected by his fellow townsmen. He promoted and enlarged our whaling industry, and by his foresight and sagacity, his admirable management, his exceptional business traits, and honorable dealings he achieved wealth for himself and greatly added to the prosperity of New Bedford.
We have with us this evening one of his descendants, and we shall listen to her with much pleasure. I invite your attention to a paper by Mrs. Mary Jane Howland Taber.
Friends Here and Hereaway
By Mrs. Mary Jane Howland Taber
Mr. President and members of the Historical Society:
Having been invited to speak to you on some topic connected with old New Bedford, my thoughts have reverted to the Quakerism of the early inhabitants and it occurs to me that the point of view of an ex-Quaker–an outsider, who has been an insider–may possess some interest, as combining intimate knowledge with unbiased impartiality, that is, of one who, while retaining a great respect for all that renders the Society of Friends admirable, does not hesitate to smile at the foibles, which may be compared–shall we say–to the spots on the sun.
As the great orthodox and Hicksite division among the Quakers, which took place in 1827, has exerted a powerful and lasting influence on New Bedford and as its causes and results are not generally understood by the present generation, a few words on the subject may not be amiss.
Elias Hicks, who lived on Long Island, in the early part of the last century was a preacher in good standing in the society, a man of commanding presence, an eloquent and convincing speaker, much admired and beloved on account of the excellence of his life. The Friends had no formulated creed by which to test his utterances. Their ministers were supposed to be "led and guided by the spirit into all truth," and for a long time all listened unquestioning to the inspiration of Elias Hicks. He traveled extensively and pretty constantly through the country, wherever there was a settlement of Friends, preaching to crowded houses, thus, through his influence, and that of his converts and perhaps through a more subtle influence in the air, the greater part of the most cultivated members came gradually and almost unconsciously to imbibe his ideas. At last someone took the alarm and it began to be whispered that Elias was not sound. It was declared that the unsoundness consisted in what he did not say, rather than in what he did say; and on this somewhat intangible accusation the murmurs grew and increased and as the question was argued for and against, it naturally happened that the Orthodox became more Trinitarian than George Fox himself, and the Hicksites more Unitarian than Elias Hicks.
Disputes and bitter feeling were rife throughout the Society, even in some cases breaking off all intercourse between brothers and sisters and their families. This state of affairs continued for several years, until finally the inevitable separation took place in New York and Philadelphia yearly meetings, there being twice as many Hicksites as Orthodox: 12,000 to 6000 in New York and 18,000 to 9000 in Philadelphia. These Hicksites are called Progressive Friends. There was no separation in New England yearly meeting, but as early as 1824 the Hicksite Friends of New Bedford withdrew from their brethren, frankly called themselves Unitarians and under the leadership of their pastor, the Reverend Orville Dewey, bore a prominent part in the erection of the beautiful Unitarian church which is still the pride of our city, hardly cast in the shade by the splendid new million dollar edifice in Fairhaven. It is rather singular that these seceders from a people who paid no heed to architecture, except to flout it, should have shown such correct taste, not only in church building, but in the construction of their dwelling houses. Still while emancipating themselves from the old forms, many of the old ideas yet clung to them, notably in allowing women to vote in church affairs, in an elegant simplicity of dress, in hatred of slavery, in unstinted benevolence and charity; and when the Reverend William James Potter, many years later, abolished the communion service and introduced the custom of silent prayer after the sermon among these descendants of Quakers, it scarcely seemed strange to them as it would to many congregations.
Mr. Potter says in his church history that the coming of a large section of the Quakers into the Unitarian society enabled them to extend an invitation to Mr. Dewey. He also says, "stoves were put in the church for it had never been heated till that date, but the Quakers had been used to fires in their meeting houses." Mr. Potter adds: "This invasion of Quakerism helped largely to shape the society's after character and history."
The more recent division in the Friends' society was almost local here, or among those who had removed from New Bedford to western New York. There were no vital differences. It was mainly a question of "plainness of speech, behavior and apparel," as the phrase is.
In 1840 Joseph John Gurney came from England on a "religious visit." To my mind he was pretty nearly an Episcopalian, none the worse for that, but not a George Fox nor even a William Penn Quaker, for he laid no particular stress on the "Indwelling Light."
John Wilbur, a strait-laced Friend in this vicinity, took umbrage at this failure to emphasize a cardinal point of Quakerism. The cut of Friend Gurney's coat, the tie of his neckcloth, and the gloss of his hat were also displeasing, although none could gainsay his exalted goodness.
The Society passed through another season of agitation and a separation took place. In this city the smaller body or Wilberites as they were called in contradistinction to Gurneyites, withdrew and built for themselves a small meeting house on Fifth Street, where they worshipped according to the dictates of their own consciences; but having no accessions to their numbers they gradually died out, leaving only one poor old woman, almost blind, who sat an hour alone on the hard unpainted bench each First day and Fifth day morning, until her death ended the pathetic story. The meeting house was closed and has since been pulled down.
There is a Wilbur meeting at Smiths Mills where it is sometimes pleasant to sit in the silence and stillness and recall youthful memories of a Quaker meeting.
Read the essay of Charles Lamb and realize vividly what a Quaker meeting may once have been.
The Orthodox Friends at present belonging to Spring Street meeting are well and favorably known in this community. They have gradually discarded the "peculiarities of dress and address" and are now in appearance very much like other people.
The social meetings of the genial circle at Spring Street are very agreeable and it may be said of these Quakers that they enjoy life with zest, because they know how to get the best there is in it.
I hope I can see the good in all these good people, though each section devoutly believes itself the only true follower of George Fox, and two of them have actually been able to prove their claim in the courts of law, for when the ownership of the meeting houses and schoolhouses was contested by the Orthodox and Hicksites, the chancellor of New York decided in favor of the Hicksites, and the judges of Philadelphia in favor of the Orthodox; though one of the judges slyly remarked that "the founder of the sect might be puzzled to recognize his progeny in either claimant."
It ought to be recorded to the credit of the Hicksites, that twenty years later they made a voluntary division of all the church property awarded to them in New York. I regret to say that this good example was not followed by the Orthodox in Philadelphia.
It is not so strange that differences of opinion should arise in a society without a written creed, as it is surprising that there has been so much harmony and so little clashing among such strong untrammeled spirits.
There is a story that when a teacher once propounded the question: "Who came to America in the Mayflower?" a little girl replied: "My ancestors–and a few other people." Now I do not wish to emulate the undue self-importance of this answer, and would gladly tell you the story of those other people, but not being acquainted with it, I am forced to confine my remarks to my own forebears. So if you will pardon the seeming egotism I will pass from Friends collectively to Friends individually, and relate a few anecdotes concerning a family who for more than 200 years have nearly all been members of the Society of Friends. Not one instance of "marrying out of meeting," having occurred among my direct ancestors. With such a long succession of intermarriages, in such a close corporation, all I can say is, that it is a wonder we are not all fools and idiots. It passed into a proverb on Cape Cod that there never was a Howland who did not marry a Wing, nor a Wing who did not marry a Howland; it being asserted that the young men were too bashful to offer themselves to any but their cousins. This tribal habit makes me the fortunate possessor of two Grandfather Howlands, a mother and a grandmother whose maiden names were Howland, besides two great grandmothers, and two great great great grandmothers who, we know to a certainty, had their full complement of wings, even on this earth.
We will pause for a moment to read the inscription on a tombstone in the ancient Plymouth graveyard on Burial hill, which records that our remote maiden aunt "died of a love languishment aged 49." Sad was it not? It would be consoling if we had some particulars; but that is all, just those two affecting words, and her age.
From this Pilgrim aunt we take a long flight to my grandmother's father, the Cornelius Howland who lived in the house still standing at the four corners, afterward occupied by Charles Taber and company. He procured a government commission during the Revolutionary War and sailed as a privateer. How he disposed of his peace principles this deponent sayeth not. After doing considerable damage to British commerce he was taken prisoner by a British man-of-war. The first thing to be done was to string him up to the yard arm for a pirate. With a rope around his neck he managed to induce his captors to look at his commission; and they decided it would not be quite the proper caper to hang him; so he was taken ashore and imprisoned in Edinburgh castle. There he remained several months, but at length gaining the favor of the jailor's daughter, he made his escape in her garments. After various adventures, and being given up for dead by his family, he reappeared in his native village. Not much was said about the privateer episode, perhaps Friends thought he had been harshly enough dealt with, without being "dealt with by the meeting," besides there were other members of the society who shared his warlike proclivities; the east side of the meeting house at Acushnet being partitioned off for the separate use of the "Fighting Quakers". All honor to their patriotic souls!
Later on Cornelius Howland became part owner of a whaleship, which was captured with other vessels by the French, about 1796. As this happened in a time of peace the United States claimed and received compensation for the injury done to its commerce, but Uncle Sam has a tight grip, the money was not distributed to the ship owners, but remained (much of it still remains, after 100 years), in the United States treasury. Cornelius Howland used to say: "I shall never get any of that money, nor will my children, perhaps my grandchildren may have it." A small portion has lately come to his great grandchildren, and in one instance a great-great-grandchild was his representative. These heirs were told to regard the money not as payment of a debt, but as a gratuity from the government.
We have here a picture painted by William A. Wall of the old Round Hill Howland house, now the property of Mrs. Mehetable Howland Robinson Green, in right of her descent from the original owner, who was the ancestor of the aforesaid Cornelius, as well as of Mrs. Green. Some years ago pleasant gatherings of the Howland clan were wont to be held at this homestead, but Mrs. Green disapproves of trespassers on her property, even for a day's picnic, once a year, and having no strong family affection objects to the presence of her cousins at the home of their common ancestor.
The house was built in the ancient days, when Dartmouth was of more importance than New Bedford. There was no Friends' meeting house in this village.
Apponegansett held the mother church, and the visiting Friends expected to be entertained at Friend Howland's at the Round hills. In fact the tall, narrow portion of the house was seldom opened except on monthly and quarterly meeting days. There was one long room on the ground floor used for the dining room, with a bedroom of the same size over it, divided by a curtain, on one side of which the women slept, and on the other the men. On occasion, beds were laid on the floor, if there were more people than the bedsteads would contain with three in a bed. The bedsteads resembled the Great Bed of Ware, and might have held four at a pinch.
Great were the preparations for these festivals. Chickens and turkeys were decapitated without number; huge pieces of beef turned in the tin ovens before the mammoth fireplace; mince pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, custard pies, potato pies were ranged on all the pantry shelves; loaves of bread and pans of biscuit enough to furnish forth a baker's shop, and cakes of all kinds and descriptions were piled mountain high. The monster brick oven was kept in constant requisition, heated and reheated. But the delicious fish, oysters, clams and lobsters, which were to be had for the taking, were totally neglected, as too common and inexpensive. In the cellar were barrels of apples and cider, while dozens of clay pipes and shags of tobacco crowned the feast, the women smoking the pipes unrebuked with the men.
This description recalls the old story of the merciful magistrate in England who released some persecuted Quakers on the ground that it was not worthwhile to imprison them, for if left to themselves they would soon eat each other up. Well, they have continued to entertain their fellow member with the best their houses afford, lo, now these many years and still they flourish.
It would appear that her forefather's delight in a profuse hospitality has not been inherited by the present owner of the Round Hill farm.
At the suggestion of Mr. William A. Wing I had bequeathed this picture to you in my will, but as it is always more cheerful to bestow a gift oneself, than to call in the aid of one's executor, I take pleasure in presenting it to you tonight.
We will now turn from the round hill to the long plain. Susan Howland was accustomed to say of the Long Plain Friends, that in the early days before the separation, she never knew how many of them were coming to dinner after monthly meeting, for when she invited them, they all said: "We thank thee, we will come if we are not invited to William Rotch's," but since William Rotch had left the meeting they were glad to come without any ifs or ands about it. The invitation to William Rotch's was regarded in the light of a royal command before which all other engagements must give way, the same as at Windsor Castle.
George Howland Senior had remarkable business insight. When told that if he and his contemporaries rushed around the globe killing whales at such a rate, the whales would be exterminated, and the world would sit in darkness, he replied very composedly: "Let us make hay while the sun shines. Before the last whale is harpooned there will be a substitute discovered which for light giving will far surpass whale oil lamps and spermaceti candles."
As indeed those illuminators have long "paled their ineffectual fires" before petroleum, gas and electricity.
Another instance of foresight was shown in the purchase of 18,000 acres of wild land in the territory of Michigan. This land was sold twenty years later to Henry H. Crapo, (the father of your president), and by him disposed of to settlers for farming purposes. Mr. Crapo says the tracts of land were well selected in the richest portions of the territory, though at the time George Howland saw them they were covered with forests.
He also foresaw the future of New Bedford more accurately than the men who built their mansions on the west side of County Road, at the head of the street running down to the river, as was done by Charles W. Morgan at the head of William Street, Abraham Russell at the head of Union Street, James Arnold at the head of Spring Street, Gilbert Russell at the head of Walnut Street, and Joseph Grinnell at the head of Russell Street. When asked why he had not chosen a similar location for his home, he replied, "I built on the side of a street so as not to interfere with the march of improvement. New Bedford will one day have more houses west of County Road than it now has east of it, then the obstructing houses will be torn down, or moved away, or they will stand, inconvenient bars to be walked around or driven around a hundred times a day." Therefore he had built his plain unpretentious house at the northeast corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets. To this new house, in 1810, he brought his bride, Susan Howland, aged sixteen, directly from the meeting house where they had been married. As they reached the door a signal was given and his newly-built whaleship, the George and Susan, slid smoothly from her ways into the water at the foot of the street, there being at that time an unobstructed view down Walnut Street to the river. Thus the ship and the bride and groom were successfully launched into long lives of usefulness. It must have been quite a romantic home-coming for the little bride, in her quaint garb, of drab silk gown, sheer book muslin kerchief demurely crossed over her bosom, drab silk shawl with tiny fringe, and stiff pasteboard bonnet covered with white silk only very slightly tinged with the prevailing mouse color, the lining having ever so slight a shade of invisible pink, and under that an extremely diaphanous muslin cap, the tabs crimped and tied under the chin. One worldly vanity she had, which was frowned upon by the overseers appointed by the meeting to attend the wedding. She wore a pair of white kid gloves instead of the canonical drab ones. Poor little number six gloves, great was their guilt. The marriage on their account was reported to the meeting as “orderly, except in one particular.” But if you think that report ever appeared on the records of Dartmouth Monthly Meeting, you little know the sort of man with whom those overseers had to deal.
The youthful wife took her place as the step-mother of three small children. The late George Howland Junior (the only one of these babies who long survived), used to say, he never knew the difference between a step-mother and an own mother.
In that house thirteen children were born. A family after President Roosevelt’s own heart!
I have heard my father, the eldest child of this worthy couple, describe the way in which his father brought him up, contrasting it with the way in which he, was bringing us up, or rather letting us come up. As a small boy, he rose at 5 o’clock summer and winter, walked a mile to the candle works and packed the sperm candles manufactured by the candle makers the day previous, in boxes with pasteboard between each layer, home to breakfast, off to school, home to dinner, school again, then work about the house, supper and bed at 7 o’clock. The Friends’ Academy, where he attended school, was strictly under the management of Friends, and their children were trained there, until they reached an age to be transferred to the Friends’ Boarding school at Providence. On fifth days the school was dismissed to allow teachers and pupils to attend meeting. One of my father’s great miseries was his broad-brimmed hat of drab fur, which must on no account be removed from his head while he sat in meeting “bearing testimony” along with his stern parent. At 14 years of age his father took him out of school, saying: “If the boy is ever going to amount to anything, it is time for him to learn business.” He was clerk in his father’s counting room, and in the Bank of Commerce until he was 20, then he “developed pulmonary symptoms,” as his fond mother described his case in her letters to her friend Humphrey Howland in western New York, whither he was sent in pursuit of health and a rich wife; for there he married another Howland and settled on a farm, and nothing further was heard about his lungs. One result of his upbringing remained through life, he would never tell where he was going when he left home. He had not been allowed to go anywhere without entering into full particulars of his intentions; and he had vowed that when he should be his own master he would stand no more questioning. This determination was often attended with much inconvenience. I remember once my brother was taken violently ill, and the doctor said: “Send for Mr. Howland,” but where to send nobody knew. Messengers were dispatched in every direction before he was found in the village post office with his feet on the stove, his heels higher than is head, excitedly reading the election news to the village loafers; and betting three to one that Henry Clay would be elected. Behold the result of a guarded religious education!
Alas, alas! It would not now be possible for me to weep such bitter tears over a defeated candidate for the presidency as I wept over Henry Clay, for had I not waved flags, and worn badges and wreaths, and ridden in oxcarts with live raccoons (the emblem of the Whig party in that canvass), in processions in his honor, and heard the campaign speakers solemnly declare that if we did not have the protective tariff the country would be undone? My brother soon recovered from his illness, and together we mourned with all our childish hearts for our undone country. Since then I have learned that our country can be undone regularly every four years, and still jog on pretty comfortably; also that it is safer to be undone than to be done, as some of our cities are.
I will devote the remainder of this paper to the idiosyncrasies of George Howland Sr., who was by far the most original and picturesque figure in the family. He perfectly idolized his daughter Elizabeth, but for fear she might become vain, he constantly assured her that she was so “humly” it was almost painful to look at her. She consulted her looking glass and the bright brunette complexion and large dark eyes she saw there flatly contradicted the calumny, but her father continued his [animadversions], and she ended by believing him so implicitly, that she always went down street the back way, to avoid being seen, until young William Henry Chase came from Salem and asseverated very emphatically that there was no danger of her painting anyone’s eyes, unless by dazzling them with her beauty.
Let the solemn Quaker say what he would, to his daughter, he was very susceptible to female loveliness, and when his son Matthew brought the beautiful Rachel Collins Smith into the family he was at once taken captive by her transcendent charms. She was the sole human being who ever dared to cross words with him, and she always came off victorious.
A tale, illustrating the difference betwixt tweedledum and tweedledee has been often repeated. One day a colored man, long in the employ of George Howland fell from the dock into the water. Not wishing to have his ship carpenters called off from their work to the loss of precious time, he said: “Keep still, John Briggs, and I will pull thee out.” No sooner said than done, John was released from limbo and advised to keep in motion rolling oil casks as a specific against taking cold. Sometime afterward the same untoward accident happened to himself. John Briggs administered the same good advice regarding silence, and made the same kind offer of assistance, which had proved effectual in his case, but there arose from the water such a wild clamor and outcry for help that “there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool or iron heard,” any more than at the building of Solomon’s temple, until after the rescued man stood dripping on the wharf, while his broad brimmed beaver floated out with the ebbing tide, and a carriage was called to take him home, with a nurse to rub him down, and a doctor to prescribe for him.
Our friend was particular about the names of his ships. There was the George and Susan and the George Howland, and the Ann Alexander, the name of an Irish Friend who was traveling in this country and the Corinthian, supposed to refer to Paul’s epistles and the Golconda, a pleasant association of ideas with the diamond mines of Hindustan, and when he bought of Stephen Girard a merchant vessel named Rousseau, it was with the intention of fitting her for a whaler and changing her name. As soon as she arrived in this port he had the figure head of the “infidel” chopped off and thrown into the mud of the dock, where perchance it still reposes. While casting about in his mind for an unexceptional name he was told the name could not be changed. Once Rousseau, always Rousseau. He declared he was very much tried, which in worldly parlance might mean very angry or pretty mad, and talked of sending the ship back to Philadelphia, though of course he was aware that could not be done. This devil’s bark proved very lucky, and always made what the sailors call greasy voyages, but when her great catches were reported her owner puffed out his cheeks and emitted a contemptuous pooh! When he was obliged to speak the name he purposely mispronounced it, calling it Rus-o, and to this day you will hear people speak of the old Rus-o. She had the longest life of any known ship, lasting from 1801 to 1893. The bracket which supports the bust of George Howland Junior, in the city library is a part of the carved scroll which usurped the place under the bowsprit of the great Frenchman’s figure head, and has ploughed most of the oceans of the globe. The Ann Alexander was very unlucky. She was stove by a whale, and left her bones on an island in the Pacific. In the words of Shakespeare, slightly altered: “He could have better spared a better ship.” The loss of the Ann Alexander must have more than equaled the money he would have paid the insurance companies if he had not elected to insure his ten ships himself.
During a visit at the house of one of his children, George Howland noticed that the waitress had the hiccups, and with the benevolent intention of curing her, he said in his quickest, sharpest, most peremptory voice: “What’s that spot on thy dress?” He meant to frighten her and he succeeded admirably, for down went teacups and hiccups in a heap of the floor at his feet, for the girl fainted dead away. It is historical that never again practiced his empirical cure for singultus. Twenty years afterward, the woman said, she had never had the hiccups since that evening, for if she ever had a catch in her breath it made her think of the spot that wasn’t on her dress, and to save her life, she couldn’t hiccup.
Another time, turning a street corner in his rapid walk, he came face to face with one of his workmen creeping slowly along with a hodful of bricks. He stopped and spun a quarter of a dollar in the air. The man deftly caught the coin and quickly put it in his pocket. “Thee sees,” said his employer, “it is possible for thee to move faster than a snail even when thee had a hod of bricks on thy shoulder.” To be “teaching,” the moral ought to be, that the man “got a move on,” that lasted the rest of his mortal life, but the probabilities are that the impression was not as indelible as the hiccup scare.
Very early one summer morning, this example of all the virtues, was on his way to the market, at that time under City hall, with his large covered basket on his arm, when he met his favorite grandson coming home from a dance after having “made a night of it.” His imagination not being able to compass such an enormity, he stopped and guilelessly said: “Here’s fifty cents for thee for getting up so early. Early rising is a most excellent habit.”
More often than the returning morning he said to the children around him, “Set up strut, children; Set up strut.” Possessing a modicum of the family obstinacy one of them inwardly resolve that she would not sit up straight, and she didn’t, and very disastrous was the result of despising good advice.
Mr. Crapo tells us that one day when he was a little lad about seven years old he was walking with his father, and was much surprised to hear a man call out across the street, “Stand up straight, Crapo!” Probably it was the first time it had ever dawned on his infant mind, that his father could need correction for any cause, and it made a deep impression on his memory.
He had a strong prejudice against tobacco, inveighing against it in season and out of season. His feelings carried him so far that he one day walked up to a young man, pounced upon the cigar he was smoking, and hurled it into the street. The youth said never a word, but drawing another cigar from his pocket, lighted it and went on his way. Little did the Quaker autocrat dream that that contumacious boy would be his posthumous grandson by marriage and blow many jolly wreaths of smoke in a room presided over by his reprover’s portrait.
In these days of multimillionaires it sounds very moderate to say George Howland amassed a fortune of a million of dollars, but sixty or seventy years ago it was something to talk about. Perhaps he was a trifle purse proud, as self-made men are apt to be, for when he went as “companion” to his wife on her “religious visit” to England, and was informed that London yearly meeting always paid the expenses of “ministering Friends,” who came among them the sturdy Yankee positively refused to accept the donation, brusquely remarking that he guessed George Howland was able to pay his own expenses. This created quite a commotion, although the Englishmen could but respect the self-reliant independence of his character.
Some people thought he was almost too good a business man to sit at the head of New Bedford meeting. James B. Congdon nicknamed him Benajah Luvchink and wrote the following lines about him in Quaker Quiddities, which I will utilize for my peroration.
“Our esteemed Friend
Benajah Luvchink—him thou knowest deemed
Among the weighty, weightiest. In his walk
And conversation, manners and address,
He is an incarnated discipline
All fearless standing at each month’s broadside
Of queries from the discipline discharged.
But recently he stood within the yard
When his new ship is building. Long discourse
He held with Thomas, master workman there.
Touching the merits of a mighty stick
To form the stern post. Sorrowing he had seen
A small defect and had the master called
The spot to view and talk the matter o’er.
Pending the question, lo, the hour arrived
When Friend Benajah must to meeting go.
He went, and duly greeted all the Friends;
And then with features fitted to the place,
His body seated and his mind composed.
No movement broke the solemn stillness there;
We passed in silence the accustomed hour,
The extended hand the parting signal gave,
And Friend Benajah to his home repaired.
His frugal meal dispatched with quickened step,
He sought the timbered yard; and on the oak,
Whose imperfections had his trouble made,
He found the master seated; who at once
Thus his employer greeted: “It will do.”
“It will, no doubt,” Benajah quick replied;
“I’ve thought about it all our meeting time.”
In accepting the picture presented to the society by Mrs. Taber, Mr. Crapo said:
The Old Dartmouth Historical Society accepts with much pleasure the gift which has been so kindly and graciously bestowed. The painting has especial historical value in what it represents. The site of the ancient mansion of the Howland family is the Round Hills. When Bartholomew Gosnold sailed into Buzzards Bay on his eventful voyage, the most prominent object which met his gaze was this headland rising above the surrounding territory. Prompted by a prudent precaution for safety, and to guard against danger from hostile Indians, he made his habitation on an island. But we are told, in the narrative of his voyage, that he made frequent visits to the mainland, and it is to be assumed that on more than one occasion he landed at the Round Hills and there held conferences with the aborigines.
Every voyage who enters our bay, on his way to New Bedford, turns his eyes to the twin hills which stand out like sentinels, challenging or inviting approach.
In behalf of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society I thank the donor. The painting shall be preserved among the valuable possessions of the society, and cherished not only because of the story it tells, but also for the thoughtful and generous spirit of the donor.
Mr. Crapo also said that the Old Dartmouth Historical Society was becoming the repository of many articles of great local interest. The officials had today been delighted by receiving a gift which is highly prized now, and which will be more highly prized in the future. It is a reminder of the bravery and valor and devotion to country of New Bedford men in the Civil War. The gift comes from Post 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic, whose rolls contain the names of men from New Bedford and neighboring towns who fought for the maintenance of the Union.
The story of the gift can best be told by the letter which accompanies it.
Headquarters of William Logan Rodman Post 1, Department of Massachusetts, Grand Army of the Republic.
Dec. 14, 1904.
In pursuance of the vote of the Post, passed unanimously this evening, I herewith present to your society for preservation the accompanying framed photographic picture of the charter members of this Post, together with some pamphlets and newspapers relating to the history of the Post and to some public events in which it has borne no minor part.
It must always be a matter of local pride in years to come that in our war of the great Rebellion so many of our fellow citizens responded to the call of their country and manfully performed their duty to the nation and mankind. But no less will the soldiers and sailors of New Bedford be esteemed and their memory cherished for the disinterested care that they have shown during so many years since the close of the was in providing for needy and suffering comrades and their widows and orphans. New Bedford has gained no small meed of praise from having established in her limits the first post of the Grand Army of the Republic formed east of the state of Ohio, and her citizens may proudly claim the further distinction that of the more than 7,000 posts in the entire organization Post 1 of New Bedford has by the regularity of its meetings and conformity to the rules of the order in the matter of reports and the payment of dues obtained a priority in the order as the oldest continuously working post in existence. The time approaches when the order will exist only as a memory. While our ranks are still full it seems proper that we place in your hands some reminder of our labors for the welfare of our fellow citizens who stood with us in defense of our flag and our free institutions, and, like the Roman gladiators, say “morituri salutamus.”
Thomas W. Cook,
Commander of Post 1
To the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford.
For years the photographs of the charter members of this well-known organization have hung in a small frame in the post room. Time has somewhat faded the pictures, and in order to preserve them for future generations, the post has at considerable expense had them enlarged and grouped in an attractive manner by Chickering of Boston, and a large group has been made especially for the historical society. A smaller group will be hung in the post hall in place of the original picture.
With the gift was also presented a roster of the post, its history, and records of other notable events in which William Logan Rodman post has been the prime movers in the past.
Last modified: April 30, 2014