Old Dartmouth Historical Sketch No. 32 - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Number 32

Being the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Water Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 27, 1909


[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 Old Dartmouth Historical Society’s
Eighth Annual Meeting
New Bedford, Massachusetts
March 31, 1911

The following officers were elected:

President — Edmund Wood.

Vice Presidents — George H. Tripp, Henry B. Worth.

Treasurer — William A. Mackie.

Secretary — William A. Wing.

Directors (for three years) — Julia W. Rodman, Oliver F. Brown and Job C. Tripp.

Director (for one year, unexpired term) — Cara L. Broughton.

An addition to the society’s collection of treasures was on view at the meeting, a set of carvings of the several varieties of whales, made by Frank Wood for the whaling room. The whales, sperm, right, bowhead, sulphur, bottom, finback and humpback, are carved in silhouette on wooden panels about 16 inches in length, which are stained in green, affording an effective contrast to the black bodies of the animals represented. The carvings are absolutely accurate in detail, being copied directly from the illustrations in Scammons’s Mammalia.

The following tablet has recently been placed in the memorial arch:

“In Memory of Jireh Swift 3rd. Born 1740. Died 1817. Served in the Revolution in the Trenches at Cambridge. From a great grandson, Jireh Swift 6th.”

President Wood addressed the meeting as follows:

It will be sufficient for me to say that the year has been a good one; there have been some very interesting meetings, and the museum and research sections have done good work. The publications of the society have been kept up.

In reading of the terrible fire in the New York State Capitol at Albany, with the destruction of many valuable records, I felt that there was a moral for societies like ours, relating to the importance of the preservation of old documents and records.

There is a newer idea—the safe preservation of records—and a good deal is being done toward having them put in fireproof receptacles.

There is also another method, and that is that the meat of these kernels of the past is being extracted by antiquarians and by various historical societies. The papers read before this society are full of facts taken from these valuable records, and the facts so taken are safe beyond peradventure. As we get out these important facts, they receive the best possible preservation in the publications that follow.

Report of the Directors
by William A. Wing

The Old Dartmouth Historical Society greets its members at its eighth annual meeting. We are still a society in its youth with many problems to face. Like in the older historical societies, some of these are difficult in their best solution. But there is at least one in which the cooperation of our members can serve perhaps to make us unique among such organizations—prompt payment of dues!

The various activities of the past twelve months are described more in detail in the various reports of the directors.

We have, as usual, the sad duty to announce the deaths of the following members: Joshua G. Baker, Lucretia G. Chace, William L. Chadwick, Harriet A. Church, Lydia H. Church, Charles H. L. Delano, Susan R. Fletcher, W. Trap Frees, Charles H. Gifford, Henry F. Hammond, Herbert E. Hicks, Jonathan Howland Jr., Walter S. Howland, George Kempton, Elizabeth F. Nickerson, William F. Nye, Sarah S. Randall, Mary H. Stowe, Helen R. H. Stickney, Lloyd Swain, *C. A. M. Taber, Bertha W. Swift, Lucy E. Tisdale. Sarah G. Tompkins, Sarah Wright.

*Life member.

In the passing away of Mr. Lloyd Swain this society loses a friend who served as treasurer from its organization to 1906. His interest and co-operation in our needs make a kindly and pleasant memory.

Thus in brief has passed the year of 1910-11 of this society.

Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Wing, Secretary.

Report of the Treasurer
by William A. Mackie

William A. Mackie, treasurer, in account with Old Dartmouth Historical Society, from March 30, 1910 to March 31, 1911;


Balance March 30, 1910                     $176.95

Due                                                         602.00

Life members                                           75.00

Admissions                                               62.00

Publications                                              21.00

Mechanics National Bank                      120.00

Merchants National Bank                        27.00

Commonwealth of Mass. Rebate of tax 51.23



N. B. Institution for Savings       $50.00

Museum                                         38.06

Salaries                                         150.00

Labor                                             279.67

Current expenses                         251.12

Repairs and improvements          131.30


Balance March 31. 1911                235.03


Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Mackie, Treas.

Report of the Museum Section
by Annie Seabury Wood

The Museum Section, in presenting its eighth annual report, congratulates the society and thanks the public on account of the steady growth of its collections.

Certain notable acquisitions among many acceptable ones deserve especial mention: First, a silver watch, the gift of Miss Elizabeth Bailey, which came down to her from an English great great grandmother. William Sawyer Wall was in England in 1798, and was paying a visit to his grandmother, Mary Moreton. When he was about to return home, she took the watch from her side and sent it to his daughter, Mary Moreton Wall, her namesake. Miss Bailey is the daughter of Cornelius Bailey and Mary Wall.

On exhibition in our Oriental room is a beautifully carved frame made, specially to order, in China about 1860, and presented to the society by Mrs. Clement N. Swift.

In our Colonial room is an interesting old cheese press from the Morton House at Lakeville, given by Abbott P. Smith.

From Mrs. Bertha Whitridge Smith, we have received some interesting embroideries belonging to the Whitridge family, and from Miss Mary Rodman some homespuns and other ancient household relics of the Wilbur and Howland families, her ancestors.

A large oil painting of the Roman Forum by William Wall was presented by Charles W. Clifford.

We have also acquired an important addition to our whaling collection in a set of ‘heaving down’ blocks. So far as we know, this is the only set in existence, and their use is entirely a thing of the past. They played a very important part in old times in the coppering of the bottoms of vessels, and are as interesting in their way to us as the historic ‘camels’ of Nantucket are to the inhabitants of that famous island. The blocks were last used about 15 years ago to ‘heave down’ the bark Josephine.

In January the entertainment committee, which is drawn from the members of the Museum Section, presented Roy Andrews of the American Museum of Natural History, in an illustrated lecture on Hunting Whales with a Camera, and during the winter two well-attended and successful teas have been given.

On Patriots’ Day, April 19th, the committee proposes to present Mrs. John Colby Abbott in a talk on the Women of Versailles, illustrating the life and dress of the French Court. The entertainment will be held in the rooms of the society and will be followed by an informal tea. We hope for a generous patronage.

Respectfully submitted,

Annie Seabury Wood,

Secretary Museum Section.

Report of the Historical Research Section
by Henry B. Worth

The work of the Historical Research Section is not only to preserve and perpetuate facts that might be forgotten and lost, but to restore events to their original setting and combination. One of the tendencies of tradition is the rearrangement of details into varying and erroneous combinations. This is not due to fraud or deceit but to the frailty of the recollection. It is observed in court trials where witnesses of undoubted veracity, flatly contradict each other in relation to recent events. Some details that are obscured or forgotten are supplied from different situations, and honest and intelligent people present seriously conflicting accounts of the same concurrence. Hence divergent traditions may be discovered concerning any historical fact. Giles Russell established an iron forge at Russell’s Mills in 1787. In a few years the story was current that this enterprise was conducted by a different person one hundred and thirty-five years earlier. It is astonishing how unwilling some are to reject the traditions that are full of mistakes. No amount of evidence to the contrary is sufficient to substitute fact for fiction. After accepting the story without scrutiny and investigation, they continue loyal to the error. Some exhibit irritability at the suggestion of a doubt as their integrity was questioned. The trouble is that their informant was mistaken.

Every tradition should be tested by comparison with contemporary records. If the two are not in conflict, the oral statement may be accepted. But if there is discord, the tradition must yield.

It is now proposed to call attention to a certain incident, the tradition on which it is based and some records of contemporary history that have not heretofore been given due weight.

In Oxford village in Fairhaven, a few yards east of Cherry Street, and extending from Lafayette Street to Pilgrim Avenue, is a lot which was conveyed in 1833 by Thomas Bennett to Benjamin D. Coombs. In the south portion was an enclosure in which were kept hens and swine. In the center was a hillock on which were spaces marked by rough stones after the manner of old burial places. This was purchased in 1895 by the Fairhaven Improvement Association and was renovated and graded. A boulder drawn from the river was located on the knoll and on a bronze tablet is the inscription, “Sacred to the memory of John Cook who was buried here in 1695.”

The authority for the statement depends upon a tradition and it is thus repeated, as he received it, by one of Fairhaven’s best informed citizens: ‘John Cook was one of the first white settlers in Fairhaven. They had only one cemetery and that was at Oxford. There was once a slate slab lying flat on the knoll, having the names of forty or fifty persons who were buried there. This was completely obliterated over sixty years ago, so that no vestige of it remains; nor is there in existence a copy of the inscription nor any record who was buried there.

To this is added from another source, that John Cook owned all this territory and it passed from him to the Taber family of which the late George H. Taber was a descendant.

Oxford was part of the farm of Capt. Thomas Taber which he received from the proprietors of Dartmouth 1672 and 1683. At his death in 1732, it passed to his son Philip, who conveyed it ten years later to William Wood, glazier. In the deed of 1760 from Wood to Elnathan Eldridge, transferring the part of Oxford west of Cherry Street is a statement that the southeast corner was west of “ye Burial Place.’ So while this proves that the Oxford lot was used for burial purposes as early as 1760, it should also be kept in mind that Taber, although a son-in-law of Cook, derived his title directly from the Dartmouth proprietors and that this burial place was never owned by John Cook. It never contained marked stones at any grave.

It was a universal custom in Dartmouth before 1700 that on each homestead farm was a plot devoted to burial purposes. Many of these spots have been forgotten and are unknown while some are still in existence. John Cook’s homestead included the farm that is crossed by Coggeshall Street leading from Main Street to the bridge. According to the usual custom it would be expected that his last resting place was on his homestead, if there were not some deeply significant records relating to another locality.

In the south edge of Acushnet, half a mile south of the parting ways, the road to Fairhaven is crossed by a brook, that flows into the Acushnet River and at its junction forms a neck of land that is situated northwest of the Laura Keene farm. This may be designated for convenience Howard’s Point.

In Cook’s will, probated in April, 1696, he provides: “In the first place I give to my son-in-law, Arthur Hathaway, and his wife, Sarah, my daughter, all my land in the point at or near the burying place in Dartmouth, which I bought of John Russell.” This has been assumed by many to be at Oxford, but the Russell deed in 1668 describes ‘the point of land which I bought of Samuel Cuthbert adjoining to the house lot of John Howard, on the one side and the creek on the other.’ Russell’s deed from Cuthbert in 1661 conveyed a small point of land of 4 or 5 acres lying against the land of Cuthbert.

Beside the devise in his will, Cook had in 1686 given to Arthur Hathaway all that neck of land near the land of John Howard, bounded by the Acushnet River and on one side by Howard’s land.’ The farm containing the Brook was the Howard homestead and the farm south was owned by Cuthbert and 1661 conveyed to Arthur Hathaway. So it is clear that the burial point in which Cook had such an interest, which he had purchased nearly thirty years before his death, was the neck northwest of the Laura Keen farm. He was solicitous to have it stand in the name of his daughter and son-in-law who lived in the immediate vicinity. This Howard’s point passed from Arthur Hathaway to his son Thomas who also acquired the Howard farm in 1715 and then conveyed both to his son Antipas. The latter in 1747, then living in Newport, transferred the farm to James Weeden but retained the neck. In 1751 Weeden sold the farm to Hezekiah Winslow. The land next south was then owned by Jethro Hathaway and was later known as the Stehen Hathaway place.

The last record relating to the subject is a deed given in 1752 by Antipas Hathaway to his brother Jethro “a certain Point of land called ye old Burying Point in Acushnet Village, being ye most northwesterly part of ye Homestead of Thomas Hathaway deceased, bounded east on ye Creek, running up to Howard’s Brook by Homestead of Hezekiah Winslow and by land of Jethro Hathaway.” It remained for nearly a century part of the Stephen Hathaway farm.

The Homestead of John Cook was on the hill north of Oxford where the new brick school house has been built and extended north to the Woodside Cemetery and south to the Riverside Cemetery. Somewhere on this farm according to the usage of that day would be his grave. But a mile farther north was a neck on the river which was a burial place as early as 1686; was owned by Cook and held by his descendants until modern times. In the light of this record there is strong reason to suppose that Cook was laid in the point purchased by him and transmitted to his descendants. Opposed to this is the tradition that he was buried at Oxford on a lot which he never owned and in which he is not known to have had any interest, and where there was never an inscribed stone marking any grave.

Without some record there can be no certainty where John Cook’s grave is located, but judgment cannot be rendered in favor of the Oxford tradition. The foregoing represents the stage of present information. If further facts are discovered and authenticated, a conclusion can be reached that will settle the inquiry.

This paper is presented to preserve in useful form some interesting historical data, but especially to illustrate the method of testing tradition by comparison with contemporary records. There is no sound reason to condemn the method, because while it may result in discrediting popular reports and stories, it might frequently support and sustain the oral legend. Whichever consequence follows, truth should be the object sought without regard to the effect on accepted traditions.

Report of Education Section
by Elizabeth Watson

The education section cannot report definitely what has been accomplished during the past year, inasmuch as the school children and the various organizations that have been invited to the rooms have come individually, as opportunity offered, instead of collectively at stated times.

Owing to the severe winter it has not been practicable to try to arrange for the public school classes to visit the rooms with their teachers, but after the Easter Recess it is expected that the plan will be carried out as formerly.

Students from the textile school have shown an interest in the old loom and other devices for primitive textile work, while inspiration has been added to the industrial school by some of our exhibits, from which the pupils have taken measurements or made drawings.

The work of this section is far reaching, and the committee, appreciating its opportunities, regrets that no more has been done.

Elizabeth Watson,


Report of the Publication Section
by William A. Wing

We who are so fortunate as to dwell in a community graced by such institutions as the Old Dartmouth Historical Society and our new Public Library and who enjoy the many privileges so offered, may find it of some passing interest to know what facilities for the “great joy of reading” were afforded those who dwelt in Old Dartmouth some 200 years ago or more.

The meager lists of books owned by the most “bookish” folk in the old township—at least in that particular keep us from regret of the “good old days.” The Puritan ’tis said was a man of “one Book—the Bible.” In old Dartmouth’s early days several were more liberally supplied, though is there scarce an instance of anyone possessing “Twenty Bookes at his Beddes heade” as did he of Chaucer’s Pilgrimage.

The Rev. Stephen Bachellor—one of the first Oxford graduates in this country and ancestor of many an old Dartmouth inhabitant and of many members of this society had really for his time and place a very great library which in the year 1644 was burned with his home. In a letter to his staunch friend, Gov. Winthrop, he much bemoans the loss of his “goodly store of bookes.”

The libraries of those early days were composed of very large and very small books. There was scarcely any “happy medium.” That ancient worthy —Henry Tucker—who died in 1694, possessed “Two Bibles, one Testament and one Concordance.”

John Russell—old Dartmouth’s First Deputy—in 1695 left “one Bible and several other Bookes” valued at £16.

John Cook, Pilgrim, Pioneer and Preacher, in 1696 died possessed of “Two Bibles and 6 other books” worth £2 in all.

Arthur Hathaway, the “Magistrate,” who died in 1711, had “a Bible and other books” at 10s.

Hugh Mosher, First Pastor of the First Baptist Church in 1713 left “2 Bibles and other books all at £3.”

The most scholarly man in town very properly was the Reverend Mr. Samuel Hunt of the Church Presbyterian who in 1730 was inventoried to “his bookes £32, 14s, 6d.” The details unfortunately of this interesting library are omitted. Peleg Slocum, that “honest publick Friend” had, we know, at least a great Bible leathern bound and brass clasped.

John Akin, Captain, Town Clerk and “gentleman” as he was styled, had at his death in 1746: a large Bible, £10, and likewise Hell’s Torments, and other small books at 8s.—let us hope some of the others were more cheerful at least in title.

Thus would our Publication Section preserve the results of research of even more humble minutiae in the story of old Dartmouth’s days and ways.

Respectfully submitted

Wm. A. Wing, Chairman.

Report of the Photograph Section
by William A. Wing

It was in the year 1747 that William Almy of “Punkatest” (Tiverton, R. I.,) wrote his will. There was much of worldly goods to be bequeathed (for that day)—nearly £8000 in money, about 500 cattle, seven slaves, lands and such treasures as silver spoons and “great silver tankard.” From his mansion Squire William Almy might look to the westward across the Seaconnet River and see in the distance the ancient homestead of his grandfather, William Almy of Portsmouth, R. I., the “first comer,” and of his father, Governor Christopher Almy. In fact, one could almost locate their burial places. And near his own dooryard (as was the custom) was the spot to be his own last resting place. Wherein was already laid his wife (born Deborah Cooke). Though as at such a time his mind was not only upon death and the dead, but upon the living. For there were children to be handsomely provided for.

His daughter, Rebecca, the wife of Holder Slocum, of old Dartmouth, and a lady of much “quality,” was to receive £500, a negro woman “Hagar,” silver spoons and chairs, his son Job Almy, who had married into the wealthy Tillinghast family of Newport, was to have “lands and housing at Quanset, Dartmouth, where he dwelt and where he built him three houses, each with a gambrel roof as his fortunes increased by legacies and accumulations and there they stand today still in the possession of descendants.

In our photograph room may be seen pictures of William Almy’s “Punkatest” mansion, the burial place of his parents, the Governor and his Lady and the three gambrel roofed houses at Quansett, the homes of his son, Job Almy, so that our photograph section at least preserves “presentments’ of what meant so much to Mr. William Almy as he wrote his will in the year 1747.

Respectfully submitted,

Wm. A. Wing, Chairman.