formerly the Archives and Collections Society
This mentions both father and son; with connections to Jamaica Plain, Boston.
Jamaica Plain is one of the loveliest spots in New England. It abounds in springs and books, and its soil, light and gravelly, is easily cultivated. Environed as it is by beautifully sloping hills, forming a complete basin, the place is almost entirely sheltered from east winds, and on account of its peculiar salubriousness, has been called the "American Montpelier." For fifty years its death rate averaged but one to one hundred. Its inhabitants were in the olden time principally well-to-do farmers, and until recently it was a market-garden for the supply of vegetables for Boston. Many elegant country seats are delightfully situated on the banks of the lake and elsewhere, and the Plain is dotted with the tasteful cottages of business men, who retire every evening from their avocations in the city to this charming spot. For more than a century it has been an attractive summer resort for Bostonians.
Originally called the "Pond Plain," it had as early as 1667 received its present designation, as appears by Hugh Thomas's conveyance of his property here for the benefit of a school, "to the people at the Jamaica end of the town of Roxbury." It is undoubtedly a slander upon the good people of this locality to assert that it derives its name from their fondness for "Jamaica" rum, and that they preferred it "plain." However, this may be, the fact that the island of Jamaica had not long before been taken by Cromwell from the Spaniards, and that its rum, sugar, and other products had already found their way to the adjacent port of Boston, is certainly suggestive. The nomenclature in question may, notwithstanding ingenious theorizing, be safely referred to the desire to commemorate Cromwell's valuable acquisition.
The beautiful sheet of water known as "Jamaica Pond" covers an area of nearly seventy acres, with a depth in some places of sixty to seventy feet; and until the introduction of Cochituate water into Boston in 1848, supplied that city be means of an aqueduct with excellent water. It now provides that metropolis with ice of the best quality. The right to draw water from the pond for mill purposes, granted to certain citizens in 1698, conditionally, was the frequent cause of litigation till 1851 when the Boston Water Board bought the right for forty-five thousand dollars, and in 1856 the city sold it for thirty-five thousand dollars to the present corporation, on condition that they should not bring water into the city proper. The Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1795. About forty-five miles of pipes made of logs, were laid; the trenches were only three to three and a half feet in depth, which did not prevent freezing in severe weather, while the smallness of the pipes four-inch mains, limited the supply.
Speaking of the social and other aspects of the place, the Rev. Thomas Gray, in his half-century discourse, delivered in 1842, said: "When I first came among you this was a quiet, retired, rural little village, and there was not a single allurement either to physical, moral, or religious intemperance or excess to be found within its limits. Its simplicity of manners remind one of Goldsmith's 'Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain, Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain.' "Fashionable manners were unknown here then. The good dame's visits were made at an early hour in the afternoon, each with her knitting work still going on while engaged in social converse, and at dusk rolling up their work and returning home, refreshed from their social intercourse, to their domestic enjoyments and duties, which they wisely and justly considered as paramount to all others. There was more of true happiness in those humble dwellings than all the modern refinement of art, of wealth, or fashion combined can now boast or ever impart. 'These were thy charms, sweet village. Joys like these, With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please; These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed.' "There seemed also perfect union of purpose and action in almost every person and every thing. Whenever a new dwelling was contemplated the whole neighbourhood volunteered its services, prepared and stoned the cellar and well, and gave often days of labour to aid and speed on the object. There existed also at that time but one religious sentiment and feeling, and until a very recent period all met and worshipped together in this place. In this whole town there were only three churches and three ministers, all as perfectly known, loved and understood by each other as though they had been brothers. Now (1842) there are eleven churches and ministers, besides fifteen other clergymen, making twenty-six in all, and of about as many varying creeds, most of them scarcely known to each other even by name, though residing so near, much less by neighbourly or social and friendly intercourse as formerly."
In the summer of 1775 the Rhode Island troops under Gen. Greene were stationed at the Plain, and were quartered in different houses upon the inhabitants. Some were at Deacon Nathaniel Weld's and others at Joseph Curtis's, on Centre Street. Troops from Connecticut were also stationed on the plain. The soldiers were in general said to very impudent to the inhabitants, especially a company from the town of Methuen.
At the corner of Centre and Boylston Streets stands a quaint but picturesque dwelling, whose irregular proportions strike the eye agreeably. It was built about the year 1738. Early in April, 1775, it was hastily vacated by Capt. Benjamin Hallowell, its loyalist owner, who sought refuge in Boston, and it was used during the siege by the patriot forces as a hospital for the camp at Roxbury. Soldiers were buried from it near the road, about forty rods from the house, in the direction of Boylston Street Station. After the siege it was leased by the selectmen to Jonathan Mason, Esq.
The property, consisting of the dwelling-house and other buildings and about seven acres of land, was confiscated by the State, and was bought in 1791 by Dr. Lewis Leprilete; but after the death of Capt. Hallowell, his son, Ward Nicholas claimed the property in the right of his mother, assumed her name of Boylston, and obtained the estate by process of the law in 1801. The remains of the doctor and those of his son still occupy the estate, of which while living they were dispossessed, and the spot of their internment is marked by a stone with this Latin inscription: "In memoria Doctoris Ludovici Leprilete, Mass. Med. Soc. Socii, Nati Nante in Gallia, Oct. 10, Anno Domini MDCCL. Obit Julii die 29, MDCCCIV AEtat suae LIV. Celeberrimus in chirugia. Hic etiam, ejus filius solus Ludovicus Leprilete sepultus est, Natus Jan. 12 Anno Domini MDCCLXXXV. Obiit Oct. 30, MDCCXCII. AEtat suae octavo anno."
Near the house, on the corner of the lane in front, Dr. Leprilete built an English goods shop, kept by himself for some time, afterwards by Luke Baker, of Boston. In 1803 Mr. Boylston removed it to the hill directly opposite Boylston Hermitage, so called, on Boylston Street, and converted it into a dwelling-house, yet standing. The Hermitage was originally a brush-maker's shop, which was built by a Mr. Knowlton. Mr. Boylston bought and removed it to its present location in 1807, converting it into a dwelling-house as it now stands. It has since been removed to the corner of Lamartine Street. He entered it in December, 1809. The present owner of the old Hallowell mansion, Dr. Wing, has made additions to the original structure, and has had it thoroughly repaired. The engraving represents the old house as it formerly was.
Hallowell in early life was captain of a small vessel, and during the war ending in the conquest of Canada commanded the province twenty-gun ship "King George," rendering essential service, notably at the retaking of Newfoundland. As a commissioner of His Majesty's customs he was extremely obnoxious, and his acceptance also of the office of mandamus councillor made him a special object of public detestation. How intense was the popular excitement at this can be seen in the following occurrences: "A few nights ago," wrote Gov. Hutchinson to a friend, in June, 1770, "Mr. Hulton's house (in Brookline) was attacked. You will easily judge the distress of Mrs. Hulton, Mrs. Burch, and daughter, Burch, who has lately moved to Tom Oliver's house at Dorchester, lay upon his arms the next night, and kept his scouts out, but the women being so distressed, both Hulton and he went the day after to the castle with their friend Porter, and several of the officers lodged upon Jamaica Plain. Lady Bernard told me yesterday, at Cambridge, that all the gentlemen upon the Plain left their houses the night before, upon intimation that they were in danger, and that a search for officers was intended."
On Sept. 2, 1774, while the people were assembled on Cambridge Common to receive the resignations of Danforth, Lee, and Oliver, as mandamus councillors, Hallowell passed on his way to Roxbury. The sight of him so inflamed the people that one hundred and sixty horsemen were soon in pursuit at full gallop. Some of the leaders, however, prudently dissuaded them from proceeding, and they returned and dismounted, except one man, who followed Hallowell to Roxbury, where he overtook and stopped him in his chaise. Hallowell snapped his pistols at him, but could not disengage himself from him till he quitted the chaise and mounted his servant's horse, on which he rode to Boston at full speed, till, the horse falling within the gate, he ran on foot to the camp, through which he spread consternation, telling them he was pursued by thousands, who would be in town at his heels, and destroy all the friends of the government before them. It was his alarm that aroused the country, and started hundreds of armed men on the road to Boston.
His combativeness was irrepressible, and was confined to rebels, for the newspapers of August, 1775, give the details of a street fight between him and Admiral Graves. Hallowell was on of those excepted from pardon by the Provincial Congress, on the 16th of June 1775, in retaliation for Gage's proclamation, excepting Hancock and Samuel Adams. With his family of six persons he accompanied the British army to Halifax in March, 1776, and in July sailed for England. While in Halifax he frequently but vainly offered his services to the commander-in-chief in subduing the rebellion. On visiting Boston in 1796, he was kindly received and hospitably entertained. He died in York (Toronto) Upper Canada, in March 1799, aged seventy-five. This pen-and-ink sketch is from John Adams's Diary: "Jan 16, 1776 Dined at Mr. Nick Boylston's with the two Mr. Boylstons, two Mr. Smiths, Mr. Hallowell, and their ladies. The conversation of the two B.'s and Hallowell is a curiosity. Hotspurs all. H. tells stories about Otis and Sam. Adams. Otis, he says, told him that the Parliament had a right to tax the colonies, and he was a d--- fool who denied it, and that the people never would be quiet till we had a council from home, till our charter was taken away, and till we had regular troops quartered upon us. He says he saw Adams under the tree of Liberty when the effigies hung there, and asked him who they were and what. He said he did not know, he could not tell -- he wanted to inquire."
His son Benjamin was one of seven Boston boys who subsequently attained high rank in the British service, --Admirals Sir Isaac Coffin and Sir Benjamin Hallowell (Carew), and the Gens. Sir John and Sir Aston Coffin, Hugh Mackay Gordon, Sir David Ochterlony, and Sir Roger Hale Scheaffe. Entering the royal navy during the American war, he was at the time of his death, in 1834, an admiral of the Blue. He was a lieutenant under Rodney in his memorable fight with DeGrasse, and in command of the "Swiftsure," '74, contributed essentially to Nelson's victory of the Nile. From a piece of the mainmast of "L'Orient," picked up by the "Swiftsure," Hallowell had a coffin made which he sent to Nelson. The hero, who cherished a warm friendship for Hallowell, received it in the spirit in which it was sent, ordered it to be placed upright in his cabin, and to be reserved for the purpose for which its brave and worthy donor designed it. Succeeding to the estates of the Carews of Beddington, Hallowell assumed the name and arms of that family.
The large house on the corner of Pond Street, now Mrs. John William's, was built in 1755 by John Gould, for his son-in-law, Rev. John Troutbeck, assistant rector of King's Chapel, where he officiated for twenty years. Troutbeck, with other loyalists, left Boston in 1776. He was in London in 1777, in which year Benjamin Hallowell wrote his son, Ward, "Poor Parson Troutbeck, going round Newcastle in a collier, is taken by one of the pirates that is cruising in the North Sea." Possibly by Paul Jones, who was then making captures in that latitude, and who was thus stigmatized by the enemies of America. Of Troutbeck, who was a distiller as well as a clergyman, a Boston rhymester sings:
John of small merit,
"Linden Hall" as it was formerly called, became the property of Mr. Greene, who added another story to the edifice, and fitted young men for college there. On the opposite corner of Pond Street is an old mansion, once owned by Benjamin May, blacksmith, who purchased four acres here of Nathaniel Brewer in 1732. This was afterwards the house of John Parker, who married Benjamin May's daughter. Benjamin was the great-grandson of John May, Sen.
A two-story cottage with dormer-windows, long known as Dr. John C. Warren's country seat, now the residence of Calvin Young, stands near the northerly corner of Green and Centre Streets. In 1740 Eleazer May sold this estate, including the house in which he dwelt, to Benjamin, nephew of Peter Faneuil, of whom it was bought in 1760 by his brother-in-law, Benjamin Pemberton. It originally contained seven acres, and extended back to the river. Mr. Pemberton, in a note to the assessors in 1783, speaks of the property as "now greatly out of repair, and much damaged by provincial soldiers."
When Dr. Warren bought the estate, about the year 1800, he found the dwelling-house constructed after the West India fashion of one story in front, with an addition of two stories in the rear. A large front door opened directly into a spacious hall. This door and the one opposite were perfectly plain on the inside, indicating that they were always to stand open. Facing you as you entered was the door at the other end of the hall, leading through a porch into a large carriage-yard. The two large windows in front were furnished with blinds of half-inch board, leaving spaces half a foot wide between them. On the right side of the hall were two doors, leading to bedrooms. Opposite there were windows made to shut down upon doors opening into a piazza, which led into a small garden adjoining the house. These windows formed each of them a good-sized door, the lower part of which seemed as if a piece of the paneling or wainscot had been cut out and placed on hinges. The hall floor was painted, and in its centre was the picture of a dog, admirably executed and lifelike. Three noble elms stood upon the road, one of which remains at the westerly corner of the house, while within were lindens, and beyond these two rows of fine horse-chestnut trees.
Many changes have been made in the old house. One of the original features of the mansion, the elegant paneled wainscoting in the large room on the left as you enter, has been retained, but the windows no longer extend to the floor, admitting of free ingress and egress to the piazza; and the immense chimney that once buttressed its northerly side has been removed. During his residence here, Dr. Warren imported many trees and plants from Europe, and paid great attention to agriculture. He was the son of Dr. John and a nephew of Gen. Joseph Warren, and was one of the most distinguished surgeons this country produced. Mr. and Mrs. Young have resided here since 1837. The latter is a sister of the well-known historical writers, John S. and William Barry.
Burroughs Street, from Centre to Pond Street, the gift of William Burroughs, was accepted by the town in 1787. Thomas Street was named for Hugh Thomas, an early settler. On the corner stood a house, dating from 1716, known as the Sally Brewer house, now moved back to the end of the street. It was formerly the Brewer mansion, Stephen Brewer residing in it, and was on the Eliot land, leased by the grammar school trustees for ninety-nine years. The Eliot and Thomas estates, given to the school, extended from Thomas to Orchard Streets, and from Centre to Pond. Eliot Street was opened through to Pond in 1800. At its corner stands one of Paul Dudley's milestones dated 1735, inscribed, "Five miles to Boston town-house."
Opposite the intersection of Centre and South Streets, well back from the thoroughfare, stands the Greenough mansion, a large, square, old-fashioned, roomy edifice, in which lived the Tory, Commodore Joshua Loring. It is said to have been framed in England, and occupies the site of a dwelling purchased of Loring by Mr. Pemberton, who gave it to the parish for a parsonage, and who removed it to the spot where Dr. Weld resided near the Unitarian Church. The estate, formerly John Polley's, was bought by Loring, in 1752, of the heirs of Joshua Cheever, of Charlestown. In May, 1775, the house was the headquarters of Gen. Nathaniel Greene. In June it was occupied by Capt. Pond's company from Wrentham, but was soon converted into a hospital for the Roxbury camp. After the siege it was leased by the selectmen to Hon. William Phillips. Just back of the house a number of American soldiers who died of disease were buried. Their remains were in 1867 removed to the cemetery in the westerly part of the town.
In accordance with the act of the General Court of April 30, 1779, to confiscate the estates of "notorious conspirators," Loring's "large mansion house, convenient out-houses, gardens planted with fruit trees, together with about sixty-five acres of mowing land," were sold at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern, in King Street, in June, the purchaser being the noted Col. Isaac Sears. From Sears it passed to the Widow Ann Doane, who in 1784 married David Stoddard Greenough, son of Thomas Greenough, a member of the Revolutionary Committee of Correspondence, whose sessions had at one time been held in the Loring house. It is still owned and occupied by the Greenough family, and taken in connection with its surroundings, is, in spite of its age, hardly surpassed by any of its more modern neighbours. Col. David Henley, who had charge of Burgoyne's captive army while at Cambridge, occupied the house about that time. The handsome Town Hall stands upon a portion of this estate. It was dedicated in August, 1868, on which occasion an interesting historical address was delivered by Hon. Arthur W. Austin.
The Loring family has the distinction of having been the only one of any prominence, among the natives of Roxbury, that adhered to the royal cause during the Revolutionary struggle. Joshua, who built this house in 1760, learned the tanner's trade with James Mears on Roxbury Street, but when of age went to sea, rose to the command of a privateer, and having been taken by the French in August, 1744, was for some months a prisoner in Louisburg. On Dec. 19, 1757, he was commissioned a captain in the British navy, was commodore of the naval forces on Lakes Champlain and Ontario, and participated in the capture of Quebec under Wolfe, and in conquest of Canada in the succeeding campaigns of Amherst. He was severely wounded in the leg while in command on Lake Ontario, and at the close of the war retired on half pay, at which time he settled down at Jamaica Plain.
When the charter of Massachusetts was altered, and the right to choose members of the governor's council was taken from the people and vested in the crown, Gen. Gage, by a writ of mandamus, appointed Loring to the office, and on Aug. 17, 1774 he was sworn in as one of Gage's select council. Gage's appointees were immediately subjected to the strictest surveillance, and the greatest pressure brought to bear upon them to induce them to throw up the obnoxious office. A diarist, under date of Aug. 29, speaking of a Roxbury town meeting recently held, says: "Late in the evening a member waited upon Commodore Loring, and in a friendly way advised him to follow the example of his townsman, Isaac Winslow (who had already resigned.) He desired time to consider of it. They granted it, but acquainted him if he did not comply he must expect to be waited on by a larger number, actuated by a different spirit. His principal apprehension was that he should lose half his pay." This fear seems to have determined him, for on March 30, 1775, the Provincial Congress denounced Joshua Loring and other "irreconciliables" as implacable enemies to their country, and every town was ordered to enter their names as such upon its records.
On the morning of the Lexington battle, after passing most of the previous night in consultation with Deacon Joseph Brewer, his neighbour and intimate friend, upon the step he was about to take, he mounted his horse, left his house and everything belonging to it, and pistol in hand rode at full speed to Boston, stopping on the way only to answer an old friend, who asked, " Are you going, commodore?" "Yes," he replied, "I have always eaten the king's bread, and always intend to." The sacrifice must have been especially painful to him, as he is said to have deemed the cause of his countrymen just, but did not believe it could succeed.
He received a pension from the crown until his decease at Highgate, England, in October 1781, at the age of sixty-five. Mary, his widow, the daughter of Samuel Curtis, of Roxbury, also died in England, at the age of eighty. Their son, Joshua, Jr., in 1769 married, at the house of Col. Hatch in Dorchester, Miss Elizabeth Lloyd, of Boston. This is the man who, as deputy commissary of prisoners at New York, made himself so detested by his brutal indifference to the comfort of his unfortunate countrymen who were prisoners. In August, 1776, he wrote to Col. Hatch that he expected to spend the winter in Roxbury, and should clean up his house there for his place of residence. To the very last, the loyalists seem to have deluded themselves with the idea that the rebellion was a failure, and that they should soon reap the reward of all their loyal sacrifices. His son, Sir John Wentworth Loring, born in Roxbury, became an admiral in the British navy, and another, Henry, died archdeacon of Calcutta in 1832.
Col. Sears, who succeeded Loring, like him had commanded a privateer in the French war, and was afterwards a successful merchant in New York. He was one of the most active and zealous Sons of Liberty, so much so that he was popularly called "King" Sears, and was at one time a member of the Provincial Congress. Active throughout the contest, at its close his business and his property had disappeared. In 1785 he sailed with a venture for Canton, as supercargo, but was taken ill with fever, and died there in October, 1786 at the age of fifty-six.
The Third, or Jamaica Plain, Parish Church, opposite the Soldiers' Monument, owes its origin to Mrs. Susanna, wife of Benjamin Pemberton, who occupied the mansion now Mr. Calvin Young's. Her husband engaged heartily in the project, and had the edifice erected principally at his own expense. It was raised, in September, 1769, upon land bequeathed to the town by the apostle Eliot, and on the 31t of the following December, the first sermon was preached in the unfinished structure by the Rev. Joseph Jackson, of Brookline. The present handsome building, which stands on the corner of Centre and Eliot Streets, occupies the site of the first, which contained thirty-four square pews, and three long seats for the poor on each side the broad aisle next the pulpit, and a gallery. The original building was sold by the parish to Mr. S. M. Weld, who removed it to the opposite side of Eliot Street, the spot now occupied by Eliot Hall. Remodelled as a stable, it was nearly ready for occupancy, when, on May 24, 1853, it was destroyed by fire. The house was first warmed in January, 1805, by the introduction of an iron stove placed at the head of the broad aisle. In 1832 the first organ-music was heard here, the instrument having been made by Mr. William Goodrich, of Cambridge.
In 1820 the house was enlarged and repaired, thirty pews added on the lower floor, and ten in the galleries. Sir William Pepperell presented a Bible for the use of the pulpit in 1772, at which time he resided in the mansion of Gov. Bernard. In 1783, John Hancock purchased the bell which had been recently taken down from the New Brick Church, Boston and gave it to this church. This, the first bell placed in its steeple, was removed in 1821 upon the purchase of a new and larger one. The first bore this inscription: "Thomas Lester, of London, made me, 1742." Its weight was three hundred and forty-two pounds, its cost three hundred, thirty-three dollars and thirty-three cents. Hancock proposed at this time to send to England for a larger and better bell, but the parish thought best to secure "the bird in the hand," and it was well they did.
The Third Parish, or precinct, comprising thirty-five persons with their estates, -- thirteen members, -- was organized on Dec. 11. 1760; was incorporated in 1772; and on July 6th of that year, Rev. William Gordon after having preached to the society one year, was installed as "pasture," -- so says the record. In May, 1773, nine persons with their estates, Mr. Pemberton at their head, all belonging to the First or lower Parish, were, by an Act of the General Court, separated from that and united to the Third Parish, an act which was opposed by that parish, as appears by a printed memorial presented to the General Court. Before this time, it had formed part of the Second, or upper Parish, then under Rev. Nathaniel Walter, the limits of which did not extend above eighty rods below the spot the church now occupies. During the siege, the First Parish meeting-house being occupied by the American troops, town meetings were held here. The sessions of the General Court were also held here in the spring of 1778, on account of the prevalence of small-pox in Boston, Dr. Gordon officiating as chaplain. When, in later years, of the war, the currency became so alarmingly depreciated, the Doctor got the consent of his people to pay him his salary, nominally 15,000 pounds, in produce at peace prices, -- a great relief to him, and no disadvantage to his parishioners.
After Dr. Gordon's return to England in 1786, the pastorate was vacant for seven years, and until the settlement of Re. Thomas Gray. The war had impoverished the people, and the parish, small as it then was, felt the burden so severely that the pulpit was only occasionally supplied. The great patron of the parish, Mr. Pemberton, having upon a trivial account become offended with Dr. Gordon, had, by will, left his entire property, including the church itself, and most of the pews in it, in trust for the benefit of the poor of the town of Boston. He had previously promised that he would bequeath it to the parish for the sole support of its future ministers. It was pressed also by Dr. Gordon for arrears of salary due him. Under the long and successful pastorate of Dr. Gray, all existing difficulties were overcome, and prosperity and harmony were established.
The succession of pastors of this church has been:
The parsonage house was purchased by Mr. Pemberton in 1760 of Commodore Loring, and removed from the site since occupied by the Greenough mansion, to the corner of Center and Monument Streets, the recent residence of Dr. C. M. Weld. After Dr. Gray's family left the old house in 1851 it was sold and moved to South Street, adorned for the sacrifice with a coat of yellow paint, and it became the habitation of Irish families. A few years later its gentility was lowered still another peg, and it again took up the line of march, this time towards the gas-house, where it still remains on the west side of Keyes Street, but bearing no resemblance to its former self. Rev. William Gordon, a native of Hitchin, England, had, prior to coming to Boston, been settled over a large independent society in Ipswich, England, and more recently at Old Gravel Lane, Wapping. His partiality to the cause of American liberty induced him to emigrate in 1770, and two years later he settled in Jamaica Plain as its first pastor. This connection was, after fourteen years of harmony and union, dissolved, and Gordon left for England on March 17, 1786 that he might publish his history of the American Revolution on more favourable terms than in this country. The materials for this work, which he published in London in 1788, were gathered from the papers of Washington, Greene, Knox, and other prominent actors in the war for independence. He began their collection in 1776, and his narrative its minute, and in general faithful.
Its value was impaired, so it is said, by the expurgation of such passages as it was supposed might endanger prosecution in England. Dr. Gordon was a warm partisan of the Revolution, and took an active part in public measures. Made chaplain to the Provincial Congress, May 4, 1775, that body voted him a good horse for the services, also free access to all prisoners of war, and commissioned him to obtain Gov. Hutchinson's letter books, then in the hands of Capt. McLane, of Milton. "The alacrity with which," says Mr. J.S. Loring, "Gordon ambled on his gentle bay horse for this purpose, in his short breeches and buckled shoes, his reverend wig and three-cornered hat, was worthy of the spirit of a native-born patriot."
Gordon's manners were rude and blunt. His warmth of temper and lack of prudence and judgment embroiled him with Mr. Pemberton, the patron of the society, with whom he had a silly squabble, and also with Gov. Hancock, which led to the latter's removal from Roxbury. While chaplain to Congress, he preached a Fast sermon strongly expressing his political sentiments. He attacked, in a most pungent manner, Article V of the proposed Constitution of Massachusetts, a matter that, as a foreigner, it would have been more prudent for him to have let alone. This article, published on April 2, 1778, was immediately followed by his summary dismissal from his office of chaplain to both houses of the Legislature. This dismissal gave great umbrage to the Doctor, and the more so as many of his particular friends, and some even who were boarders with him, voted for the measure. The closing years of his life were passed at Ipswich, England, where he died in extreme poverty on Oct. 19, 1807, aged seventy-seven. Though not particularly interesting as a preacher, he was popular, and was facetious and social in disposition. He was the zealous champion of the negro race, and in numerous vigorously written newspaper articles called attention to the absurdity as well as injustice of holding them in slavery while carrying on the struggle for liberty. In one of these, after quoting from the Virginia "Declaration of Rights" "All men are born free and independent," he says, "If these are our genuine sentiments, and we are not provoking the Deity by acting hypocritically to serve a turn, let us apply earnestly and heartily to the extirpation of slavery from among ourselves." In another paper he asks this pertinent question: "Was Boston the first port on the continent that begun the slave-trade, and are they not the first shut up by an oppressive act?"
John Adams expresses his opinion of Gordon thus: "He is an eternal talker and somewhat vain, and not accurate nor judicious; very zealous in the cause, and a well-meaning man, but incautious; fond of being thought a man of influence at headquarters; he is a good man, but wants a guide." The Doctor, calling one morning on Mr. Pemberton, fastened his horse to the front fence, which had been newly painted. The latter requested him to remove him to a tree near by, which the Doctor declined doing. Mr. Pemberton then called his servant and ordered him to do it. Dr. Gordon peremptorily forbade him, and, on Mr. Pemberton's repeating his order, left the house. Mr. Pemberton refused during his last illness to converse with or to see the Doctor.
Joseph Curtis used to relate that the Doctor had a ready hand in applying the birch to the young catechists, of whom he was one. After punishing several of them one severe winter's day, his feet slipped from under him as he stepped from the icy threshold of the school, and he fell at full length, his hat and wig rolling off his head. Thereupon, says Curtis, "we shouted in high glee, and gave three cheers." This was the Doctor's last appearance in that character.
Rev. Thomas Gray, second pastor, was born in Boston, March 16, 1772, and graduated at Harvard College in 1790. He married a daughter of Rev. Samuel Stillman, of Boston, by whom he was prepared for the ministry, and began to preach here on April 22, 1792. The parish, then small and poor, contained only fifty-four families. For seven years it had been without a minister, and even without the regular observance of ordinances, and the leading member of it, from some trifling cause, had withdrawn his support. For more than half a century he laboured here, and left the society prosperous and united.
"Fifty years since," says Dr. Gray, in his half-century discourse, "I preached my first sermon to this society. The fulfillment of previous engagements alone prevented my remaining then, as requested. The small-pox had broken out in the mean time, and in the general alarm the doors of the church were closed till November 11, when I resumed my ministry here, and accepted a call on the twenty-fourth day of the next month to settle down in this place with a small handful of people, a people of exhausted means but of noble hearts, and here I have ever since continued."
Social and full of anecdote, Dr. Gray was greatly beloved by his parishioners. As a preacher he was practical, agreeable, and often effective. But it was as a pastor, in the faithful and affectionate oversight of his flock, that his chief excellence lay. Two of his valuable historical discourses have been printed: a "Half-Century Sermon," 1842; "Notice of Rev. John Bradford, and sketch of Roxbury Churches," 1825.
Upon the triangular piece of ground in front of the Unitarian Church, the gift of John Ruggles, where the Soldiers' Monument stands, the first schoolhouse in Jamaica Plain was erected in 1676. The present house on Eliot Street is the fourth school building, and was dedicated on Jan. 17, 1832. The principal benefactors of the school were Hugh Thomas, who, in 1676, gave to the town for this purpose all his real estate besides other property, and Rev. John Eliot, who, in 1689, gave it seventy-five acres of land. The Eliot School, named from the latter donor, was not incorporated until 1804. The monument erected in 1871 is of Quincy granite in the Gothic style, and is surmounted by the figure of a soldier. Upon a marble tablet within the arches at its base are the names of the men of West Roxbury who fell in the war for the Union. At a meeting in West Roxbury in 1862, it was proposed to lay out a new road; but on motion of John C. Pratt, it was resolved "that the only road desirable to be laid out at the present time is the road to Richmond," and the town gave eighty-six thousand dollars for war purposes, to which private subscriptions added twenty-two thousand dollars.
In the rear of the church, on a part of the original parish lot, is the cemetery, established in 1785, It was laid out in spite of Dr. Gordon's efforts to prevent it, as injurious to the public health, the Doctor also insisted that the parish had no legal right to use the land for that purpose. Within its area are twenty-four tombs. Comparatively few internments have been made here since the consecration of Forest Hills Cemetery. One of the gravestones is thus inscribed: "In memory of Capt. Lemuel May, died Nov. 19, 1805, age sixty-seven." This patriot, who was a lieutenant of Roxbury minute-men at the Lexington battle, resided on May Street, and was the son of Benjamin May, who lived on the corner of Pond Street.
On the right, just above the Monument on Centre Street, is a large square mansion having ample grounds around it, with fine shade trees in its front, the residence of Mr. Moses Williams. This gentleman, who enjoys the distinction of being the oldest living male native of Roxbury, is still hale and vigorous, and preserves his memory and other faculties in a remarkable degree. The house, which is on a part of the Eliot School land, was built by Stephen Gorham. About the year 1807, Mr. John Andrews bought it and resided here until his death in 1821. Mr. Andrews, who has a merchant and a selectman of Boston, was quite an object of interest to the boys and girls of the neighbourhood, as on every 'election day it was his custom to bring out a huge bag of copper cents for them to scramble for. He has a still better claim to our regard as the author of the diary recently given to the public, and containing a most interesting and lifelike picture of Boston and its inhabitants a little more than a century ago. "As an evidence," says Mr. Williams, 'that real estate does not always rise in value, Mr. Gorham bought this lot in 1804, containing eight acres, for three thousand three hundred and thirty-three dollars. The house and stable, built in 1805, costing him fourteen thousand dollars, I bought for six thousand in 1833. So dull were estates and hard to rent at that time, that the house was shut up, and without a tenant for two years previous to my moving in 1832."
Next to Mr. Williams was the country seat of John Hancock after he resigned the presidency of the Congress, more recently the estate of Nathaniel Curtis, and now the home of Mr. Curtis's widow. It was bought by Hancock of Dr. Lemuel Hayward, who received it for seven or eight shares in Long Wharf, then valued at only fifty dollars a share but at which the doctor's decease were appraised at one hundred thousand dollars. The present house was built in the year 1800, by Thomas Hancock, nephew of the governor whose cottage of one story and a half occupied the grounds in front of it. One who saw Gov. Hancock in June, 1782, while a resident of Jamaica Plain, relates that:
-- "Though only forty-five, he had the appearance of advanced age. He had been repeatedly and severely afflicted with the gout, probably owing in part to the custom of drinking punch, a common practice in high circles in those days. He was nearly six feet in height and of thin person, stooping a little, and apparently enfeebled by disease. His manners were very gracious, of the old style of dignified complaisance. His face had been very handsome. Dress was then adapted quite as much to be ornamental as useful. Gentlemen wore wigs when abroad, and commonly caps when at home. At this time, about noon, Hancock was dressed in a red velvet cap, within which was one of fine linen. The latter was turned up over the lower edge of the velvet one, two, or three inches. He wore a blue damask gown lined with silk, a white stock, white satin embroidered waistcoat, black satin small-clothes, white silk stockings, and red morocco slippers. "
It was a general practice in genteel families to have a tankard of punch made in the morning, and placed in a cooler when the season required it. At this visit, Hancock took from the hearth a full tankard, and drank first himself, and then offered it to those present. His equipage was splendid, and such as is not customary at this day. His apparel was handsomely embroidered with gold and silver lace and other decorations fashionable among men of fortune at that period, and he rode, especially upon public occasion, with six beautiful bay horses, attended by servants in livery. He wore a scarlet coat with ruffles on his sleeves, which soon became the prevailing fashion; and it is related of Dr. Nathan Jacques, of West Newbury, the famous pedestrian, that he walked all the way to Boston in one day to procure cloth for a coat like that of Hancock, and returned with it under his arm and on foot."
Hancock's removal from Jamaica Plain to Boston was occasioned by a quarrel with Rev. Dr. Gordon, which arose in this wise. He had been a treasurer of Harvard College from 1773 to 1777, and had neglected to adjust his account, greatly to the detriment of the institution. At a meeting of the overseers of whom Dr. Gordon was one, that gentleman spoke his mind upon the singular neglect of the treasurer so plainly and in so gross a manner as to mortally offend Hancock, who ceased all intercourse with him, and at once removed to Boston.
Dr. Lemuel Hayward, of whom Hancock bought the place, a native of Braintree, studied medicine under Dr. Joseph Warren, and establishing himself at practice at Jamaica Plain, continued there until his removal to Boston in 1783. Appointed in June 1775, a surgeon in the General Hospital, occupying the Loring house for this purpose, he served in that capacity until the British troops evacuated Boston. He then, in partnership with Dr. Jonathan Davies, of Roxbury, began the practice of inoculation for the small-pox. He retired from the profession, in which he acquired a high reputation, in 1798, and died in Boston on March 20, 1821.
Nathaniel Curtis, an eminent merchant of Boston, a man of strict integrity and sound judgment, resided here from 1819 until his death, April 7, 1857, aged eighty-three. He was fifth in descent from William, of Roxbury, and in the maternal line descended from William Mullins, one of the "Mayflower" Pilgrims. He represented the town in the Legislature for four years, and in the State Constitutional Convention of 1820, and was for many years treasurer of the Third Church and a trustee of the Eliot School. On the estate beyond, is the house built in 1774, in the West Indian style, of only one story, by Capt. Timothy Penney, of Jamaica, who occupied it until his return to that island about the year 1789. It was raised and enlarged by subsequent owners. Long the property of George Hallet, and afterwards of Capt. Crowell Hatch, it is now occupied by Mrs. Walker's school.
At the corner of May Street, formerly Lowder's Lane, is the estate of Mr. T.W. Seaverns, formerly the Bridge estate. Edward Bridge was one of the first settlers of the town, and a very old house is yet standing on the place. West of it, on May Street, is the farm bought in 1771 by Capt. Lemuel May. The old farm-house upon it had been used for barracks, and was, when he bought it, greatly in need of repair. His grandson, Benjamin May, now occupies and tills the farm which formerly included a portion of the hill south of May Street, upon which Messrs. Dixwell, Bowditch, Parsons, Brewer, whose mother was a daughter of Capt. May, resides on a part of the estate facing Pond Street. The elevation to the west was known a century ago as Dana's Hill.
On the southwest side of Jamaica Pond, fronting also on Pond Street, were situated the mansion and estate of sixty acres belonging to Sir Francis Bernard, the royal governor of Massachusetts from 1760 to 1769, a period of surpassing historical interest. This was and still is a most lovely spot, and here, but for the gathering clouds which darkened the political horizon, the remaining years of this scholarly and able representative of King George might have passed in the enjoyment of all that seems most desirable in life, -- a delightful home, set in a lovely landscape, and the esteem and regard of the people he had governed. His extensive and beautiful grounds were filled with choice fruit trees, plants and shrubs, including one hundred orange and lemon trees, besides fig, cork, cinnamon, and other rare exotics. After Bernard, the second Sir William Pepperell occupied the premises until he quitted the country for political reasons. This advertisement shortly afterward appeared in the "Boston Gazette" of March 10, 1775, but the times were not propitious for a sale, and the property soon changed hands without the formality:
"To be leased, a farm in Roxbury, lately occupied by Sir William Pepperell, on Jamaica Pond. It contains sixty acres of land, a dwelling-house of three floors, with four rooms to each, a building containing an elegant hall twenty-four by fifty, a green-house, stables, coach and other out-houses."
Then came the siege and the occupation of loyalist dwellings by the patriot troops, Bernard's being the quarters of Col. Miller of Rhode Island, in the summer of 1775. Afterward it was used as a hospital for the camp at Roxbury. The soldiers who died here were buried near a small fish-pond, on elevated ground some distance back from the buildings. This was obliterated by the plough many years since. To make it all the hotter for the enemy, the governor's hot-house was taken by Major Crane and converted into a magazine for the artillery. Confiscated by the State in 1779, the property was bought by Martin Brimmer, a Boston merchant, who died here in 1804. Capt. John Prince, who purchased it in 1806, in 1809 took down and removed the old house, a part of which had stood one hundred and forty-one years, and in which, no doubt, many a bumper of good wine had been drunk to the health of the seven sovereigns of Great Britain who had reigned during that period. Capt. Prince made a road through the property from Pond Street to Perkins Street, afterwards dividing the whole into good-sized building lots, on many of which elegant residences have since been erected. In front of the mansion house, now owned by J. S. Robinson, are some fine, large English elms probably planted by Gov. Bernard. One of these measures twenty-five feet in circumference.
A native of England and a graduate of Oxford, Francis Bernard chose the law for a profession, and after having for two years satisfactorily governed New Jersey was, at the age of forty-six, appointed governor of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and arrived in Boston on Aug. 3, 1760. The zealous champion of British authority, his administration was marked by the measures that initiated the Revolution. The writs of assistance in support of stringent revenue laws; the Stamp Act, which, however, he opposed; the introduction of troops to overawe the town of Boston, -- these and other like measures caused the people to hold Bernard in detestation, and greatly weakened their attachment to the mother country. Evidences of his duplicity were not wanting. While professing himself to a friend to the province, he was endeavouring to undermine its constitution, and was constantly importuning the ministry to send troops hither, while giving the strongest assurances to the contrary. When in August, 1765, the Stamp Act riots occurred, Bernard, deserting his post, "hurried trembling to the castle," says the historian Bancroft, " but could not, even within its strong walls, get rid of his fears, and a few days later gave way to the popular demands without dignity or courage."
The seizure of John Hancock's sloop "Liberty," for alleged infraction of the revenue laws, was the occasion of a town meeting at the "Old South" on the 14th of June, 1768, at which an address to the governor was agreed on, and twenty-one men appointed to deliver it. Late in the afternoon of the 15th of June, the day succeeding the meeting, the quiet country-seat of the governor at Jamaica Plain was invaded, not indeed by a noisy mob of rioters intent upon blood and rapine, but by a peaceful procession, consisting of eleven chaises, "Mr. Hancock with the moderator, Royal Tyler, Esq., leading the van in his phaeton, making a splendid appearance." Among the "highly respectable" committee of twenty-one who alighted at the governor's door were Hancock, Otis, Warren, Samuel Adams, and Josiah Quincy.
"I received them," says Bernard, "with all possible civility, and having heard their petition I talked very freely with them, but postponed giving a formal answer till the next day, as it should be in writing. I then had wine handed round, and they left me, highly pleased with their reception, especially that part of them," he significantly adds, "which had not been used to an interview with me." In his answer, Bernard promised to stop impressment; but his very next move was to have British regiments ordered to Boston. The arrival and landing of these troops when, as Dr. Byles punningly put it, "our grievances were red dressed," is described in a letter from Col. Dalrymple, their commanding officer, to Commodore Hood, dated at Boston in October, 1768. This officer's estimate of Bernard's character corresponds exactly with that of his "rebel" opponents.
"The governor prudentially retired to the country," says Dalrymple, "and left me to take the whole on myself. I encamped the Twenty-Ninth Regiment immediately; the Fourteenth remained without cover. By tolerable management I got possession of Faneuil Hall, the school of liberty, from the sons thereof, without force, and thereby secured all their arms; and I am much in fashion, visited by Otis, Hancock, Rowe, etc., who cry and offer exertions for the public service, in hopes by this means to ruin the governor by exposing his want of spirit and zeal for the public advantage."
Of Bernard he says:
"It is beyond the power of my pen to paint anything so abject. Far from being elated that the hands of government were rendered so respectable, he deplored the arrival of letters that made his setting out improper, and with earnest looks he followed a ship that he had hired for his conveyance, and in which he declared his fixed intention of going the moment the troops arrived. His actions were entirely of a piece with his words, for on a requisition for quarters he declared himself without power or authority in his province.
"By what I have related," says Commodore Hood, in a letter to Mr. Grenville, containing the above extracts, "you will plainly see how matters stand, and how little is to be expected from Gov. Bernard. I have long and often lamented his timid conduct, and yet not willingly bring on him more contempt than he must of course feel when the duplicity of his behaviour is brought to light. Mr. Bernard is without a doubt a sensible man, but he has a vast deal of low cunning which he has played off upon all degrees of people to his own disgrace. His doubles and turnings have been so many that he has altogether lost his road and bought himself into great contempt. I am sorry it was not in my power to comply with his request for a ship to convey him to England, for most certainly the sooner he his out of America the better."
His recall to England came unexpectedly. True to his character he remained, vainly trying to get an appropriation for a year's salary. He left his seat in Roxbury on July 31, 1769, and embarked the next day from the castle, taking with him his third son, Thomas, thus making a timely escape from impending troubles. As he departed the bells were rung, cannon were fired from the wharves, Liberty Tree was gay with flags, and at night a great bonfire was kindled upon Fort Hill. He remained nominal governor two years longer, but though rewarded for his services with a baronetcy, he was never again employed, and died in June, 1779. Lady Bernard did not leave Jamaica Plain until December, 1770.
Though upright, and of courteous address, Bernard left few friends in the place where he passed ten years of his life. He had too little command of his temper, and lacked those mollifying arts which the ferment of the times required. Those of his own household were of the number who afforded amusement by furnishing the most ridiculous representations of his parsimony and domestic meanness. He seldom rode to Boston on Sunday, but commonly attended service at Brookline, where the preacher was, as he said, shorter in his services than most Puritanical divines, and in particular, than the Roxbury minister (Adams.) He had fine conversational talents, an extensive knowledge of books, and a memory so tenacious that he boasted that he could repeat the whole of the plays of Shakespeare. He was a friend to literature, and gave to Harvard College a large part of his private library. This passage from his favourite author must in his latter days often have occurred to him: --
My way of life Is fallen into the sear,
One evening at a period when mob law had become somewhat prevalent, the governor heard, not far from his house, riotous noises, and against remonstrances of his wife, went out to use his good offices, but meeting with some rude rebuffs he returned home, and was thus accosted by his wife: "Husband, have they beat your brains out?" "No, my dear, if I had any I should have taken your advice and stayed at home." At the king's levee, his Majesty questioned Bernard about the climate of New England. He replied that it was much in extremes, but in general healthy. "I suppose Sir Francis," said the king, "you found it very warm during your residence there?"
The second Sir William Pepperell, grandson and heir of the distinguished captor of Louisburg, resided here between 1772 and 1775. He graduated at Harvard University in 1766, became a member of the council, and in 1774 was continued in that body under the mandamus of the king, and incurred the odium visited upon those who were thus appointed contrary to the charter, four of whom, Pepperell, Hallowell, Winslow, and Loring, were residents of Roxbury. He went to England in 1775, and as president of the American Board of Loyalists is the prominent figure in West's picture of the reception of these gentlemen, by Great Britain, in 1783. He is here represented in a voluminous wig, a flowing gown, in advance of other figures, with one hand extended, and nearly touching the crown which lies on a velvet cushion on a table, and holding the other hand, at his side, a scroll or manuscript, half unrolled. His vast estates having been confiscated, he was allowed 500 pounds per annum by the British government until his death, which occurred in London in 1816.
Next to Gov. Bernard's estate, on the right as you go up Pond Street, was the Whitney estate of nine acres. A handsome stone mansion of the Elizabethan style, the residence of Mrs. Abel Adams, stands on the elevated plain at the rear of the lot. The Whitney house, which stood about a quarter of a mile this side of the Brookline line, disappeared nearly a century ago, and on the removal of the family, the property was purchased by the Childs family, whose premises it joined. In the rear of the spot where the old house stood, the ground slopes gradually downward for several rods to a narrow strip of meadow, through which runs a pleasant little brook. Beyond the meadow the ground rises abruptly to an elevation many feet higher than the front of the lot, and still rises gradually, forming a slope of considerable dimension, and extending westerly to Brookline. West of the brook is a fine grove of forest trees. The name of John, the grandson of John Whitney, the first settler, appears in the list of members of the Second Church when gathered in 1712. Eli Whitney, the famous inventor of the cotton-gin, Rev. George, pastor of the Second and Third Churches of Roxbury, and Prof. William Dwight Whitney, the distinguished Oriental scholar, all belong to this branch of the Whitney family. Benjamin Child, the common ancestor of most of the name in Roxbury, Brookline, Boston and Woodstock, Conn., settled on the estate between Whitney's and the Brookline boundary, owned until recently by his descendants, and died in 1678. Besides his house and barn, he had eighty acres "conveniently adjoining to ye sd housing."
A century ago Capt. Lemuel Child kept the Peacock Tavern, a somewhat noted resort at the westerly corner of Centre and Allandale Streets, near the famous mineral springs of that name. When the British officers were in Boston they frequently made up skating parties for the suppers, and after exercising at the pond would ride over and partake of the good cheer of the Peacock. Upon one of these occasions, so says tradition, the pretty "maid of the inn," afterwards Mrs. Williams , a niece of the innkeeper, was followed by one of these gay young bloods into the cellar, whither she had gone for supplies for the table. Being familiar with the premises, she blew out the lighted candle she held in her hand and made her escape, not forgetting to fasten the cellar door behind her. After thumping his head against the rafters in the vain effort to follow her, her persecutor was finally obliged to alarm the house before he could be released from his awkward predicament. Washington, Knox, and other distinguished officers were frequent visitors during the siege, the former stopping here on his way to New York after the evacuation of Boston. Capt. Michael Cresap, of the Virginia riflemen, immortalized in the celebrated speech of Logan, the Indian chief, lay here sick in September, 1775. Child led the minute company of the Third Parish in the Lexington battle. In the wall opposite is another of Paul Dudley's milestones, -- "6 miles to Boston. P. Dudley, 1735."
The son of Samuel Adams bequeathed to him his claims for services as surgeon during the Revolutionary war, and in May, 1794, the patriot expended a considerable portion of the amount in the purchase of the Peacock Tavern estate and forty acres of land with the buildings thereon, "late the property of Lemuel Child." Here the aged patriot resided during his gubernatorial term, and for the brief remainder of his days made it a summer residence. It was commonly said that had not the death of an only son relieved his latter-day poverty, Samuel Adams would have been obliged to claim a burial at the hand of charity or at the public expense.
Samuel Adams, the author of the scheme that organized the Revolution, -- the committees of correspondence, -- was of common size, with a muscular form, light blue eyes, light complexion, and was erect in person. He wore a tie wig, cocked hat, and red cloak. His manner was very serious. At the close of his life and probably from his early days he had a tremulous motion of the head, which probably added to the solemnity of his eloquence, as this was in some measure associated with his voice. Duponceau, the eminent jurist, who, while at Boston as secretary to Baron Steuben, made the acquaintance of many distinguished persons, relates this anecdote. "I shall never forget," he says, "the compliment paid me by Samuel Adams on his discovering my republican principles. 'Where,' said he 'did you learn all that?' 'In France,' I replied, 'In France? that is impossible.' Then recovering himself, he added, 'Well, because a man was born in a stable it is no reason why he should be a horse.' 'I thought to myself,' adds the polite Frenchman, 'that in matters of compliment they ordered things better in France.'"
Refs: Reprinted from Chapter Ten of "The Town of Roxbury, Massachusetts: Its Memorable Persons and Places, Its History and Antiquities With Numerous Illustrations of Its Old Landmarks and Noted Personages" Francis S. Drake, private, 1878.
Copyright © 2012
Revised: 31 March 2012