BAY STATE MONTHLY.
A Massachusetts Magazine.
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By ARTHUR P. DODGE.
Victor Hugo has written: "The historian of morals and ideas has a mission no less austere than that of the historian of events. The latter has the surface of civilization, the struggles of the crowns, the births of princes, the marriages of Kings, the battles, the assemblies, the great public men, the revolutions in the sunlight, all exterior; the other historian has the interior, the foundation, the people who work, who suffer and who wait ... Have these historians of hearts and souls lesser duties than the historian of exterior facts?"
There is much unwritten history of the Bay State: of the exterior, much is recorded; of the interior, far less. Both are valuable to posterity. It is believed that succeeding ages will hold of far greater value, and the youth of our day be benefitted more by the study of the underlying principles and causes of those events which are given a conspicuous place in history, rather than by the mere record of the surface facts.
It is profitable to study the habits and methods of individuals who stand out in bold relief in history. To derive the greatest interest and value from such lives it is well to follow them from early childhood. Indeed it is profitable to trace back the ancestry and lineage from which the man has descended, to study the characteristics peculiar to each generation, and to note the result of racial mixtures tending to the typical and representative American of to-day.
Many prominent men received their first incentive to ambition and industry and perseverence by reading—when their minds were immature, but fresh and retentive—of the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin and such other grand models for the young.
No history of a country or state is complete without studies of the lives of those men who have made and are making history.
William Gaston comes from an honored and distinguished ancestry on both his paternal and maternal side as will be seen by the succeeding genealogical notes.
He was born at Killingly, Connecticut, October 3, 1820.
Jean Gaston was born in France, probably about the year 1600. There are traditions about the particular family to which he belonged, but only little is definitely known. He was a Huguenot, and is said to have been banished from France on account of his religion. His property was confiscated. His brothers and family, although Catholics, sent money to him in Scotland for his support. He is said to have been forty years of age and unmarried when he went to Scotland. Between 1662 and 1668, during a season of persecution in Scotland, his sons, John, William, and Alexander, went over into the north of Ireland, whither many of their friends were fleeing for safety and religious freedom. There is some uncertainty as to which of these three brothers was the founder of this branch of the family, but numerous facts point almost conclusively to John as such founder. One generation was born in Ireland.
John Gaston had three sons born in Ireland: William, born about 1680; lived at Caranleigh Clough Water; John, born 1703-4, died in America 1783; Alexander, born 1714, died in America.
The former lived all his days in Caranleigh Clough Water, Ireland, where he died about 1770. John and Alexander came to New England during or shortly prior to 1730. Tradition has it that they landed at Marblehead. From this place they went soon, if not immediately, to Connecticut. As their ancestors had done, so did they, seek religious liberty in a foreign land. They were Separatists and probably were drawn to Voluntown because a Church holding that faith was there established. Alexander returned to Massachusetts a few years later, residing in Richmond, where some of his descendants now reside; but most of that branch of the family are living in the western states.
John Gaston was made a freeman of Voluntown at the organization of its town government in 1736-7. He was a prominent member of the Separatists Church in that town, the meeting for the settlement of Reverend Alexander Miller, their pastor, being held at his house. He was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch. His three children were born in America: Margaret, born 1737, died 1810; Alexander, born 1739, was a commissioned officer in the French and Indian War; John, born 1750, died 1805.
John Gaston married Ruth Miller, daughter of Reverend Alexander Miller. Their children were Alexander, born in Voluntown, August 2, 1772; Margaret, born December 13, 1781. The latter died in early childhood.
Alexander Gaston married Olive Dunlap, a daughter of Joshua Dunlap, of Plainfield, Connecticut, who was born 1769, died in Killingly, September 7, 1814. He married for his second wife in Killingly, in April, 1816, Kezia Arnold, daughter of Aaron Arnold, born in Burrillville, Rhode Island, November, 1779, died in Roxbury, Massachusetts, January 30, 1856. His death occurred in Roxbury, February 11, 1856. The children of first marriage: Esther, born 1804, died 1860; John, born 1806, died 1824. William Gaston, of whom this sketch is written, was the sole issue of the second marriage. He was born at Killingly October 3, 1820. With his parents he moved to Roxbury in the summer of 1838. On December 27, 1830, was born at Boston, Louisa A. Beecher to whom Mr. Gaston was married May 27, 1852. Mrs. Gaston is a daughter of Laban S. and Frances A. (Lines) Beecher, both of whom were natives of New Haven, Connecticut, and were direct descendants of the very first settlers of Connecticut in 1638. The children of Governor and Mrs. Gaston were: Sarah Howard, William Alexander, and Theodore Beecher. The latter was born February 8, 1861; died July 16, 1869.
The death of Theodore was a severe blow to his family. He was a beautiful and promising boy. This sad calamity seemed like the withdrawal of sunlight from the household, causing his loving parents the keenest anguish.
Of this branch of the family there are but very few relatives of Governor Gaston. His son William is the only male representative of his generation. It is, singularly enough, true that in his family line of descent there have been three generations where each had but one male representative, and two generations having but one representative of either sex. Thus the Carolina Gastons are of the nearest kindred to Governor Gaston's particular branch.
Kezia (Arnold) Gaston, the mother of Governor Gaston, was a daughter of Aaron Arnold and Rhoda (Hunt) Arnold, and a lineal descendant of Thomas Arnold, who, with his brother William, came to New England in 1636. William Arnold went to Rhode Island with Roger Williams, being one of the fifty-four proprietors of that Plantation. His brother Thomas followed him there in 1654. The latter was born in England in 1599, probably in Leamington, that being the birth-place of his brother William. His second wife was Phoebe Parkhurst, daughter of George Parkhurst of Watertown, Massachusetts. The family record is carried back to 1100, being undoubtedly accurate to about the year 1570, when the name Arnold was first used as a surname; possibly accurate throughout.
The arms of the Family; Gules, a chevron ermine between three Pheons, or; appear on the tombstone of Oliver Arnold, and of William Arnold, the original settler. The same arms are on a tablet in the Parish Church of Churcham in Gloucestershire, England, placed there in memory of his ancestor John Arnold of Lanthony, Monmouthshire, afterwards of Hingham, who acquired the manor of Churcham in 1541.
The most ancient written record of the family which the writer has consulted was written by John Roseborough, late Clerk of the Circuit Court, Chester District, South Carolina. He was the son of Alexander Roseborough and Martha Gaston, whose father, William Gaston of Caranleigh Clough Water, Ireland, was grandson of Jean Gaston, the Huguenot ancestor of the family.
The statement is as follows, the words enclosed in parenthesis being supplied by way of information.
"Jean Gaston emigrated from France to Scotland on account of his religion, as a persecution then raged against the Protestants. He had two sons who emigrated from Scotland to Ireland between 1662 and 1668 during a time of persecution in Scotland. There was a John and a William, but which of them was the ancestor of our grandfather is not known. William Gaston, my grandfather, lived at Caranleigh Clough Water. He married Miss Lemmon and had four sons and as many daughters: John Gaston (King's Justice) died on Fishing Creek, near Cedar Shoal, Chester District, South Carolina; Rev. Hugh Gaston, author of 'Concordance and Collections'; Dr. Alexander Gaston, killed by the British at Newbern, South Carolina (father of Judge William Gaston); Robert Gaston, and William Gaston."
One fact is established, that many of Jean Gaston's descendants had settled in America before the Revolution and were actively engaged in that contest for liberty.
Springing from such ancestry in which are joined the characteristics of the French Huguenot, the Scotch Presbyterian, the Scotch-Irish patriot, the follower of Roger Williams, the May Flower Pilgrim, one is not surprised to find in William Gaston a strong man; a man who inherited as a birthright the qualities of leadership.
His father was a well known merchant of Connecticut, of sterling integrity, and of remarkably strong force of character. He was commissioned a Captain at the early age of twenty-two, and was for many years in the Legislature. The father of the latter was also in the Connecticut Legislature for many years.
In early youth William gave promise of a superb manhood by displaying those qualities which have since distinguished him. He was a studious boy, eager for knowledge. He attended the Academy in Brooklyn, Connecticut, and subsequently fitted for College at the Plainfield Academy. At the age of fifteen he left his quiet village home for Brown University, where his intellect was trained in a routine sanctioned by the experience of centuries, and where contact with his fellows soon roused his ambition and gave him confidence in his own ability to enter the struggle with the world for place and honor. William, having a married sister, who was many years his senior, residing in Providence, his father decided to send him, then scarcely more than a lad, to Brown University where he would be surrounded by family influences and enjoy the social advantages offered by his sister's home. He maintained a high rank, graduating with honors in 1840.
For his life work he decided upon the legal profession—a wise choice as subsequent time has shown his peculiar fitness therefor. He first entered the office of Judge Francis Hilliard of Roxbury, remaining for a time and then continued his legal studies with the distinguished lawyers and jurists Charles P. and Benjamin R. Curtis of Boston, with whom he remained until his admission to the Bar in 1844.
At Roxbury in 1846 he opened his first law office, taking comparatively soon a leading position at the Bar. He there continued his practice until 1865 when he formed with the late Hon. Harvey Jewell and the since associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Hon. Walbridge A. Field, the famous and successful law firm, having offices at number 5 Tremont street, of Jewell, Gaston and Field. This firm continued until the election of Mr. Gaston to the gubernatorial chair of Massachusetts in 1874. He was the Democratic candidate the year previous for this office, his competitor being Mr. Washburn, who was elected but did not long retain the chair of State, being elected to the United States Senate. At the convention nominating William B. Washburn for Governor there were four other candidates for the honor: Alexander H. Rice, George B. Loring, Harvey Jewell and Benjamin F. Butler. The latter created no little unquiet by the zeal and strength of his support. The upshot was that there was a harmonious combination of the forces of the four contestants of Butler upon Mr. Washburn. It is remembered that some of the party organs were upon nettles, fearing that General Butler would bolt the nomination, but he came out squarely and declared that as he had staked his issues with the convention he would abide the result.
In the canvass of 1874 Mr. Gaston was opposed by Hon. Thomas Talbot, who, by reason of Governor Washburn's election to the Senate as stated, was acting as Governor, having been elected Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with Mr. Washburn. Governor Gaston's majority over Mr. Talbot was 7,033. In the following canvass of 1875, Mr. Gaston having been re-nominated by the Democracy, his competitor was Hon. Alexander H. Rice. By this time, that part of the country represented by the strongly-intrenched Republican party, was fully aroused to the exigency of the hour. The edict came from the political centre at Washington to the effect that the Republican party could not stand another defeat in Massachusetts, especially on the eve of a presidential campaign. The national organization concentrated a wonderfully efficient auxiliary force in aid of the intense activity already exerted by the local managers, who so well understood the popularity of Mr. Gaston and of the strong hold he had upon the people. It seems now that the Democratic managers accepted or anticipated failure as a foregone conclusion, and no great fight was made; otherwise they would probably have won the election, as Mr. Rice was elected by only the small plurality of 5,306 votes. This is very significant, taken in connection with the fact that General Grant carried Massachusetts in 1872 by 74,212 majority.
In 1876, that memorable year—memorable as the year of the electoral commission—Governor Gaston magnanimously declined the re-nomination, which a large majority of the convention was undoubtedly eager to confer. The nomination of Charles Francis Adams was to the rank and file and to the party managers a disappointment, and the enthusiasm that he was expected to arouse was not materialized.
The press of the State justly commended Mr. Gaston's conduct in not forcing his own nomination, a course so completely in accord with his character, and his entire devotion to the party welfare. He did not display the least semblance of self-seeking.
He has seen not a little of public life, but with the exception of five years, has succeeded in conducting his large and important professional practice the entire period from his early beginning to this day. The five years referred to were: two years, 1861 and 1862, while he was Mayor of the city of Roxbury; the two years, 1871 and 1872, as Mayor of Boston (this being after the annexation of Roxbury), and the year 1875 when Governor.
His mayoralty term of Roxbury antedated the years he was Mayor of Boston by just ten years. While such Mayor of Roxbury in 1861-2 he was very active in speechmaking and raising troops in preservation of the American Union. He went to the front several times, and was enthusiastically patriotic during the entire critical period.
He was five years City Solicitor of Roxbuxy. In 1853 and 1854 he was elected to the Legislature as a Whig, and in 1856 was re-elected by a fusion of Whigs and Democrats in opposition to the Know-Nothing candidate. In 1868, although the district was strongly Republican, he was elected as a Democrat to the State Senate.
In the fall of 1872 Mr. Gaston positively declined the further use of his name in the Mayoralty election in Boston that year. He concluded to be a candidate, however, upon the earnest solicitation of so many of the best citizens, and of the press, and in consideration of the perfectly unanimous action of the ward and city committee, in reporting in favor of his re-nomination and speaking of him as a man pre-eminently qualified for the duties which required "wisdom, discretion, firmness and courage when needed, combined with the most exalted integrity and unselfish devotion to the honor, welfare, and prosperity of the city."
In commenting on this subject the Post in an editorial, November 26, 1872, said in commendation of the above words of the committee: "The language employed is none too strong or emphatic. The history of Mayor Gaston's two administrations is an eminently successful one, so far as he is personally responsible for them, and there is not the least room to question that if he were to be re-elected and supported by a board of aldermen of similar character and purpose the city would at once find the uttermost requirements of its government satisfied." In that election in December, 1872, for the year 1873 his opponent, Hon. Henry L. Pierce, was declared elected Mayor by only seventy-nine plurality. This fact indicates Mr. Gaston's popularity, as General Grant had carried Boston the year previous by about 5,500 majority. As her Representative, her presiding officer, her head of affairs, Mayor Gaston was a success; an honor to the great city which honored him.
In 1870 he was a candidate for Congress, but failed of an election, Hon. Ginery Twitchell receiving a majority of the votes.
In 1875 Harvard College and also his Alma Mater, Brown University, conferred upon him the degree of LL.D.
While he was Governor the somewhat notorious Jesse Pomeroy case was the occasion of more or less criticism; the Governor himself receiving pro and con his full share thereof. He was in some instances charged with a lack of firmness, but time has completely vindicated his course. Many of those alleging at the time the Governor's want of "back-bone" have lived long enough to fully realize that his firmness consisted in adhering with an honest persistency to his convictions, indicating the identical course he pursued in that as in all other matters of public import.
Among those who know him best there exists the consciousness that Mr. Gaston is not only an exceedingly cautious man, but consistently conscientious. Bringing such lofty principles, together with a discerning mind and sound judgement, into activity in the discharge of his duty, his administration was, it was generally conceded, a wise one. It should be borne in mind that he occupied a somewhat novel position, there having been no Democratic Governor of the State for many years. The scrutiny directed to him and his acts was intense. His success in bringing his official relations as excessive to such a happy termination is abundant proof of his being the man this paper endeavors to picture him.
It was during his term of office that the lamented Henry Wilson died. At the State House, in Doric Hall, in November, 1875, Governor Gaston, on receiving the sacred remains in behalf of the Commonwealth, said in his address to the committee: "Massachusetts receives from you her illustrious dead. She will see to it that he whose dead body you bear to us, but whose spirit has entered upon its higher service, shall receive honors befitting the great office which in life he held, and I need not assure you that her people, with hearts full of respect, of love, and of veneration, will not only guard and protect the body, the coffin, and the grave, but will also ever cherish his name and fame. Gentlemen, for the pious service which you have so kindly and tenderly rendered, accept the thanks of a grateful Commonwealth."
Among the appointments made by Governor Gaston were the following: that of the late Hon. Otis P. Lord to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court; Honorable Waldo Colburn and Honorable William S. Gardner to Associate Justiceships of the Superior Court.
The writer has preserved in his scrap books various selections from Mr. Gaston's public utterances, so excellent and so numerous that it would be difficult to single out any of them for insertion here, even would space permit so doing.
It is incomparable, the duties he has performed, the labors he has accomplished. His life is, and ever has been, a busy life. One marvels to know how he accomplishes so much.
In the political world, in literature, in the legal profession, monuments have arisen in testimony of his toil.
As a lawyer his successes have been such as have been vouchsafed to but few. The word success is applied both where it ought to be applied and where not deserved. Gaining great wealth, distinguished professional standing, extensive political renown, pre-eminence in other avenues may be, or may not be, in the highest sense, success. Most men of strong points are sadly deficient in other and essential traits needed to constitute a well-biased, grandly-rounded life. It is rare, indeed, that a person is encountered possessing such well-proportioned, evenly-balanced, distinguishing characteristics as it has been Mr. Gaston's lot to enjoy.
His steady, onward march over the rough places and up the hill in his learned profession abundantly attest his greatness. No being can occupy, nor even approach, the very foremost rank in the legal arena save he be great. Of all representatives of human experiences the lawyer, and more particularly the advocate, has the least opportunity to occupy falsely a position of real prominence. Advocacy is the most jealous of mistresses. Undoubtedly it is true that nowhere else must there be ever present and ever ready to respond at a moment's notice such a happy combination of those qualities already noted.
It is not long ago that one of the most worthy of Boston's Judges remarked to the writer: "You can count the really excellent advocates at the Suffolk Bar upon the fingers of both hands." He began by naming the subject of this sketch, following with the names of Honorable A.A. Ranney, Honorable William G. Russell, Honorable Robert M. Morse, Jr., and others. The learned Judge must, it seems, have had in mind a very high standard of advocacy, for there are not a few among the something like two thousand Boston lawyers who have well earned, and justly, the right to be called able and eloquent.
In his historical article entitled "The Bench and Bar," by Erastus Worthington, and contained in the "History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts," after writing of those eminent advocates, Ezra Wilkinson and John J. Clarke, he refers to Governor Gaston and Judge Colburn in the following words: "The successors to the leadership of the bar, after the retirement of Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Clarke, were William Gaston of Roxbury, and Waldo Colburn of Dedham. Mr. Gaston was not admitted to practice in this county, but he studied law with Mr. Clarke, and practiced in this county for many years, and considered himself a Norfolk lawyer. He was an eloquent and successful advocate and had an excellent practice. He had removed to Boston prior to the annexation of Roxbury.
"Mr. Colburn practiced in Dedham until he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Superior Court in 1875. He attained a high position in his profession as a wise counsellor, an able trier of causes, and a lawyer in whose hands the interests of his clients were always safe."
On his election to the Governorship Mr. Gaston absolutely relinquished his practice and gave his undivided attention to the duties of his office. He had been quite unable to devote his customary labor to the benefit of his law partnership and the good of their clientage during the two years that he was Mayor of Boston.
When he retired from the executive chair it is said that he had neither a "case" nor a client.
He took offices in Sears Building and it was not long before he was again enjoying a large and lucrative practice. In 1879 he took into partnership C.L.B. Whitney, Esq.; and last year William A. Gaston, Esq., was admitted to the firm.
An imperishable chain binds Ex-Governor Gaston to the bright side of the history of the Commonwealth. His life and its renown are one and inseparable. Such is the inevitable result of a life that has ever been linked to honorable endeavors and principles. So thoroughly identified with, and endeared to, her best interests, it is difficult to believe that Massachusetts can claim him by adoption only. In private life Mr. Gaston is all that can be desired. He is quiet, and remarkably modest and unassuming.
He enjoys the delightful home quietness away from his labors. But what little time he has for such enjoyment! He seems to love work. How he has performed so much of it is a wonder, although it is well known that he inherits and enjoys remarkable powers of endurance. Among his favorite authors are Scott and Burke. He is temperate, refined in his habits, has the manners of a perfect gentleman, and deserves the blessed fruits of a well directed life.
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REMINISCENCES OF DANIEL WEBSTER.
BY HON. GEORGE W. NESMITH, LL.D.
The following is a copy of a letter originally addressed to Rev. Mr. Savage of Franklin, N.H. The original is dated October 10, 1852, fourteen days before the decease of Mr. Webster. It was dictated to his Clerk, C.J. Abbott, Esq. It was the same letter that gave rise to the humorous anecdote, so well related by Mr. Curtice in his Biography of Mr. Webster, vol. 2, page 683.
We now present this letter to the public to show how worthily one of the last days of Mr. Webster was employed. In this case he presented a Peace Offering to old friends, which proved effectual in preventing a severe litigation and consequent loss of money and friendship:
"MARSHFIELD, Oct. 10, 1852.
MY DEAR SIR: I learn that there is likely to be a lawsuit between Mr. Horace Noyes and his Mother respecting his father's will.
This gives me great pain. Mr. Parker Noyes and myself have been fast friends for near a half century. I have known his wife also from a time before her marriage, and have always felt a warm regard for her, and much respect for her connexions in Newburyport. Mr. Horace Noyes and his wife I have long known. Her grandfather, Major Nathan Taylor, late of Sanbornton, was an especial friend of my father, and I learned to love everybody upon whom he set his Stamp.
These families during many years have been my most intimate friends and neighbors whenever I have been in Franklin. It would wound me exceedingly if any thing as a Lawsuit should now occur between Mother and Son. It would very much destroy my interest in the families, and whatever might be the result, it could not but cast some degree of reflection upon the memory of Parker Noyes. I know nothing of the circumstances except what I learn from Mr. John Taylor, and I do not wish to express any judgement of my own as to what ought to be done, at least without more full information, but I do think it a case for Christian Intercession. And the particular object of this Letter is to invite your attention, and that of the members of the Church, to it in this aspect. Mr. Noyes is understood to have left a very pretty property, but a controversy about his Will would very likely absorb one half of it. My end is accomplished, my dear Sir, when I have made these Suggestions to you. You will give them such consideration, as you think they deserve. It has given me pleasure to hope that I might write half a dozen pages respecting Mr. Parker Noyes, and our long friendship, but I could have no heart for this if a family feud after his death was to come in, and overwhelm all pleasant recollections.
I dictate this letter to my clerk, as the state of my eyes preclude me from writing much with my own hand.
Yours with sincere regard,
DAN'L. WEBSTER. REV. Mr. SAVAGE FRANKLIN, N.H."
This interesting letter produced the happy effect of reconciling the contending parties, and bringing about an honorable and satisfactory settlement of all difficulties between them. The letter was timely, bringing healing in its wings. Here were "words fitly spoken, like apples of gold in pictures of silver;" to the parties it soon was the voice from the dead, "proclaiming peace on earth, and good will towards men." As adviser and counsel of the mother, my own exertions for peace had proved impotent, but the letter of the eminent dying statesman, containing the salutary advice of an old friend, proved irresistible in its influence, and brought to the troubled waters immediate quiet, without resort to the Church or other legal tribunal.
Mr. Webster made allusion to the honored name of Taylor, then of Sanbornton. Both father, and son were brave officers of Revolutionary stock. The father, Captain Chase Taylor, commanded a company composed chiefly of Sanbornton and Meredith men, at the battle of Bennington, on the sixteenth of August, 1777, and was there severely wounded—his left leg being broken, which disabled him for life. He died in 1805. In 1786 he received a small pension from the State. His surgeon, Josiah Chase of Canterbury, and his Colonel, Stickney of Concord, each furnishing their certificates in his behalf. Early in the history of the Revolutionary war the son, Nathan Taylor, was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Corps of Rangers, commanded by Colonel Whitcomb. Lieutenant Taylor had the command of a small detachment of fourteen men. On the sixteenth day of June, 1777, being stationed on the western bank of Lake Champlain, at a place which has ever since been called Taylor's Creek, he was surprised by a superior force of Indians. Taylor bravely resisted this attack, and was successful in driving the enemy off, though at the expense of a severe wound in his right shoulder. Three others of his band were also wounded. Both father and son were confined at home in the same house several months before recovery from their wounds. Lieutenant Taylor returned to active service in the army. He afterwards received the military title of Major, and occupied many civil offices after the war in his own town, as well as in behalf of the State. He was member of the House of Representatives, also of the Senate and Council, for a number of years. He died in March, A.D. 1840, aged 85, much lamented.
Then there was John Taylor of Revolutionary fame. He and many of his descendants have occupied high and enviable stations in Sanbornton, and their biography and good deeds have been ably commemorated by the historian, Rev. M.T. Runnels. In adhering to the Taylor families Mr. Webster obeyed the injunction of Solomon who said, "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend forsake not." Mr. Webster's letter furnishes strong evidence, that he did not forsake "his own friend," Parker Noyes. The friendship between these men commenced when Mr. Noyes entered the Law office of Thomas W. Thompson as early as 1798, and continued intimate, cordial, unabated, "fast" during their lives. The earthly existence of both terminated in the same year, Mr. Noyes having deceased August, 19, 1852, and Mr. Webster on the twenty-fourth of the succeeding October.
The dwelling houses of both in Franklin were within the distance of twenty rods; their intercourse was frequent during the last fifty-four years of their lives.
During the time Mr. Webster practiced law in New Hampshire they often met at the same bar, and measured intellectual lances in various legal contests. These meetings were most frequent when Mr. Webster first settled in Boscawen in 1805, and for the next two years, before his removal to Portsmouth.
We were present in A.D. 1848, when these two friends met and recited many of the interesting and humorous events that occurred in their early practice. In those days, they often had for a veteran client a man who then resided in West Boscawen, now Webster, by the name of Corser. He was represented as one who loved the law, not for its pecuniary profits, but for its exciting, stimulating effects. It was said of him, that at the end of a term of the Court, once held at Hopkinton, he was found near the Court House by a friend, shedding tears. The friend inquired the cause of his great sorrow. His answer was, "I have no longer a case in court." The same Corser had been a Revolutionary soldier, and belonged to the army when discharged by Washington at Newburg, at the termination of the war. He had but little money to bear his expenses home. When he reached Springfield, Massachusetts, his money was exhausted, and he was obliged to resort to his talent at begging. Accordingly he called at a farm house, and requested the good loyal lady of the establishment to give him a pie, adding at the same time, that he wanted another for his Brother Jonathan. The lady well supposing that his Brother Jonathan was then his companion in arms, and in the street suffering with hunger, readily granted his request, when in truth and in fact Jonathan was then at home cultivating his farm in Boscawen.
Brother Jonathan, upon learning the conduct of his brother, rebuked him for useing his name, instead of his own, thereby deceiving the good woman. In justification of his conduct, the brother answered, "My hunger was great. I contrived to satisfy it. The kind woman had my thanks; you was not injured. At most, by strict morals, I committed only a pious fraud in getting two pies, instead of one." Mr. Webster remarked, that he was once present when this case was stated, and argued by the two brothers, and was much interested in the discussion of the celebrated pie case.
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THE DARK DAY.
BY ELBIDGE H. GOSS.
The Spragues of Melrose, formerly North Malden, were one of the old families. They descended from Ralph Sprague, who settled in Charlestown in 1629. The first one, who came to Melrose about the year 1700, was named Phineas. His grandson, also named Phineas, served during the Revolutionary War, and a number of interesting anecdotes are told about him. He was a slaveholder, and Artemas Barrett, Esq., a native of Melrose, owns an original bill of sale of "a negro woman named Pidge, with one negro boy;" also other documents, among which is Mr. Sprague's diary, wherein he gives the following account of the wonderfully dark day in 1780, a good reminder of which we experienced September 6, 1881, a century later:
FRIDA May the 19th 1780.
This day was the most Remarkable day that ever my eyes beheld the air had bin full of smoak to an uncommon degree so that wee could scairce see a mountain at two miles distance for 3 or 4 days Past till this day after Noon the smoak all went off to the South at sunset a very black bank of a cloud appeared in the south and west the Nex morning cloudey and thundered in the west about ten oclock it began to Rain and grew vere dark and at 12 it was almost as dark as Nite so that wee was obliged to lite our candels and Eate our dinner by candel lite at noon day but between 1 and 2 oclock it grew lite again but in the evening the cloud came, over us again, the moon was about the full it was the darkest Nite that ever was seen, by us in the world.[A]
[Footnote A: This was printed in the sketch of Melrose in "History of Middlesex County," vol. II.]
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NAMES AND NICKNAMES.
BY GILBERT NASH.
To the antiquarian, the historian, or the general scholar, there are few more interesting studies than that of names. It is a pursuit of rare delight to trace out the derivation of those with which we have been long familiar, and to follow up the associations that have rendered them dear, curious or ridiculous, as the case may be. The names themselves may be of no value, but the spot or circumstance that gave them birth cannot fail to throw around them an atmosphere of peculiar interest. The subject is a broad one and may be, with time and inclination, extensively cultivated; and, even in the limits of a short article, many phases of it of general importance and interest may be satisfactorily treated, and it is proposed in the following paragraphs to present only a few of them.
In the present rage for nicknames, pet names, diminutives and contractions there is fair prospect of an abundant harvest of trouble and perplexity to the genealogist and historian of the future. In fact, the students of the present day are already beginning to realize, in no small degree, the annoyance that arises from the custom. The changes are so many and intricate that to understand them fully requires much valuable time and the patience that could better be employed in more important work.
The difficulty arises, of course, from indifference, inadvertence or carelessness, rather than from set purpose; yet the result is the same in its evil effects. It is true there are some of these nicknames that have been so long in use, and have become so common that no one is disturbed by them and their employment, and they are readily understood. Many of these, however, have served their turn and are gradually going out of use, and will, in a short time, be only "dead words" to the community.
Of this class are the familiar favorites of our grandparents, such as Sally, for Sarah; Polly or Molly, for Mary; Patty, for Martha, and Peggy, for Margaret, representative names of the class. Some of these, with perhaps slight changes, have become legitimatized, and their origin has been nearly, or quite, forgotten. Of such we recognize Betsy, or its modern equivalent, Bettie or Bessie, as a very proper name. Few, perhaps, of our present generation would recognize in "Nancy," the features of its parent, "Ann" or "Nan."
Some of these old nicknames have already gone nearly or quite out of use, so much so that many of our young people will be surprised to learn that Patty was, not long ago, the vernacular for Martha, and would never imagine that "Margaret" could ever have responded to the call of "Peggy;" "Hitty" and "Kitty," for the staid and sober "Mehitable," and the volatile Katherine, are more easily recognized, while it might require several guesses to establish the relationship between "Milly" and "Amelia," or "Emily."
Stranger than either, perhaps because both the proper name and its diminutive have become so uncommon, is that transformation which reduced "Tabitha," to "Bertha," with the accent upon the first syllable, and its vowel long. A curious instance of the change in this name, and the further variation made in it in consequence of its forgotten derivation, has recently occurred in the record of the death of an old lady who was baptized "Tabitha," called in her youth "Bitha," and now in her obituary styled Mrs. "Bertha," probably from the similarity of sound to her youthful nickname. Her relatives of the present generation had forgotten her real name and knew her only under that of an imitation of her diminutive. The transition from "Bitha" to "Bertha" is easy, but how is the perplexed genealogist to ascertain the original when he has only the records for his guide?
Such illustrations might be multiplied almost indefinitely, but those already given are enough to show what an infinite amount of trouble has come and must still come from their continued usage. They also serve well to show with how much care and watchfulness the historian must pursue his work; how constantly he must be upon his guard, and how closely and critically he must scrutinize the names that pass under his eye.
Nor was this custom of nicknames confined to the daughters of the family, but the boys, also, were among its subjects, perhaps in not so great a variety, yet very general. Among the more common we only need mention such as Bill, Ned, Jack, and Frank, to illustrate this. Nor were there wanting among the masculine nicknames those whose derivations seem very remote and far-fetched, as "El" for "Alphus;" "Hal" for "Henry;" "Jot" for "Jonathan;" "Seph" for "Josephus;" "Nol" for "Oliver;" "Dick" for "Richard," and a multitude of others equally well known.
The instances named are old and have been in general use so long that those who are called upon to deal with them are upon their guard and not likely to be led astray by them, but the class of pet names, now, for a few years in use, will necessarily be more misleading because they are new, and in many cases very blind; in many instances the same nickname being used to represent perhaps a dozen different proper names, so that it is impossible to tell, from the nickname, what the real name is. Among the most annoying of this class are those that not only represent several names each, but are masculine or feminine, as occasion calls.
Of the latter class are "Allie" for Alice, Albert or Alexander, and "Bertie," used in place of so many that it is needless to specify, the latter being the worst of its species, since it is wholly indefinite, applying equally to boy or girl, and for a multitude of either sex, some of which are so far-fetched that all possible connection is lost in the journey of transmission. Most of the old fashioned nicknames indicate the sex quite distinctly, and in this they have much the advantage of some of their modern competitors. They were also much more expressive if not so euphonious. A person need but glance at any of our town records for the past few years to see how the use of these pet names has increased, and it requires no prophet to foresee what confusion must naturally arise from the continuance of the custom, and how difficult it will be in the near future to follow the record accurately.
Another and very different class of nicknames are those derived from accident or local circumstance, and have no other connection with the real name of the person to whom they are attached, and to whom they cling as a foul excrescence long after the circumstances that called them forth is forgotten. These sometimes originate at home in childhood, at school among playmates, or after the arrival of the person at mature age, and are oftentimes ridiculous in the extreme. They are nearly always a source of great mortification to those who so unwillingly bear them, who would give almost anything to rid themselves of the nuisance; yet these, once fixed, seldom lose their hold, but must be borne with the best grace possible.
It will not be necessary to cite instances of this class, as every one will recall many such that it might be highly improper to mention publicly as being personal or taken to be so. Some are simply indicative of temperament; some of a peculiarity of manner, or a locality in which they happened to have first seen the light; and others, perhaps the most unfortunate of all and the most mischievous, are derived from an ill-timed word or act, said or done in a moment of passion or thoughtlessness, which the individual would like to recall at almost any price, but cannot. The saddest of all are those unfortunates, for there are such, to whom their parents, they knew not why, gave such names.
Another class are those given at first as a term of reproach or disgrace, accepted without protest, and afterwards borne as a title of honor. The name "Old Hickory" will at once suggest itself as such an instance. Truly fortunate is the person who has the tact and is in circumstances to do this, and thus turn the weapons of his enemies against themselves. There are others, again, whose character and position are such that they permit no familiarity, and every name of reproach or ridicule rolls off like shot from the iron shell of the monitor. The name of our Washington suggests such an individual. Whoever for an instant thought of approaching him with familiarity, or of applying to him a nickname as a term of reproach or ridicule, or even as an expression of good nature.
As will be readily seen, the evil resulting from this custom is wide spread and alarming. It would also seem to be almost without remedy, since it is the result of irresponsible action, committed by persons who are not fully aware of what they are doing, by those who are indifferent, as to what may follow, or by those who are actuated by malice; against these there is no law except the steady, persistent movement of the thinking public setting its face squarely against the practice, with the passage of time, which usually brings about, we know not always how, the remedy for such evils; but we are seldom willing to wait for such a cure.
As before intimated parents are sometimes guilty of this offence, and thus place upon a child a stigma that will follow it through life. A little care on their part will remedy the evil, to that extent, and they surely should be willing to do their share in the work. Teachers and those who have the charge of the young are sometimes thoughtless enough to commit the same fault. Should it not be crime? For they have no right to be thus inconsiderate, when a little restraint upon their part will prevent the wrong as far as they are concerned. With these two influences setting in the right direction, added to that of the thinking community, a current may very likely be formed that shall obliterate wholly the custom and deliver us from its attendant difficulties.
Another practice now quite common, and one which bids fair to create much confusion, is that which permits the wife to take the Christian name of her husband: for instance, Mrs. Mary, wife of John Smith, signs her name Mrs. John Smith, a name which has no legal existence, which she is entitled to use only by courtesy, and which should be allowed in none but necessary cases to distinguish her from some other bearing the same name, or to address her when her own Christian name is not known. Mrs. is but a general title to designate the class of persons to which she belongs, and not a name, any more than Mr. or Esq. Who ever knew a man to sign his name Mr. so and so, or so and so, Esq.?
To show the absurdity and impropriety of this misuse of the name it will be needful to mention but a single illustration. Suppose a note or check is made payable to Mrs. John Smith. Mrs. being only a title, and no part of the name, the endorsement would be plain John Smith, and nobody, not even his wife, has any right to forge his signature. An instrument thus drawn is a mistake, since no one can be authorized to execute it.
The trouble to the genealogist and historian is of a somewhat different nature, since he merely desires to identify the individual and cares nothing about the money value of the document. Much the safer and better way is for the wife always to sign and use her proper name and to add, if she thinks it necessary to be more explicit, "wife of," using her husband's name. By doing this a vast deal of perplexity would be avoided, and sometimes a serious legal difficulty.
Another custom, as common, and quite a favorite one with many married ladies, is that which changes her middle name by substituting her maiden surname; for example, Mary Jane Smith marries James Gray, and immediately her name is assumed to be Mary Smith Gray, instead of Mary Jane Gray, her legal name. The wife, if she so chooses, has the right by general consent, if not by law, to retain her full name, adding her husband's surname; but she has no right to use her own maiden surname in place of her discarded middle name. Much confusion might arise from this practice, as the following illustration will show. Mary Jane Gray receives a check payable to her order, and she, being in the habit of signing her name Mary Smith Gray, thus endorses it, and forwards it by mail or otherwise for collection, and is surprised when it comes back to her to be properly executed.
Again, Mary Jane Gray has a little money which she deposits in the savings bank, and, for the reason already given, takes out her book in the name of Mary S. Gray. She dies and her administrator finding the book tries to collect the money, but he being the administrator of Mary Jane Gray and not of Mary S. Gray may find the Treasurer of the bank unwilling to pay over the money until he is satisfied as to the identity of the apparently two Mary Grays, which, under some circumstances, might be a difficult process.
These changes are usually made thoughtlessly, but the result is none the less serious than though it were done with the intent to deceive or mislead, and the mischief that often arises in consequence is very great. These changes that have been noted from the nature of the case can only occur with women, since men have no occasion to make them, and in point of fact cannot; but there are those, quite analagous in character, that are common to both sexes and should be avoided unless the necessity is very apparent. Double names are sometimes very convenient for purposes of identification, but they may also prove fruitful sources of difficulty and trouble. As an illustration, Mary Jane Smith is known at home by her family and to her acquaintances as Mary. For some fanciful reason or local circumstance she wearies of that name and becomes Jane. Both are equally hers, but her acquaintances who knew her as Mary might well plead ignorance when asked about Jane Smith; and the acquaintances of the latter might never surmise that Mary Smith had ever existed.
Again, James Henry Gray is known at home in his youth as James H. Gray, and the name is very satisfactory to him; but as he arrives at manhood he enters a new business and finds a new residence. For some reason he thinks that a change of name also may be of benefit to him, and therefore he signs himself J. Henry Gray, and henceforth is a stranger to his former acquaintances. He has some money in bank at his old home which he draws for under his new name, and wonders when his check comes back to him dishonored, forgetting that he has never notified the officers of his change of name.
He finds it necessary, upon some occasion, to write to one of his former friends for information of importance, and is surprised that his old associate declines to give it to a stranger, for he does not remember, that, while he may easily retain his own identity, under any change of name, it may not be so easy to assure it to another at a distance. It can thus be seen how easily, and at times, how unavoidably, a great deal of vexation may be produced by this practice, and yet it is extensively followed.
Looking at the subject in another aspect, we find a grievance that has borne and is now bearing with intolerable weight upon many an individual, who would, at almost any sacrifice, relieve himself of it, but it is saddled upon him in such a manner, and is surrounded by such circumstances as to render it quite impossible for him to do so. It is a practice, all too common, but none the less reprehensible, to give to children legitimate names of such a character as to render them veritable "old men of the sea," so graphically described by Sindbad.
They are given for various reasons, sometimes simply for their oddity, sometimes because the name has been borne by a relative or friend, or it may have been borrowed from the pages of some favorite author, or suggested by accidental circumstance. A boy whose Christian name was Baring Folly, and we should not have far to go to find its counterpart in real life, could hardly be expected to get through the world without feeling severely the burden and ridicule of such a name, each part proper and well enough in its place as a surname, but particularly unfortunate when united and required to do duty as a Christian name.
We ridicule, and it may be wisely, the old-fashioned custom of giving a child a name merely because it happened to be found in the Scriptures, where with its special meaning it was singularly appropriate, yet, when used as a name without that special signification, it would be equally inappropriate. But are we wholly free from the same fault in another direction? How many children have been so burdened with a name that had been made illustrious by the life and services of its original bearer that they were always ashamed to hear it spoken; that very name of honor becoming in its present position a reproach and a hindrance, rather than a stimulus, because the bearers feel that they cannot sustain its ancient renown, and therefore they become mere nothings, simply from the fact of having been borne down to the dust under the burden of a great name.
Who can tell how many have become notorious, or have committed vagaries which have rendered them ridiculous, and destroyed their usefulness, from a sincere desire to bear worthily an honored name? Who shall say that the eccentricities of a certain celebrity of acknowledged talent, whose name would be quickly recognized, were not the result of the same cause, the length, and weight of the name given him at his birth proving too great an incumbrance for him to overcome.
How many ignoble George Washingtons, Henry Clays, Patrick Henrys, and other equally illustrious names, are wandering aimlessly about our streets, shiftless, worthless, utterly unworthy the names they bear, simply because they bear them, when, had they been given plain, honest, common names, they might have been held in respect and esteem. The burden is too great for them. A ship with a drag attached to her cannot make progress, be she ever so swift without it. Even the eagle will refuse his flight when burdened with excessive weight.
A little lack of consideration or want of thought in this matter on the part of parents often entail an immense amount of suffering upon those who are wholly innocent as to its cause. Let the boy or girl be given such a name, as shall be his or hers, worthy or unworthy, as the bearer shall make. Give them all a fair show. We may not be able to tell in all cases, perhaps not in many, how this affair of names has affected the lives of their owners. Give a child a silly or ridiculous name and the chances are that the child's character will correspond with that name. Give a child a name already illustrious and the chances are also fair that the burden will prove its ruin.
It is unnecessary to extend the subject, the present purpose being merely to call attention to those practices, and so to present them that more natural and healthy customs will be sought after and followed, that a true aesthetic taste may be cultivated, and thus alleviate or remove a part, at least, of the burden under which society groans.
It is also intended to illustrate some of the trials and perplexities that beset the genealogist and historian in their researches, arising from these unfortunate habits that pervade society. It would seem that the evils produced by the practices, only need exposure to result in reformation, and that no parent, with the full knowledge of the possible, yes probable, and almost inevitable effect, would so thrust upon his offspring an annoyance, to use the mildest possible term, which should subject them to such disagreeable consequences all through life.
It would seem, also, that no guardian, teacher, or other individual having the care and oversight of children, could be so thoughtless and inconsiderate, or allow a personal or private reason so to influence him, as to assume for the child any name that would be liable to cause it future shame or sorrow. Too much care cannot be taken in this regard, and it is a duty owing to the child that its rights in this respect shall be strictly guarded.
It is the object of this paper simply to call attention to a few of the more prominent points suggested by this subject in order that it may be examined and discussed, and, if it may be, more judicious and wiser practices introduced, that nature, art, and taste may combine to produce a system of names that shall be at the same time, convenient, useful and beautiful, and that shall carry no burden with them.
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JOHN PRESCOTT, THE FOUNDER OF LANCASTER.
1603 TO 1682.
By HON. HENRY S. NOURSE.
The facts that have come down to us whereupon to build a biography of John Prescott are scanty indeed, but enough to prove that he was that rare type of man, the ideal pioneer. Not one of those famous frontiersmen, whose figures stand out so prominently in early American history, was better equipped with the manly qualities that win hero worship in a new country, than was the father of the Nashaway Plantation. Had Prescott like Daniel Boone been fortunate in the favor of contemporary historians, to perpetuate anecdotes of his daily prowess and fertility of resource, or had he had grateful successors withal to keep his memory green, his name and romantic adventures would in like manner adorn Colonial annals. Persecuted for his honest opinions, he went out into the wilderness with his family to found a home, and for forty years thought, fought and wrought to make that home the centre of a prosperous community. Loaded from his first step with discouragements, that soon appalled every other of the original co-partners in the purchase of Nashaway from Showanon, Prescott alone, tenax propositi, held to his purpose, and death found him at his post. His grave is in the old "burial field" at Lancaster, yet not ten citizens can point it out. Over it stands a rude fragment from some ledge of slate rock, faintly incised with characters which few eyes can trace:
JOHN PRESCOTT DESASED
No date! no comment! That is his only memorial stone; his only epitaph in the town of which, for its first forty years, he was the very heart and soul, and for which he furnished a large share of the brains. This fair township—now divided among nine towns—and all it has been and is and is to be may be justly called his monument. The house of Deputies in 1652 voted it to be rightly his, and marked it by incorporative enactment with his honored and honorable name, Prescott. Unfortunately, however, some years before he had said something that seemed to favor Doctor Robert Child's criticisms of the Provincial system of taxation without representation; criticisms that grew and bore good fruitage when the times were riper for individual freedom; when Samuel Adams and James Otis took up the peoples' cause where Sir Henry Vane and Robert Child had left it. Therefore when, in 1652, what had been known as the Nashaway Plantation was fairly named for its founder in accordance with the petition of its inhabitants, some one of influence, whether magistrate or higher official, perhaps bethought himself that no Governor of the Colony even had been so honored, and that it might be well, before dignifying this busy blacksmith so much as to name a town for him, to see if he could pass examination in the catechism deemed orthodox at that date in Massachusetts Bay. Alas! John Prescott was not a freeman. Having a conscience of his own, he had never given public adhesion to the established church covenant and was therefore debarred from holding any civil office, and even from the privilege of voting for the magistrates. There was a year's delay, and, in 1653, "Prescott" was expunged and Lancaster began its history.
As in the broad area of the township various centres of population grew into villages and were one by one excised and made towns, it would be supposed that each of them would have been eager to honor itself by adopting so euphonious and appropriate a name as Prescott. But no! The first candidate for a new designation, in 1732, chose the name of the generous Charlestown clergyman, Harvard, for no appropriate local reason now discoverable. Six years later another body corporate imported the name—Bolton. Two years passed and a third district sought across the ocean for its title Leominster. Then Woonksechocksett forgetful of its benefactors and of the grand Indian names of its hills and waters borrowed the title of a putative Scotch lord, who bravely fought for our Independence, and, in adopting, paid him the poor compliment of misspelling it—Sterling. The next seceder ambitiously chose the name of a Prussian city—Berlin. The sixth perpetuated its early admiration of the great small-pox inoculator, Boylston; and the last was named—for a hotel. None so poor as to do Prescott reverence. But surely, it would be thought, banks and manufactories, halls or at least a fire engine, might with tardy respect have paid cheap tribute to his name by bearing it. Is there any example! Yes, at last a short street having little connection sentimental or real with the pioneer, bears his name—this only in the aspiring town, almost a city, of which John Prescott's old millstone is the visible foundation! Clinton.
I have stated that Prescott was an ideal pioneer. Not that there was in him anything of kinship to that race of frontiersmen now deployed along the outer verge of American civilization, like the thread of froth stranded along a beach outlining the extreme advance made by the last wave of the tide. The frontiersmen of to-day, bibulous gamblers, reckless duelists, blasphemous savages of mixed blood, had no prototype in Colonial days, for even the human harvest then gathered to the stocks, the whipping-post and the gallows, was of a far less obtrusive class of offenders against morals and social decency. Prescott was a Puritan soldier, a seeker of liberty not license; fiercely rebellious against tyranny, but no contemner of moral law. It was no accident that put him in the advance guard of Anglo-Saxon civilization, then just starting on its westward march from the shores of Massachusetts Bay. The position had awaited the man. When he set up his anvil and with skilful blows hammered out the first plough-shares to compel the virgin soil of the Nashaway valley to its proper fruitfulness, he was all unwittingly helping to forge the destinies of this great republic;—was in his humble sphere a true builder of the nation. His neighbors and friends, John Tinker, Ralph Houghton, and Major Simon Willard, doubtless excelled him in culture, but no neighbor surpassed him in natural personal force, whether physical, mental or moral. Not only was he of commanding stature, stern of mien and strong of limb, but he had a heart devoid of fear, great physical endurance and an unbending will. These qualities his savage neighbors early recognized and bowed before in deep respect, and because of these no Lancaster enterprise but claimed him as its leader. His manual skill and dexterity must have been great, his mental capacity and business energy remarkable, for we find him not only a farmer, trader, blacksmith and hunter, but a surveyor and builder of roads, bridges and mills. The records of the town show that he was seldom free from the conduct of some public labor. The greatest of his benefactions to his neighbors were: His corn-mill erected in 1654, and his saw-mill in 1659. The arrival of the first millstone in Lancaster must have been an event of matchless interest to every man, woman and child in the plantation. Till that began its tireless turning, the grain for every loaf of bread had to be carried to Watertown mill, or ground laboriously in a hand quern, or parched and brayed in a mortar, Indian fashion. Before the starting of his saw-mill, the rude houses must have been of logs, stone, and clay, for it was an impossibility to bring from the lower towns on the existing "Bay road" and with the primitive tumbril any large amount of sawn lumber.
Of Prescott's wife we know only her name: Mary Platts. But her daughters were sought for in marriage by men of whom we learn nothing that is not praiseworthy, and her sons all honored their mother's memory, by useful and unblemished lives. John Prescott was the youngest son of Ralph and Ellen of Shevington, Lancashire, England. He was baptized in the Parish of Standish in 1604-5 and married Mary Platts at Wigan, Lancashire, January 21, 1629. He was a land owner in Shevington, but sold his possessions there and took up his residence in Halifax Parish, Sowerby, in Yorkshire. Leaving England to avoid religions persecutions, his first haven was Barbadoes, where he is found a land owner in 1638. In 1640 he landed in Boston, and immediately selected his home in Watertown, where he became the possessor of six lots of land, aggregating one hundred and twenty-six acres. In 1643, his name is found in association with Thomas King of Watertown, Henry Symonds of Boston, and others, the first proprietors of the Nashaway purchase. His children were eight in number and all were married in due season. They were as follows:
1. Mary, baptized at Halifax Parish February 24, 1630, married Thomas Sawyer in 1648. The young couple selected their home lot adjoining Prescott's in Lancaster and there eleven sons and daughters were born to them.
2. Martha, baptized at Halifax Parish March 11, 1632, married John Rugg in 1655; and these twain began life together in sight of her paternal home in Lancaster. She died with her twin babes in January 1656.
3. John, baptized at Halifax Parish April 1, 1635, married Sarah Hayward at Lancaster, November 11, 1668, and had five children. He was a farmer and blacksmith, lived with his father, and succeeded him at the mills.
4. Sarah, baptized in 1637, at Halifax Parish, married Richard Wheeler at Lancaster, August 2, 1658, and lived in the immediate vicinity of those before named. Wheeler was killed in the massacre of February 10, 1676, and the widowed Sarah married Joseph Rice of Marlborough. By her first husband she had five children.
5. Hannah, was probably born at Barbadoes in 1639. She became the second wife of John Rugg May 4, 1660, and had eight children. She became a widow in 1696, and was slain by the Indians in the massacre of September 11, 1697.
6. Lydia, born at Watertown August 15, 1641, married Jonas Fairbank at Lancaster, May 28, 1658. He owned the lands next south of Prescott's home. Fairbank had seven children. In the massacre of February 10, 1676, he and his son Joshua were victims. The widowed Lydia married Elias Barron.
7. Jonathan—if twenty three years old in 1670, as an unknown authority has noted, or "about 38," November 6, 1683, as stated in a deposition of that date—was probably born in Lancaster between 1645 and 1647. He was a blacksmith and farmer, and married first Dorothy, August 3, 1670, in Lancaster. She died in 1674, leaving a son Samuel, noted in the town history as the unfortunate sentinel who, on November 6, 1704, killed by mistake his neighbor, the beloved minister of Lancaster, Reverend Andrew Gardner. Jonathan Prescott married second, Elizabeth, daughter of John Hoar of Concord, who died in 1687 leaving six children. Jonathan's third wife was Rebecca Bulkeley and his fourth Ruth, widow of Thomas Brown. He did not reside in Lancaster after the massacre of 1676, but became an influential citizen of Concord, which he served as representative for nine years. He died December 5, 1721.
8. Jonas, born June, 1648, in Lancaster, married Mary Loker of Sudbury, December 14, 1672. The marriage took place in Lancaster and here their first child was born, (they had twelve children in all), but later they removed to Groton, where Jonas became Captain, Selectman and Justice. He died in Groton, December 31, 1723. Of his more illustrious descendants were Colonel William, and the historian William H. Prescott.
In May 1644, John Winthrop records that "Many of Watertown and other towns joined in a plantation at Nashaway "—and Reverend Timothy Harrington in his Century Sermon states that the organization of this company of planters was due to Thomas King. The immediate and final disappearance of this original proprietor has seemed to previous writers good warrant for charging that King and his partner Henry Symonds were but land speculators, who bought the Indian's inheritance to retail by the acre to adventurers. I believe this an unjust assumption. At the date when Winthrop noted down the inception of the Nashaway Company, Henry Symonds had already been dead seven months. He was that energetic contractor of Boston noted as the leader in the project for establishing tide mills at the Cove, and was no doubt the capitalist of the trading firm of Symonds & King, who set up their "trucking house" as early as 1643 on the sunny slope of George Hill. Symond's widow a few months after his death married Isaac Walker, who in 1645 was prominent among the Nashaway proprietors. If King really sold his share of the Indian purchase, may it not have been therefore because, his senior partner being dead, he had no means to continue the enterprise? He too died before the end of the year 1644, not yet thirty years of age. The inventory of his estate sums but one hundred and fifty-eight pounds, including his house and land in Watertown, his stock in trade, and seventy-three pounds of debts due him from the Indians, John Prescott, and sundry others. King's widow made haste to be consoled, and her second husband, James Cutler, soon appears in the role of a Nashaway proprietor.
The direction of the company was at the outset in the hands of men whose names were, or soon became, of some note throughout the Colony. Doctor Robert Child, a scholar who had won the degrees of A.M. and M.D. at Cambridge and Padua, a man of scientific acquirements, but inclined to somewhat sanguine expectations of mineral treasure to be discovered in the New England hills, seems to have been a leading spirit in the adventure; and unfortunately so, since his political views about certain inalienable rights of man, which now live, and are honored in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, seemed vicious republicanism to the ecclesiastical aristocracy then governing the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay; and the odium that drove Child across the ocean, attached also to his companion planters, and perhaps through the prejudice of those in authority unfavorably affected for several years the progress of the settlement on the Nashaway. Certainly such prejudices found expression in all action or record of the government respecting the proprietors and their petitions. The ecclesiastical figure head—without which no body corporate could have grace within the colony—was Nathaniel Norcross. Of him, if we can surmise aught from his early return to England, it may be said, he was not imbued with the martyr's spirit, and his defection was, some time later, more than made good by the accession of the beloved Rowlandson. But far more important to the enterprise than these two graduates from the English University—Child the radical, and Norcross the preacher,—were two mechanics, the restless planners and busy promoters of the company, both workers in iron—Steven Day the locksmith and John Prescott the blacksmith. Steven Day was the first in America, north of Mexico, to set up a printing-press. The Colony had wisely recognized in him a public benefactor, and sealed this recognition by substantial grant of lands. He entered upon the Nashaway scheme with characteristic zeal and energy, if we may believe his own manuscript testimony: but Day's zeal outran his discretion, and his energy devoured his limited means, for in 1644 we find him in jail for debt remonstrating piteously against the injustice of a hard hearted creditor. He parted with all rights at Nashaway before many years and finally delved as a journey man at the press he had founded.
John Prescott deserted of all his original co-partners was sufficient for the emergency, a host in himself. He sells his one hundred and twenty six acres and house at Watertown, puts his all into the venture, prepares a rude dwelling in the wilderness, moves thither his cattle, and chattels, and finally, mounting wife and children and his few remaining goods upon horses' backs, bids his old neighbors good bye, and threads the narrow Indian trail through the forest westward. The scorn of men high in authority is to follow him, but now the most formidable enemy in his path is the swollen Sudbury River and its bordering marsh. We find the aristocratic scorn mingling with the story of Prescott's dearly bought victory over this natural obstacle, told in Winthrop's History of New England among what the author classes as remarkable "special providences."
"Prescot another favorer of the Petitioners lost a horse and his loading in Sudbury river, and a week after his wife and children being upon another horse were hardly saved from drowning." That the kindly hearted Winthrop could coolly attribute the pitiable disaster of the brave pioneer to the wrath of God towards the political philosophy of Robert Child, pictures vividly the bigotry natural to the age and race, a bigotry which culminated in the horrors of the persecution for witchcraft. This Sudbury swamp was the lion in the path from the bay westward during many a decade. In 1645, an earnest petition went up to the council from Prescott and his associates, complaining that much time and means had been spent in discovering Nashaway and preparing for the settlement there, and that on account of the lack of bridge and causeway at the Sudbury River, the proprietors could not pass to and from the bay towns—"without exposing our persons to perill and our cattell and goods to losse and spoyle; as yo'r petitioners are able to make prooffe of by sad experience of what wee suffered there within these few dayes." The General Court ordered the bridge and way to be made, "passable for loaden horse," and allowed twenty pounds to Sudbury, "so it be donne w'thin a twelve monthe." The twelve month passed and no bridge spanned the stream. That the dangers and difficulties of the crossing were not over-stated by the petitioners is proven by the fact that more than one hundred years afterwards, the bridge and causeway at this place "half a mile long"—were represented to the General Court as dangerous and in time of floods impassable. Between 1759 and 1761, the proceeds of special lotteries amounting to twelve hundred and twenty seven pounds were expended in the improvement of the crossing.
John Winthrop, writing of the Nashaway planters, tells us that "he whom they had called to be their minister, [Norcross] left them for their delays," but omits mention of the fact recorded by the planters themselves in their petition, that the chief and sufficient cause of their slow progress was in the inability or unwillingness of the Governor and magistrates to afford effective aid in providing a passable crossing over a small river.
Prescott, at least, was chargeable with no delay. By June 1645, he and his family had become permanent residents on the Nashaway. Richard Linton, Lawrence Waters the carpenter, and John Ball the tailor, were his only neighbors; these three men having been sent up to build, plant, and prepare for the coming of other proprietors. But two houses had been built. Linton probably lived with his son-in-law Waters, in his home near the fording place in the North Branch of the Nashaway, contiguous to the lot of intervale land which Harmon Garrett and others of the first proprietors had fenced in to serve as a "night pasture" for their cattle. Ball had left his children and their mother in Watertown; she being at times insane. Prescott's first lot embraced part of the grounds upon which the public buildings in Lancaster now stand, but this he soon parted with, and took up his abode a mile to the south west, on the sunny slope of George Hill, where, beside a little brooklet of pure cool water, which then doubtless came rollicking down over its gravelly bed with twice the flow it has to-day, there had been built, two years at least before, the trucking house of Symonds & King. This trading post was the extreme outpost of civilization; beyond was interminable forest, traversed only by the Indian trails, which were but narrow paths, hard to find and easy to lose, unless the traveller had been bred to the arts of wood-craft. Here passed the united trails from Washacum, Wachusett, Quaboag, and other Indian villages of the west, leading to the wading place of the Nashaway River near the present Atherton Bridge, and so down the "Bay Path" over Wataquadock to Concord. The little plateau half way down the sheltering hill, with fertile fields sloping to the southeast and its never failing springs, was and is an attractive spot; but its material advantages to the pioneer of 1645 were far greater than those apparent to the Lancastrian of this nineteenth century in the changed conditions of life. With the privilege of first choice therefore, it is not strange that Prescott and his sturdy sons-in-law grasped the rich intervales, and warm easily tilled slopes, stretching along the Nashaway south branch from the "meeting of the waters" to "John's jump" on the east, and extending west to the crown of George Hill; lands now covered by the village of South Lancaster.
In 1650 John Prescott found himself the only member of the company resident at Nashaway. Of the co-partners Symonds, King, and John Hill were dead; Norcross and Child had gone to England; Cowdall had sold his rights to Prescott; Chandler, Davis, Walker, and others had formally abandoned their claims; Garrett, Shawe, Day, Adams, and perhaps two or three others, retained their claims to allotments, making no improvements, and contributing nothing by their presence or tithes to the growth of the settlement, thus becoming effectual stumbling blocks in the way of progress. Prescott, very reasonably, held this a grievance, and having no other means of redress asked equitable judgment in the matter from the magistrates, in a petition which cannot be found. His answer was the following official snub:
"Whereas John Prescot & others, the inhabitants of Nashaway p'ferd a petition to this Courte desiringe power to recover all common charges of all such as had land there, not residinge w'th them, for answer whereunto this Court, understandinge that the place before mentioned is not fit to make a plantation, (so a ministry to be erected and mayntayned there,) which if the petitioners, before the end of the next session of this Courte, shall not sufficiently make the sey'd place appeare to be capable to answer the ends above mentioned doth order that the p'ties inhabitinge there shalbe called there hence, & suffered to live without the meanes, as they have done no longer." This dire threat of the closing sentence may have been simply "sound and fury, signifying nothing," or Prescott may have been able to prove to the authorities that Nashaway was fit and waiting for its St. John, but found none willing for the service. In fact, its St. John was then a junior at Harvard College, writing a pasquinade to post upon the Ipswich meeting-house, and Nashaway was "suffered to live without the meanes," waiting for him until 1654.
John Prescott retained possession of his early home,—the site of the "trucking house," which he had purchased of John Cowdall,—as long as he lived, but did not reside there many years. No sooner had the plantation attained the dignity of a township under the classic name of Lancaster, than its founder bent all his energies towards those enterprises best calculated to promote the comfort and prosperity of its then inhabitants, and to attract by material advantages, a desirable and permanent immigration. His practical eye had doubtless long before marked the best site for a mill in all the region round about, and on the slope, scarce a gun shot away, he set up a new home, afterwards well known to friend and savage foe as Prescott's Garrison. Those who remain of the generation familiar with this region before the invention of the power loom made such towns as Clinton possible, remember the depression that told where Prescott dug his cellar. The oldest water mill in New England was scarce twenty years old when Prescott contracted to grind the com of the Nashaway planters. His "Covenant to build a Corne mill" has been preserved through a copy made by Ralph Houghton, Lancaster's first Clerk of the Writs, and is as follows:
"Know all men by these presents that I John Prescott blackssmith, hath Covenanted and bargained with Jno. ffounell of Charlestowne for the building of a Corne mill, within the said Towne of Lanchaster. This witnesseth that wee the Inhabitants of Lanchaster for his encouragement in so good a worke for the behoofe of our Towne, vpon condition that the said intended worke by him or his assignes be finished, do freely and fully giue, grant, enfeoffe, & confirme vnto the said John Prescott, thirty acres of intervale Land lying on the north riuer, lying north west of Henry Kerly, and ten acres of Land adjoyneing to the mill; and forty acres of Land on the south east of the mill brooke, lying between the mill brooke and Nashaway Riuer in such place as the said John Prescott shall choose with all the priuiledges and appurtenances thereto apperteyneing. To haue and to hold the said land and eurie parcell thereof to the said John Prescott his heyeres & assignes for euer, to his and their only propper vse and behoofe. Also wee do covenant & promise to lend the said John Prescott fiue pounds in current money one yeare for the buying of Irons for the mill. And also wee do covenant and grant to and with the said John Prescott his heyres and assignes that the said mill, with all the aboue named Land thereto apperteyneing shall be freed from all com'on charges for seauen yeares next ensueing, after the first finishing and setting the said mill to worke.
In witnes whereof wee haue herevnto put our hands this 20th day of the 9mo. In the yeare of our Lord God one thousand six hundred fifty and three.
THOMAS JAMES WILL'M KERLY SEN'R LAWRENCE WATERS JNO PRESCOTT EDMUND PARKER JNO WHITE RICHARD LINTON RALPH HOUGHTON RICHARD SMITH JNO LEWIS JAMES ATHERTON JACOB FARRER WILL'M KERLY JUN'R
In six months from that date the mill was done, and Prescott "began to grind corne the 23d day of the 3 mo, 1654."
The commissioners, appointed by the General Court to oversee the prudential management of the town, met at John Prescott's in 1657 and confirmed "the imunityes provided for" in the above covenant specifying that they "should continue and remayne to him the said Jno. Prescott his heyres and assignes vntil the 23d of May, in the yeare of our Lord sixteen hundred sixty and two."
The corn mill was located a little lower upon the brook than the extensive factory buildings now utilizing its water power. The half used force of the rapid stream, and the giant pines of the virgin forest then shadowed all the region about, were full of reproach to the restless miller. His busy brain was soon planning a new benefaction to his fellow citizens, and when his means grew sufficiently to warrant the enterprise, his busy hands wrought its consummation. As before, a formal agreement preceded the work:
"Know all men by these presents that for as much as the Inhabitants of Lanchaster, or the most part of them being gathered together on a trayneing day, the 15th of the 9th mo, 1658, a motion was made by Jno. Prescott blackesmith of the same towne, about the setting vp of a saw mill for the good of the Towne, and y't he the said Jno Prescott, would by the help of God set vp the saw mill, and to supply the said Inhabitants with boords and other sawne worke, as is afforded at other saw mills in the countrey. In case the Towne would giue, grant, and confirms vnto the said John Prescott, a certeine tract of Land, lying Eastward of his water mill, be it more or less, bounded by the riuer east, the mill west the stake of the mill land and the east end of a ledge of Iron Stone Rocks southards, and forty acres of his owne land north, the said land to be to him his heyres and assignes for euer, and all the said land and eurie part thereof to be rate free vntill it be improued, or any p't of it, and that his saws, & saw mill should be free from any rates by the Towne, therefore know ye that the ptyes abouesaid did mutually agree and consent each with other concerning the aforementioned propositions as followeth:
The towne on their part did giue, grant & confirme, vnto the said John Prescott his heyres and assignes for euer, all the aforementioned tract of land butted & bounded as aforesaid, to be to him his heyres and asssignes for euer with all the priuiledges and appurtenances thereon, and therevnto belonging to be to his and their owne propper vse and behoofe as aforesaid, and the land and eurie part of it to be free from all rates vntil it or any pt of it be improued, and also his saw, sawes, and saw-mill to be free from all town rates, or ministers rates, prouided the aforementioned worke be finished & compleated as abouesaid for the good of the towne, in some convenient time after this present contract covenant and agrem't.
And the said John Prescott did and doth by these prsents bynd himself, his heyres and assignes to set vp a saw-mill as aforesaid within the bounds of the aforesaid Towne, and to supply the Towne with boords and other sawne worke as aforesaid and truly and faithfully to performe, fullfill, & accomplish, all the aforementioned p'misses for the good of the Towne as aforesaid.
Therefore the Selectmen conceiving this saw-mill to be of great vse to the Towne, and the after good of the place, Haue and do hereby act to rattifie and confirme all the aforemencconed acts, covenants, gifts, grants, & im'unityes, in respect of rates, and what euer is aforementioned, on their owne pt, and in behalfe of the Towne, and to the true performance hereof, both partyes haue and do bynd themselves by subscribing their hands, this twenty-fifth day of February, one thousand six hundred and fifty nine.
The worke above mencconed was finished according to this covenant as witnesseth.
Signed & Delivr'd In presence of,
THOMAS WILDER THOMAS SAWYER RALPH HOUGHTON
Monday, the seventeenth of February, 1659, "the Company granted him to fall pines on the Com'ons to supply his saw-mill."
In April 1659, Ensign Noyes came to make accurate survey of the eighty square miles granted to the town, and John Prescott was deputed by the townsmen at their March meeting to aid in the survey and "mark the bounds." Among his varied accomplishments, natural and acquired, Prescott seems to have had some practical skill in surveying, the laying out of highways and the construction of bridges. In 1648 John Winthrop records: "This year a new way was found out to Connecticut by Nashua which avoided much of the hilly way." As appears by a later petition Prescott was the pioneer of this new path. In 1657 he was appointed by the government a member of a committee upon the building of bridges "at Billirriky and Misticke." In 1658 he with his son-in-law Jonas Fairbank was appointed to survey a farm of six hundred and fifty acres for Captain Richard Davenport, upon which farm the chief part of West Boylston now stands.
To the General Court which met October 18, 1659, the following petition was presented:
"The humble petition of John Prescot of Lancaster humblye Sheweth, That whereas yr petitioner about nine or ten yeares since, was desired by the late hon'red Governour Mr. Winthrop, w'th other Magistrates, as also by Mr. Wilson of Boston, Mr. Shephard of Cambridge with many others, did lay & marke out a way at ye north side of the great pond & soe by Lancaster, which then was taken by Mr. Hopkins & many others to bee of great vse; This I did meerly vpon the request of these honored gentlemen, to my great detrimt, by being vpon it part of two summers not only myselfe but hiring others alsoe to helpe mee, whereby my family suffered much: I doe not question but many of ye Court remember the same, as alsoe that this hath not laine dead all this while, but I haue formerly mentioned it, but yet haue noe recompence for the same; the charge whereof came at 2's p day to about 10'l; it is therefore the desire of y'r petitioner yt you would bee pleased to grant him a farme in some place vndisposed of which will engage him to you and encourage him and others in publique occasions & y'r petitioner shall pray etc."
One hundred acres of land were granted him, and speedily laid out near the Washacum ponds, where now stand the railroad buildings at Sterling Junction.
We get very few glimpses of Prescott from the meagre records of succeeding years, but those serve to indicate that he was busy, prosperous and annually honored by his neighbors with the public duties for which his sturdy integrity, shrewd business tact, and wisely directed energy peculiarly fitted him. He had taken the oath of fidelity in 1652. Such owning of allegiance was by law prerequisite to the holding of real estate. Refusing such oath he might better have been a Nipmuck so far as civil rights or privileges were concerned. He was not yet a member of the recognized church however, and therefore lacked the political dignities of a freeman; although his intimate relations with Master Joseph Rowlandson, and his personal connection with the earlier cases of church discipline in Lancaster, sufficiently attest the austerity of his puritanism. Doubtless Governor John Winthrop in his hasty and harsh dictum respecting the Nashaway planters, classed John Prescott among those "corrupt in judgment." But it must be remembered that in Winthrop's visionary commonwealth there was no room for liberty of conscience. All were esteemed corrupt in judgment or even profane whose religious beliefs, when tested all about by the ecclesiastic callipers, proved not to have been cast in the doctrinal mould prescribed by the self-sanctified founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. No known fact in any way warrants even the conjecture that Prescott was not a sincere Christian earnestly pursuing his own convictions of duty, without fear and without reproach.
Prescott's mechanical skill and business ability had more than a local reputation. In 1667, we find him contracting with the authorities of Groton, to erect "a good and sufficient corne mill or mills, and the same to finish so as may be fitting to grind the corne of the said Towne." ... For the fulfillment of this agreement he received five hundred and twenty acres of land, and mill and lands were exempted from taxation for twenty years. Assistance towards the building of the mill were also promised to the amount of "two days worke of a man for every house lott or family within the limitts of the said Towne, and at such time or times to be done or performed, as the said John Prescott shall see meete to call for the same, vpon reasonable notice given." The covenant was fulfilled by the completion of a mill at Nonacoiacus, then in the southern part of Groton. The mill site is now in Harvard. Prescott's youngest son, Jonas, was the first miller. The history of the old mill is obscured by the shadows of two hundred years, but a bright gleam of romantic tradition concerning the first miller is warm with human interest now. Perhaps at points the romantic may infringe upon the historic, but:
Se non e vero, E ben trovato.
Down by the green meadows of Sudbury there dwelt a bewitchingly fair maiden, the musical dissyllables of whose name were often upon the lips of the young men in all the country round about, and whose smile could awaken voiceless poetry in the heart of the most prosaic Puritan swain. There is little of aristocratic sound in Mary Loker's name, but her parents sat on Sunday at the meeting house in a "dignified" pew, and were rich in fields and cattle. Whether pushed by pride of land or pride of birth, in their plans and aspirations, this daughter was predestinated to enhance the family dignity by an aristocratic alliance. In Colonial days a maiden who added a handsome prospective dowry to her personal witchery was rare indeed, and Mary Loker had, coming from far and near, inflammable suitors perpetually burning at her shrine. From among these the father and mother soon made their choice upon strictly business principles, and shortly announced to Mary that a certain ambitious gentleman of the legal profession had furnished the most satisfactory credentials, and that nothing remained but for her to name the day. Now the fourth commandment was very far from being the dead letter in 1670 that it is in 1885, and it was matter for grave surprise to the elders that their usually obedient daughter, when the lawyer proceeded to plead, refused to hear, and peremptorily adjourned his cause without day. Maternal expostulation and paternal threats availed nothing. The because of Mary's contumacy was not far to seek. A stalwart Vulcan in the guise of an Antinous, known as Jonas Prescott, had wandered from his father's forge in Lancaster down the Bay Path to Sudbury. Mary and he had met, and the lingering of their parting boded ill for any predestination not stamped with their joint seal of consent. With that lack of astuteness proverbially exhibited by parents disappointed in match-making designs upon their children, the vexed father and mother began a course of vigorous repression, and thereby riveted more firmly than ever the chains which the errant young blacksmith and his apprentice Cupid had forged. In due time, they perforce learned that love's flame burns the brighter fed upon a bread and water diet; and that confinement to an attic may be quite endurable when Cupid's messages fly in and out of its lattice at pleasure.
Finally Mary was secretly sent to an out-of-the-way neighborhood in the vain hope that the chill of absence might hinder what home rule had only served to help. But one day Jonas on a hunting excursion made the acquaintance of some youth, who, among other chitchat, happened to break into ecstatic praise of the graces of a certain fair damsel who had recently come to live in a farm-house near their home. Of course the anvil missed Jonas for the next day, and the next, and the next, while he experienced the hospitalities of his new-found friends—and their neighbors. It was time for a recognition of the inevitable by all concerned, but when, and with what grace Mary's stubborn parents yielded, if at all, is not recorded. But what mattered that? Old John Prescott installed Jonas at the Nonacoicus Mill, and endowed him with all his Groton lands, and in Lancaster, December 14, 1672, Jonas and Mary were married. For over fifty years fortunes railed upon their union. Four sons and eight daughters graced their fireside, and the father was trusted and clothed with local dignities. In after time the memory of Jonas and Mary has been honored by many worthy descendants, and especially by the gallant services of Colonel William Prescott at Bunker Hill, and the literary renown of William Hickling Prescott, the historian.
In 1669, John Prescott was proclaimed a Freeman. He may have been long a Church member, or may not even at this date have yielded the conscientious scruples that had a quarter of a century earlier subjected him to the reproach of an ecclesiastical oligarchy. The laws concerning Freemen, in reluctant obedience to the letter of Charles II., were so changed in 1665 that those not Church members could become Freemen, if freeholders of a sufficient estate, and guaranteed by the local minister "to be Orthodox and not vicious in their lives." Prescott had the true Englishman's love of landed possessions, and about this time added a large tract to his acreage by purchase from his Indian neighbors. This transaction gave cause for the following petition:
To the honorable the Gov'r the Deputy Gov'r mag'tr & Deputy es assembled in the gen'rall Court:
The Petition of Jno Prescott of Lanchaster, In most humble wise sheweth. Whereas ye Petition'r hath purchased an Indian right to a small parcell of Land, occasioned and circumstanced for quantity & quality according to the deed of sale herevnto annexed and a pt. thereof not being legally setled vpon piee vnlesse I may obteyne the favor of this Court for the Confirmation thereof, These are humbly to request the Court's favor for that end, the Lord hauing dealt graciously with mee in giueing mee many children I account it my duty to endeauor their provission & setling and do hope that this may be of some vse in yt kind. I know not any claime made to the said land by any towne, or any legall right y't any other persons haue therein, and therefore are free for mee to occupy & subdue as any other, may I obteyne the Court's approbation. I shall not vse further motiues, my condition in other respecks & w't my trouble & expenses haue been according to my poor ability in my place being not altogether vnknowne to some of ye Court. That ye Lord's prsence may be with & his blessing accompany all yo'r psons, Counsells, & endeauors for his honor & ye weale of his poor people is ye pray'r of
JOHN PRESCOTT SEN'R.
This request was referred to a special committee, composed of Edward Tyng, George Corwin and Humphrey Davie, who reported as follows:
"In Reference to this Petition the Comittee being well informed that the Pet'r is an ancient Planter and hath bin a vseful helpfull and publique spirited man doinge many good offices ffor the Country, Relatinge to the Road to Conecticott, marking trees, directinge of Passengers &c, and that the Land Petitioned for beinge but about 107 Acres & Lyinge not very Convenient for any other Plantation, and only accomoclable for the Pet'r, we judge it reasonable to Confirme the Indian Grant to him & his heyers if ye honored Court see meete."
This report was approved. James Wiser alias Quanapaug, the Christian Nashaway Chief, who appears as grantor of the land, was a warrior whose bravery had been tested in the contest between the Nipmucks and the Mohawks; and was so firm a friend of his white neighbors at Lancaster, that when Philip persuaded the tribe with its Sagamore Sam, to go upon the war path, James refused to join them. He even served as a spy and betrayed Philip's plans to the English at imminent risk of his life, doing his utmost to save Lancaster from destruction. General Daniel Gookin acknowledged that Quanapaug's information would have averted the horrible massacre of February 10, 1676, had it been duly heeded. The fact of the friendly relations existing between Prescott and the tribe whose fortified residence stood between the two Washacum ponds is interesting and confirms tradition. It is related that at his first coming he speedily won the respect of the savages, not only by his fearlessness and great physical strength, but by the power of his eye and his dignity of mien. They soon learned to stand in awe of his long musket and unerring skill as a marksman. He had brought with him from England a suit of mail, helmet and cuirass such as were worn by the soldiers of Cromwell. Clothed with these, his stately figure seemed to the sons of the forest something almost supernatural. One day some Indians, having taken away a horse of his, he put on his armor, pursued them alone, and soon overtook them. The chief of the party seeing him approach unsupported, advanced menacingly with uplifted tomahawk. Prescott dared him to strike, and was immediately taken at his word, but the rude weapon glanced harmless from the helmet, to the amazement of the red men. Naturally the Indian desired to try upon his own head so wonderful a hat, and the owner obligingly gratified him claiming the privilege, however, of using the tomahawk in return. The helmet proving a scant fit, or its wearer neglecting to bring it down to its proper bearings, Prescott's vengeful blow not only astounded him but left very little cuticle on either side of his head, and nearly deprived him of ears. Prescott was permitted to jog home in peace upon his horse.