cellar of the above house, but subsequently, on the laying out of Third
street, moved back to its present site. In this shop John Coggeshall,
Caleb Congdon and Cornelius Grinnell learned the hatter's trade. The
shingles on the north end of this house were put on before the Revolu-
The long one-story house built, owned and occupied until he died
by Jonathan Smith stood next south of the present Amos Simmons store
on North Second street (this stood near North street). He was the
grandfather of Asa Smith. He was a blacksmith and his shop stood
south of his house and where Jacob Parker now lives. This house was
moved up to Nigger Town and is now cut in two and makes the two
William Reed houses west of Dudley's. (This was Chepachet).
The two-story house corner of North Second and North street now
occupied by Amos Simmons. This was built, owned and occupied by
Jonathan Russell, a cooper, who carried on coopering in the cellar. He
was the brother of old William Russell. They came from Nantucket.
(House now standing on northeast corner).
A one-story house built by George Glaggon, a shipwright, standing
right east of the last house, fronting to the west. It is a part of the pres-
ent house now standing there (the southwest part), now belonging to
Andrew Robeson. This gentleman was a colonel in the Revolutionary
Continental army. After the war he was employed as head boss of the
yard to build the frigate "Constitution," and for that purpose moved his
whole family to Boston. He subsequently moved back again and after
moved to Rehoboth. Peter Lewis's wife of this town was his daughter.
Building the "Constitution" spoilt him.
A house now belonging to and occupied by Susan Maxfield, standing
on the northwest corner of North Second and North streets. It was built
by Patrick Maxfield, the son of Timothy Maxfield, Sr., who lived in
Dartmouth. Patrick was a master mariner and uncle of the present
Humphrey Maxfield. He has no posterity.
A house on southwest corner of North Second and Maxfield streets,
the present Humphrey Maxfield house. It was built by Zadoc Maxfield,
who owned and occupied it. He was a cooper and worked in under part
of it, where his son did. Humphrey was his youngest son.
A one-story house on southwest corner of Ray and North streets
now owned and occupied by James Bates. This was built, owned and
occupied by Jabez Hammond, Sr. He was a cooper and worked in cellar
or basement part of it. He was father to John Gilbert's wife and came
from Mattapoisett. Old John Chace's wife was this man's sister, making
John Gilbert's wife own cousin to my grandmother.
A one-story house on the west side of Ray street, now standing and
occupied by Asa Dillingham (on the northwest corner of Ray and Max-
field). Don't know who built it. James Chandler owned and occupied
it. He was an Englishman. He was the grandfather of Thomas R.
Chandler, who lived with William Rotch. He was a shoemaker and
worked in basement. He was a soldier during the war.
A small house now standing on Ray street and next north of the
last. It was built, owned and occupied by Thomas West, a very old
man at the time and did not work. Think he was the grandfather of
John P. West.
A small one-story house standing west of the last (being the house
on Purchase street below the bank). It was built by Simeon Price, Sr.,
father of the present Simeon. He lived in it and owned it. He was a
cooper, I think. (Demolished this winter; stood on site of new rink).
A two-story house in front and one-story in rear on southeast corner
of County and Cove streets, fronting south and standing on the same
cellar as the present Cove House. Was built by Benjamin Allen, grand-
father of the present Humphrey Allen. He was a farmer. This house
was afterwards pulled down.
The present Timothy Akin's house. This was built, owned and
occupied by Caleb Russell, Jr., the father of Reuben. He was a cooper,
148 NEW BEDFORD
but followed farming during the war. (It stood on northwest corner
County and Rockland streets).
The house west of the Seth Russell new house and now occupied by
Ichabod Coggeshall was built, occupied and owned by old Caleb Russell.
He was a farmer. (It was on the northwest corner of Count}' and W'ash-
A house on the corner of County and Allen, the present Ezekiel
Tripp house. This was built, owned and occupied by James Allen, a
farmer called "Lazy Jim," father of Abram and John. (It was opposite
the Methodist church).
A small shop standing on the corner of South Second and Union
streets, where William Tallman's house now is. It was a dry goods store
and occupied by them. Gilbert thinks it not here till after the fire. This
shop formerly stood at the Tallman farm, was moved down here and
afterwards moved back to the farm, and thence moved to east side of
Ray street, where the dye establishment now is, and was then torn down
and burnt up.
A house standing on west side of County street and near the present
residence of Joseph Grinnell. It was two stories and was built and
owned by Jonathan Smith, who lived on North Second street, as above
stated. Don't know who lived in it. (This was at the head of Russell
An old house standing near where William R. Rotch's house now is,
two stories in front and one in rear, fronting south. John Akins occu-
pied it. He was a cooper, but followed the seas â€” master. The house
belonged to Joseph Russell and was built by his father, whose name, I
think, was Joseph, and who was not living during the war. This was
his homestead, one of the very oldest houses here. (This stood on west
side of County street at head of Walnut street).
The house of Joseph Russell stood southeast of Charles W. Mor-
gan's on the corner of County and Morgan streets, and is now owned by
William. Read, who moved it, as before stated. It was built by Colonel
Samuel Willis, a colonel in the French war, who was the father of Eben-
ezer, who lived by John A. Parker's present house. The son Ebenezer
was a major in the militia in the first of the war. He was uncle to
Pamelia Willis, now living, who was the daughter of Jireh Willis.
The Russell house was the headquarters of all gentlemen and troops
during the war. There was no other suitable house for gentlemen to put
up at. There were in the place three taverns, but they were rough places.
A house near Kempton's corner, on west side of County street, now
occupied by Sylvia Hill, sister of Obed Kempton and married Captain
Benjamin Hill, Sr. This house was built, occupied and owned by
Ephraim Kempton, father of said Sylvia, who died in it. He was a ship-
NEW BEDFORD 149
wright and a caulker. The house was two stories in front and one in the
rear (and stood on northwest corner of Kempton street).
A house standing on the west side of County street and a little north
of the David Kempton house, at the head of North street, two stories in
front and one in rear. Ephraim Kempton (2d) owned it and lived in it.
He was a farmer. Don't know the connection between him and Ephraim
Kempton, Sr. He was the father of the present Ephraim Kempton.
A house standing on Walden street, two stories in the front, west
side stuccoed (think John Burgess lives in it). It was built by Colonel
Thomas Kempton, in the Revolutionary army. He occupied it till his
death. He served through the war. He was brother to Ephraim Kemp-
An old house standing a little west of where John Avery Parker's
house now stands ; large two-story house. It was built by Ebenezer
Willis, Sr., the colonel in the French war, and his son Ebenezer occupied
it, and kept a public house in it. Probate courts were held in it. It was
burnt during the war, but not by the English. It took fire from an old
woman's pipe, a coal falling into some flax. A house was afterwards
built by Ebenezer, Jr., on the same spot, which was recently moved onto
Purchase street. Ebenezer, Sr. and Jr., were both farmers. Ebenezer,
Jr., was a major in the militia in the first part of the war. Think this was
the only fire before Abram Russell's.
(Note â€” There is an error in this account. The first house was built
by Colonel Samuel Willis, who died in 1765 and left the north third part
of his farm between Franklin and Linden streets to his son Jireh, as
suggested in the next paragraph, and the remainder to his son. Major
Ebenezer Willis. Neither had any sons).
A house standing at the crotch of the County road and Perry's Neck
road and north of Robeson's new house, called the old Willis house. It
was occupied by Jireh Willis, a lawyer, and I think the only lawyer in
the place. It was entailed, etc., said Jireh owning a life estate. Think
it was built by his father, Ebenezer Willis, Sr. (His father was Samuel
and the house was on the northwest corner of County and Robeson
street. Robeson's house was the stone dwelling owned later by Dr. H.
The Benjamin Rodman farm house on Purchase street, built, owned
and occupied by Samuel West, father of Stephen West, the poundkeeper.
He was a farmer. It stood near the southwest corner of Purchase and
Gossip of the High and Far-Off Times.
New Bedford is particularly fortunate in the preservation of elab-
orate records, not only of historical incidents, but of little events, and
several very interesting manuscripts relating to the personal character-
istics of the men and women who were conspicuous in the far-off days
are preserved. William Logan Fisher, who married a daughter of the
late Samuel Rodman, wrote out his reminiscences in the latter years of
his life and the manuscript is still preserved.
Among other things one may learn from it that the local institution
known as "the 9 o'clock bell," which is preserved on the theory that it
was dear to our ancestors, never met universal approbation. Alluding
to the laying of the cornerstone of the library, he says in a paper dated
December 20, 1856: "The bell of the old Congregational meeting house,
a part of which has been deposited in the cornerstone, was an affair of
subscription. It was regularly rung at 9 o'clock, to the disturbance of
many at evening parties, and in the morning awakened many a lazy man
from the slumbers. The largest subscriber to this bell was a colored
man. I knew him well and believe his name was Aaron Child."
Writing of New Bedford people in 1795, Mr. Fisher said:
At that period Joseph Ricketson kept a retail store at the northeast
corner of what was then known as the "Four Corners." His first wife,
the daughter of James Howland, was esteemed the handsomest woman
in New Bedford. She was the sister of Betsey Howland, who was married
to William Tallman. Taking advantage of the absence of their parents
at meeting, they had the marriage ceremony performed to suit them-
The northwest corner of the "Four Corners" was owned by Seth
Russell & Sons and occupied by Preserved Fish, after an eminent mer-
chant in New York, and Joseph Maxwell, under the firm name of Fish &
Maxwell. Fish was at that time master of a small vessel named "Trial,"
belonging at Oxford, generally called Poverty Point. The Social Library
was established in the next building north, upstairs. The residence of
Charles Russell was next door.
George Howland, father of George Howland, Jr., at one time mayor,
was wellnigh being cut ofif in his youth. He was determined to try his
fortune in foreign adventure. His clothing was packed up for the voyage
and placed on board the brig "Eliza," Josiah Kempton, master, then
bound to Spain. Seemingly accidental circumstances, and perhaps bitter
reflection, prevented his embarking. This vessel went to sea and was
never heard from.
At this period the only road out of the village was the main street,
thence up to the country road, turning to the north or south, as occasion
might require. The writer (Mr. Fisher) was the first person who trav-
NEW BEDFORD 151
elled with a horse on Purchase street, now the main thoroughfare. There
was a footpath, and by throwing down a few stones and jumping his
horse the feat was accomplished, to the annoyance of those who did not
like to have their stonewalls disturbed.
In 1798 there was but one four-wheeled pleasure carriage in the
town, and but few chaises. I witnessed the putting on of the first pair
of suspenders that were ever used in the town as a part of male attire,
in reference to which a valuable old Friend remarked that he hoped he
would always have hips to keep up his breeches. Yet eventually this
Friend adopted the use of them himself.
Mr. Fisher writes at length of the literary quality of the citizens of
one hundred years ago, but says one of the early ministers of the Con-
gregational Society pained him by asking him whether he believed there
ever was a person who would not prefer first seeing the new moon over
the right shoulder. And a Quaker of some pretension of the time when
Bonaparte's name was in every mind, seriously asked a company in
Joseph Ricketson's store whether Bonaparte was an island or mainland.
Thereafter he was generally called Bonaparte. William S. Wall and
Mary Rotch were the individuals best informed and most prominent in
the literary life of the day.
The only physician in the town was Ebenezer Perry. In 1795 his
charge was sixpence a visit and this may have accounted for the fact that
no competitors arose to share his practice. An English woman, who
was visiting here, was so astounded at the meagre charge that she re-
quested she might be furnished with particulars for exhibition in Eng-
land. Thereafter Dr. Perry raised his fee to a shilling. Mr. Fisher says
there was deficiency in surgery and he recalls that John Rowland acci-
dentally put his shoulder out of joint and "was nearly pulled to pieces in
the attempt to replace it, and finally had to wait several days until Sweet,
the natural bone-setter, was brought from Narragansett, when by the aid
of a lever under his arm-pit, it was immediately replaced." Mr. How-
land, it should be said for the benefit of Dr. Perry's memory, was not
originally attended by the latter physician.
Mr. Fisher also set up the claim that the first inflammable gas for
burning, made north of Mason and Dixon's line, was made in New Bed-
ford by William Sawyer Hall and himself. "An Englishman," he writes,
"of whom we knew something, Benjamin Henfrey, had made the experi-
ment in Baltimore, and having retorts, we made the gas with complete
success. The retorts were broken by the dryness of the materials, how-
ever, and the extreme heat, but we preserved them as trophies for a long
time. Thus the place that provided the most oil was the first in New
England to manufacture the gas that was destined to supersede it."
Mr. Fisher says the real mechanical genius of the day was David
Grieves, who experimented for a long time, under the patronage of Wil-
152 NEW BEDFORD
liam Rotch, Jr., in the attempt to spin hemp and flax by machinery. He
was so disappointed at failure that his mind seems to have been affected.
He wore a waistcoat of his own invention. It was alike inside and out,
with rows of buttons within and without. Grieves held the theory that it
would be perpetually clean â€” that when the outside became dirty by
turning it inside out it would eventually wear clean on his shirt. An-
other of his conceits was to propel a boat upward by the downward cur-
rent, and this experiment he proposed to try on the Mississippi.
Many distinguished men were our visitors a hundred years ago, who
expressed much pleasure at the simple hospitality with which they were
received. Among them was John de Marsiellac from Languodoc, who
read the petition from William Rotch to the national assembly of France,
in reply to which Mirabeau, the president of the French national assem-
bly, made a beautiful apostrophe to the Quakers.
"I was present," writes Fisher, "when he alighted from the stage at
William Rotch's door, and remember the earnest kisses which he be-
stowed upon the cheeks of the venerable man. There was General Lin-
coln, of Revolutionary memory, who received the sword of Cornwallis
and led him out as his prisoner at Yorktown. There was Count Rocham-
beau Liancourt, Peter Grant of Italy and many others. General Lincoln,
speaking of the Quakers, said to one of the Friends : 'The more I have
seen of you, the more I like you. You may have this satisfaction, that
we are coming nearer to you. Our pastor died after forty years' service
and we were at loss to know whom to appoint, but we finally elected one
who could read the Scriptures in his mother tongue.' The Friend replied
that that was little and that godly women were barred from speaking in
his meeting, whereupon General Lincoln agreed that if he had heard the
gospel well preached it was by Mrs. Wilson, a Friend."
On account of the Quaker tendencies, Mr. Fisher points out that the
legal profession was closed to the young men, since it was believed it
often attempted to make right wrong and vice z'crsa. The clerical profes-
sion was likewise closed because of the objection to a paid ministry. All
ostentation was frowned upon. There was but one man in the village
whose wealth was estimated at over $100,000, and that was William
Rotch, the elder. Next in order of wealth were William Rotch, Jr., his
son, and Samuel Rodman, his son-in-law.
â– 'Samuel Rodman's estimate I saw, made out by himself," writes Mr.
Fisher. "It was below $100,000, and as I kept my master's (William
Rotch, Jr.'s) books at this period, I could not be ignorant of his fortune.
After these came the various members of the Russell and Howland fami-
lies, the Sheppards, the Hathaways and others, as a class, all independ-
ents and well ofif. After his father's death, Abraham Russell was some-
times sportively called Rex. If belonging to one of the oldest families,
living in the largest house, driving the finest horses, and owning the most
NEW BEDFORD i53
real estate, entitled him to be king, then the name was properly bestowed.
About the year 1807 his barn was burned and his fine horses and car-
riages were lost.
John Rowland, the elder, probably had the most ready money, yet
he was apt to complain of his poverty, till going one day to a niche in his
chimney he found a bag of dollars that he had almost forgotten. His
surprise was so great that he could not help telling it. It was in vain
that he pleaded poverty after this, because the conclusion was natural
that a man who could lose a large bag of dollars without missing it could
only be a very rich man.
"Abraham Smith had the largest flock of children in the town. I
think there were sixteen or eighteen of them living at one time. The
handsomest children at the end of the last century were those of John
Proud, for a long time town clerk, and Samuel Rodman." This was a
gallant record, since Mr. Fisher married one of Mr. Rodman's daughters.
At this period the village of New Bedford contained about two thou-
sand inhabitants. "There was a good deal of drunkenness among the
sailors and some cases of pauperism and crime. There were no more
than a dozen carpets in the place. The floors were generally painted and
there were painted oil cloths. The men wore breeches, universally and
without boots, except in 'cases of heavy snow, the most uncomfortable
dress that was ever invented. Pantaloons were the invention of the
French revolution. To have worn them in New Bedford would have
been wicked, as it would have seemed to favor the French philosophers
who were believed to be atheists.
"In the year 1801 my mistress, Elizabeth Rotch, imported a pair of
silver teapots. I think they were the first in New Bedford." Mr. Fisher
notes that in 1799, on the last night of the year, a company of young
people met to celebrate the coming in of the new century and believed
they had accomplished it. A few days later Mr. Fisher says they were
informed that the century would not close for another year. Mr. Fisher
then goes over the arguments made familiar at the beginning of the
twentieth century. Mr. Fisher concluded : "This subject will probably
rest quietly until the end of the present century, when it is likely the
same reasoning will lead to the same uncertain conclusions."
Which stamps Mr. Fisher a prophet.
Dr. Waterhouse of Boston, a friend of the Rotches and Rodmans,
sent vaccine matter here, and New Bedford was the second place in which
inoculation for smallpox was attempted. There was some mistake in
preparation and a cutaneous disease resulted, which Mr. Fisher avers
was providentially cured by an Indian physic. There were some Indian
wigwams here in 1800 â€” one near Clark's Cove, occupied by a woman
named Sarah Obadiah. The famous Paul Cuffee then lived here, and
when William Rotch and some friends visited him he invited his guests
154 NEW BEDFORD
to sit an another table, but the party insisted upon putting their legs
under the same table with Cuffee.
The people of this city are indebted to James B. Congdon's habit of
faithfully recording the events of his day for the presentation of many
a quaint and curious incident, bit of gossip or personal reminiscence. Mr.
Congdon was born more than one hundred years ago, and has been dead
more than twenty-five years. He was identified with the early history of
this city and with the foundation of all of the local institutions, the free
public library, the first in the United States supported by a municipal
appropriation, the water works, the board of health, the old Lyceum.
He was city treasurer for many years and he wrote the original draft of
the city charter and the city ordinances.
In all the years of his life he made records of events in which he
thought coming generations would be interested, and it is the judgment
of historians that he showed rare good judgment. He made a specialty
of incidents which would otherwise have been overlooked, devoting him-
self to special fields, such as an exhaustive history of the cholera epi-
demic which raged here.
Several of these little brochures have never been published. One is
an interesting manuscript describing the bumps of old citizens with some
enlightening comment thereon. Phrenology was introduced into the
United States largely through the lectures and cranioscopic demonstra-
tions by the Fowler brothers in 1834. The Fowlers came here on a lectur-
ing tour, it seems, and Mr. Congdon made a careful study and record of
their visit, which is most enjoyable reading. The Fowlers attracted the
attention of many of the local celebrities, and Mr. Congdon's version is
very interesting, quite as much for his own estimate of the characteris-
tics of many men whose names are not only familiar in every household
in New Bedford, but were knov^'n to national fame seventy years ago.
Among those who figure, for instance, was Thomas Dawes Eliot,
who conducted the great litigation between the two denominations of
Friends, where the title to the Quaker meeting houses in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island were at issue and in which the usages and faiths of the
respective sects underwent legal investigation ; also the contests in which
the chartered powers of the Massachusetts Medical Society were main-
tained on issues raised by physicians in the homoeopathic school. Eliot
was sent to Congress to represent this district until he was tired, and was
an intimate associate of Lincoln, for whom he investigated many cases
and who also accepted his judgment in matters involving the law.
Another who engaged in the phrenological investigation and sub-
mitted himself unwittingly to Mr. Congdon's analysis at the same time
was Timothy G. Coffin. "Tim" Coffin is a familiar name even to this
generation. He was a contemporary of Marcus Morton, and Daniel
Webster once said of him : "Tim Coffin is the ablest lawyer in the
NEW BEDFORD 155
United States. He is the lawyer of all others I should prefer not to
meet." Cofifin was famous at repartee, and the lawyers are well stocked
with anecdotes in which he figures.
The manuscript bears the date December 11, 1837. The Fowlers
were here for two weeks, and Mr. Congdon followed them up assidu-
ously. The lectures were given in the building formerly the meeting
house of the North Congregational Society, and Mr. Congdon records
On one of the first evenings the committee selected included Timo-
thy G. Coffin, James B. Congdon and Abraham Barker, the latter the
leading banker of the city at that time. This committee selected as sub-
jects for tests Mr. Coffin, Captain George Randall, Mr. Congdon's
brother-in-law ; Stephen Merrihew, president of the Marine Insurance