Alice M. (Alice Morehouse) Walker.

Mary Mattoon and her hero of the revolution [General Ebenezer Mattoon] online

. (page 1 of 5)
Online LibraryAlice M. (Alice Morehouse) WalkerMary Mattoon and her hero of the revolution [General Ebenezer Mattoon] → online text (page 1 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


; ■■■i

Book A-^/\\\^
Copyiiglii W



Copy of Port rail in the possession of Mrs. Mary Mat toon VVoUott Clafp.

Mary Mattoon


Her Hero oftwe Revolution









Two Copies


FEB 28




d^t n~

iCf ^-

cuss «-

XXc. No.

z;- u^

3 1^



Copyright 1902


Alice M. Walker

^^^ ^otbe

ff^ax^ /iDattoon Cbapter,
BauGbters ot tbe Hmerican IRevolution,

ot Bmberst, ^assacbusette,


is H)eDicateD


IN presenting to the public this sketch of Mary Mattoon
and her Hero, the author makes grateful ack-
nowledgment to the members of the Mattoon family
and to other interested persons who contributed material
for the illustrations as well as much information. Of the
grandchildren of the Mattoons, Mr. Isaac Gridley of
Brooklyn, N. Y., furnished a copy of the Trumbull por-
trait of the General, and Mrs. Dorothy G. Vannevar, of
Kendall Green, Massachusetts, gave information. Of
the great grandchildren, Mrs. Mary Mattoon Wolcott
Clapp, Berkeley, California, sent copies of the portraits of
Mary Mattoon and the General ; Mr. William Mattoon
King, New York City, sent a copy of a portrait of the
General ; Mrs. Edith Dwight Wolcott Davis of Lynch-
burg, Virginia, sent a copy of the miniature of the Gen-
eral; Mr. Ithamar C. Cowles, Unionville, Ohio, sent a
photograph of the sword and table, Mrs. Ella D. Robin-
son, South Hartwick, New York, gave items of interest ;
and all of these contributed much valuable information.
Mrs. Anna M. Bardwell, South Pasadena, California, a
great granddaughter of Elizabeth Mattoon Clapp, sister

6 Foreword

of the General, furnished information. Mrs. Austin
Street, Holyoke, Massachusetts, a niece of Mary Mattoon,
loaned a family Bible belonging to Noah Dickinson, con-
taining a record of the birth of Mary Mattoon. Miss
Kate Conkey, Amherst, Massachusetts, loaned an auto-
graph letter and other valuable documents. Among
others to whom acknowledgments are due are Mr. M. E.
Dwight, New York City, Mrs. Isa F. Sanford, Bunker
Hill, Illinois, Mr. John B. Tyler, Billerica, Massachusetts,
Mr. Timothy Spaulding, Northampton, Massachusetts,
and many residents of Amherst. Among the authorities
consulted are Carpenter & Morehouse, History of Amherst \
Judd, History of Hadley ; Parmenter, History of Pelhain ;
Chase, History of Dartmouth College^ a?id Hanover^ N. H.\
Chapman, Manual of Dartmouth College; The Hampshire
Gazette-^ and the well known books by Alice Morse
Earle. A. M. W.

Amherst^ Massachusetts^ ig02.

Mary Mattoon and Her Hero
of the Revolution

THE fertile lands comprised within the limits of Old
Hadley and her " Third Precinct," the Amherst
of to-day, were bought in 1658 from the Indian
tribe of the Norwottucks by John Pynchon of Springfield.
" In consideration of two hundred fathom of wompon,
and twenty fathom and one large coat at eight fathom "
the three Indian chieftains, Umpanchla — aUas Wom-
scom, Quonquont — alias Wompshaw, and Chickwalopp
— alias Wowahillowa, completed the bargain. After
reserving certain fields on which the squaws might
plant and harvest their scanty crops of corn, and stipula-
ting for " liberty to hunt deer, fowl, etc., and to take fish,
beaver or otter, etc.," the Sachem Chickwalopp made for
his signature a circular figure with a neck, Umpanchla
drew a bow and string, and Quonquont produced some

8 Mary Mat to on and

zigzag marks upon the deed, which was duly witnessed
and executed. Thus passed forever from the possession
of the River Indians these happy hunting grounds of
their fathers.

Certain " withdrawers " from the church in Hartford,
who had employed Major Pynchon as their agent, paid
him ^62, IDS. in money, grain and merchandise for the
land east of the Connecticut River. In 1661 twenty-
eight persons had taken up their residence in the " New
Plantation," which they had named Hadley from a town
in England, presumably dear to the homesick hearts of
some among their number. The settlement prospered
and spread eastward toward the Pelham hills, and south-
ward toward the *' Great Falls." A meeting-house was
built, and in 1667 a grammar school was founded from
funds provided by Edward Hopkins. In spite of Indian
wars which followed in rapid succession, the year 1703
found hamlets springing up all along the river. Before
this date a man named Foote had built a log hut near the
site of the present East Amherst meeting-house, and had
attempted to live there by hunting and fishing. His plan
did not succeed, and the eastern part of the town for
many years after was known as " Foote Folly Swamp."
This fact, however, did not deter the venturesome from
leaving the river banks and securing land along that part
of the settlement within the present Amherst limits. In
1730 the " East Inhabitants" had become so numerous


Copy of a miniature in the possession of Airs. B.dith Wolcott Davis.

Her Hero of the Revolution g

as to require a place in which to bury their dead, and we
find them appointing a " Comity " to lay out a burying
ground. To-day in the old West cemetery they and their
descendants sleep.

In 1734 a petition signed by these " East Inhabitants,"
praying that they might be set off a separate precinct,
was presented to the General Court. The prayer
was granted, and in 1735 Hadley Third Precinct was
'' erected," on condition that within three years a house
of public worship should be built, and a minister settled.
A committee to build the meeting-house was immediately
appointed, and Rev. David Parsons was engaged to be
the pastor. About one hundred years after the settlement
of Springfield this entry was made in the church record
book: ''November, 1735, I Began my ministry at Had-
ley." Immediately following we read of the ordination
of Rev. David Parsons, Nov. 7, 1739, as the first minis-
ter of the new church. This famous divine was a grad-
uate of Harvard, scholarly and orthodox, a man of power-
ful intellect and shrewd mind, an ideal preacher of the
old school. The records of the church for m.any years
are almost entirely devoted to votes concerning Rev.
Parsons : how to raise his " sallery," how to procure the
enormous quantities of wood which he required, how to
seat the meeting-house in which he preached, giving each
person a place according to his standing in the commu-
nity. Committees were appointed from year to year to

10 Mary Mat toon and

arrange with regard to the " Hind Seats," and the "Late
Seators," and the seats in the *' upper Teer in the Gal-
lery," but these were matters of minor importance. The
Rev. Parsons " sallery " and his firewood must be pro-
vided even before the " able bodied person " was engaged
to sweep the meeting-house and summon the faithful by
blowing "ye kunk" on Sundays.


THIS old First Church of Hadley, Third Precinct,
was originally composed of sixteen men, all
householders and heads of families. The wives,
daughters and sisters were admitted to membership
during the first year. Among these sixteen names we
find that of Eleazer " Mattun," who had come down
from Northfield and linked his fortunes with that of the
new Precinct and its recently organized church. The
families which constituted this frontier settlement were
from Old Hadley and from Hatfield, and were bound
together by ties of relationship, by common interests and
beliefs, and by a spirit of mutual helpfulness which
enabled them to obtain the necessaries of life. Four
days after the church was organized the pastor baptized
Jonathan, son of Jonathan and Sarah Cowls, and soon

Her Hero of the Revolution i r

after three other children were baptized. During that
one pastorate five hundred and eighty-three baptisms^
nearly all those of children upon whom the parents had
sought the blessings of the covenant, bore witness to the
godly character of those pioneers, the members of the
First Church of Amherst.

The century had been eventful. The shadow of Indian
wars and massacres had hindered the planting of settle-
ments at any distance from the river, which was the only
means of communication. After one hundred years, with
the exception of the Connecticut valley and Westfield,
the interior of Massachusetts was still a wilderness. Chil-
dren gathered around the blazing logs in the cabins, lis-
tened with interest to tales from father and mother, who
kept in vivid remembrance the stirring scenes in which
they had borne a part. The grandfather of that early
day could tell of King Philip's war, of the Indian attack
on Hadley, and of the massacre at Bloody Brook, and
perhaps could recall the events of the first journey through
the forests to Wethersfield and thence to Hadley. No
doubt in many a Hadley dwelling there were related
incidents of family experiences that carried both story
teller and listener back across the Atlantic to far off,
dearly loved English homes.

Eleazer " Mattun " could have told a tale of how his
father, Philip Mattoon, when a boy, made the perilous
journey from Glasgow, Scotland, and sought his fortunes

12 Mary Mattoon and

in the Massachusetts wilderness. Sir Walter Scott in
Peiferil of the Peak describes the attack on Hadley by the
Indians, and says of New England : " There thousands
of our best and most godly men are content to be the
inhabitants of the desert, rather encountering the unen-
lightened savage than stooping to extinguish, under the
oppression practiced in Britain, the light that is within
their own minds." Such doubtless was this Scottish boy
Philip, who in 1676 was sent with a company from Bos-
ton to defend the towns along the Connecticut River
from Indian invasion. Conquering the foe, he fell him-
self a victim to the charms of Sarah Hawks, a Springfield
beauty, and the next year he removed to that locality, and
married her.

Eleazer " Mattun " was born in Deerfield in 1690, in
the midst of troubled times. One hundred and fifty
Indians were encamped that year on the side of Sugar
Loaf. A garrison of soldiers was sent from Hartford to
protect the town. Two little children were scalped in
Deerfield village in 1693, and the next year the savages
attacked the fort. The people of Deerfield were always
terrified and always in danger, and the boyhood of Elea-
zer must have been deeply shadowed by the warfare of
those early years. We know but little about him except
that he lived for a time in Northfield, where he was
deacon in the church, and that he removed to Hadley in
1734, where he also served as deacon. He had at this

Her Hero of the Revolution /j

time one son, Ebenezer, who was sixteen years old.
In the records of town meeting of Hadley Third Pre-
cinct, after the date 1739, we find the entry :

" Voted, yt the present Comity for the carrying on ye
Building ye meeting House shall dispose of ye first
hundred and fifty pounds yt is and shall be paid by Dea
Eleazer Mattoon as they think best."

The " Comity " evidently referred the matter to the
town, for in the next town-meeting warrant the freeholders
are asked to consider " how Dea Mattoon's first hundred
and fifty pounds shall be disposd withall." The gift of
so large a sum of money in those days proved that the
donor was both wealthy and generous.

Eleazer Mattoon died in February, 1767. The general
opinion concerning his character is illustrated by an
anecdote. At the time of his death, the snow was so
deep upon the ground that it was proposed to draw the
body two miles to West cemetery on a hand sled. Hear-
ing this the Rev. David Parsons cried out in horror :
"Such a saint as deacon Mattoon to be dragged to his
grave like a dead dog !" and added with all the authority
given to the Rev. Clergy, " Never !" The bearers were
therefore obliged to lift the body on their shoulders and
to tramp their weary way through the snow to the burial

The discovery of this good deacon Eleazer Mattoon
among the original members of the First Church of

/^ Mary Mattoon and

Hadley Third Precinct brings to our notice a family
whose history was identified with that of the town
through the most critical period of its existence, and
whose honored name is borne to-day by many worthy

The names Ebenezer, John, Samuel, Joseph and Wil-
liam were common in Hadley. Young Ebenezer Mattoon
therefore was in the fashion as regards his name. Being
an only son, he probably inherited much of his father's
property. In 1747 he married Dorothy, daughter of Dr.
Nathaniel Smith, the first physician in the town and
grandson of Philip Smith, whose death Cotton Mather
ascribed to witchcraft. Ebenezer and his young wife
settled in North Amherst, exactly where we do not know.
Eight years passed, marked by the birth of two daughters,
Dorothy and Elizabeth. On the farm, a part of which
in 1858 was the homestead of George W. Hobart, three
miles north of the center of the town, was born, Aug. 19,
1755, Ebenezer Mattoon Jr., great-grandson of Philip,
the Scotch soldier, and destined himself to become a
Hero of the American Revolution. Zebina Montague
tells us that the house in which this son was born
was torn down, but that in 1858 one built upon its site
was still standing. This site is declared by an excel-
lent authority to be on the south side of Pine street in
•North Amherst " City," now Cushman.

From this home Goodman Ebenezer Mattoon came

Her Hero of the Revolutio7i i§

down on horseback over the rough and stony road with
his baby five days old. In the old first meeting-house on
college hill, Aug. 24, 1755, Ebenezer Jr. was christened
by Rev. David Parsons. The minister took the child,
dressed in its long white robe, and sprinkled water upon
its face, while all the children stood on the seats that they
might see the interesting ceremony. History says that
infants usually cried during this ordeal. We imagine
that our hero smiled into the stern face of the godly
parson, showing thus early the philosophic endurance of
discomfort and the sunny disposition which were predom-
inant traits in his character throughout a long and hon-
ored life. A stormy autumn followed this birth and
baptism. In November the HampsJm-e Gazette records :
''An awful earthquake was felt in Amherst." Within
the year the mother of the little Ebenezer died, leaving
three children. The sturdy boy flourished, wore his
Httle homespun dress, with blue and white checked linen
*' tier," ate for his breakfast bread, pumpkin, berries or
baked apples with milk, slept in the wooden cradle or the
trundle bed, and ran bareheaded and barefooted all day
long about the farm. Who made these garments, and
cooked the meals, and cared for the family, we do not
know. We are told that in 1759 the father married
Sarah, daughter of John Alvord, of Northampton, and
thus provided a step-mother for his family, in time to sew
the deerskin breeches which the boy would need at an
early age.

1 6 Mary Mattoon and


THE district of Amherst was indeed a wild and
lonely hamlet. Built on a broad plateau sloping
to Hadley on the west and to the foot of Pelham
hills on the east, its farms were as fertile as any in the
Connecticut valley. The dwellers in its scattered houses
raised corn, rye and barley, which was bolted by hand,
and ground in the mill at Mill Hollow. Taxes and min-
ister's "salleries " were paid in grain. Horses and sheep
roamed in the woods on the mountain sides, but cows
were under a keeper. Long and lean swine fought bears,
wolves and rattlesnakes in the depths of the forest, and
were allowed upon the highways only when decorated,
with a yoke " as long up and down as 2\ times the depth
of the neck." Flocks of geese infested the streets, and
on warm days crowded into the space under the meeting-
house in Old Hadley, sometimes making audible response
to the service in the room above.

The name of Dickinson is borne to-day by many
descendants of the early Amherst farmers. Ebenezer
Dickinson, the founder of the family in Amherst, was the
son of Nehemiah, and grandson of Nathaniel, one of the
original settlers of Hadley, who came from Wethersfield
in 1659. Ebenezer's daughter Mary married in 1757
Noah Dickinson, son of Jonathan, who came to Amherst

Her Hero of the Revolutio7i //

from Hatfield. Their daughter, Mary, born March lo,
1758, probably in a house on the south side of Main
street near the corner of East street, is the heroine of
our story. The following taken from the family Bible of
Noah Dickinson, now owned by his granddaughter, Mrs.
Austin Street of Holyoke, is the family record :

" Noah Dickinson and Mary Dickinson maryed in
April ye 28 1757

Mary Dickinson born in March the 10 1758 and mar-
ried the 8th of July 1779

Mother Mary Dickinson died April 13 1763
Farther Jonathan Died December ye 31, 1788
Noah Dickinson and SeusanahWard maryed in March
13 1792

Jonathan Dickinson born in May the 19 1775
Father Noah Dickinson Died May the 28th 18 15 In
the eighty sicks year of his age.

John Dickinson Born June 3 Third 18 17 "
The little boy whom Mary Dickinson was to marry and
who was to become the famous General Mattoon, who
fought in the battle of Saratoga, was then about three years
old, wearing his checked pinafore and eating his bread
and milk on the farm in North Amherst.

In 1759 Amherst, although still a district, received its
present name. The Scotch-Irish settlers in Pelham used
potatoes as daily food. Amherst farmers also had begun
to raise potatoes, though many aristocrats thought them

i8 Mary Mattoon and

hardly fit to eat, and could not imagine what Josiah
Pierce of Hadley intended to do with the eight bushels
which he dug and put into his cellar. It is quite possible
that little Mary Dickinson may have been given potatoes
to eat with her milk, and if so, they agreed with her, and
enabled her to withstand the cold of that first winter,
clothed as she was in the thinnest of linen garments.
When she was two years old her father, Noah Dickinson,
went down to West street in South Amherst and ordered
of James Merrick, the shoemaker, a pair of "pumps"
for his little girl, for which he paid 14s. 3d. From finest
lamb's wool Mary's mother knit the stockings to be worn
inside the " pumps." The child's Sunday gown may
have been made of India calico, printed in gay colors,
cut low in the neck, with short sleeves, and outside
:sleeves to tie on in cold weather.

The practical training of children in those days began
almost at birth. Some knitting needles were soon put
into the hands of our little heroine, and she was taught
the beginning of what was to be a daily task. Where
she first went to school we do not know, but that she did
go we are sure, for though the schooling of a girl was
considered of much less importance than her instruction
in household duties, yet ev«n girls were expected to learn
to read and to write. The principal early schools in
Amherst were kept by men, but three " scool dames "
were hired to teach in the summer before little Mary was

Her Hero of the Revolution ig

born, and it is very probable that in some farmer's kitchen
such a dame taught the child to read.

The inhabitants of Amherst were scattered over many-
miles, when in 1764 it was voted to build four school-
houses. A controversy arose as to their location, all
parents desiring them built in their own immediate
neighborhood. The north schoolhouse was located at
the " City." There the boy Ebenezer Mattoon, now
grown large enough to wear a skin tight nankeen suit, or
one of calico printed with bars running up and down,
which produced the effect of a striped eel, was taught
from the primer, psalter and testament, and switched with
birch rods on his bare legs whenever his attention wan-
dered from the dull task before him. He was, however,
one of those of whom Cotton Mather said : " The Youth
of this Country are verie sharp and early Ripe in their
Capacities." There is no doubt but that the boy
absorbed not only all the learning in the poorly printed
text-books, but also all that the teachers of the day were
able to impart. A child in old New England was never
allowed to be idle, but to a healthy, active lad, the tasks
assigned were only pleasures. To feed and milk the
cows, and to care for the lambs, to catch a ride on the
young colt, and to carry the corn on horseback to Mill
Hollow to be ground, were pleasant features of the happy
out of door life of the farmer's boy.

The eldest son, and for several years the only one.

20 Mary Mattooii and

young Ebenezer Mattoon became his father's companion
and friend. Together they hunted in the forests along Mt.
Toby, and followed tracks of bear and deer, and brought
back many a fat wild turkey for the Sunday dinner.
They picked up in the woods pieces of resinous pine
called candlewood, to burn for light, placing them upon
the flat stones in the corner of the fireplace, or carrying
them down the uncertain cellar stairs when in search of
apples and cider. Walnuts and hickory-nuts were gath-
ered to be exchanged for groceries. In early spring
father and son went into the woods, and tapped the maple
trees amid the lightly falling sugar snow. What joy to
the susceptible heart of the New England boy to camp
out on the mountain side, and wake to see the stars
through cracks in the roof of the rough shanty, and to
hear the hooting of the owl from the mysterious depths
of the primeval forest ! Wolves prowled about just beyond
the firelight glow, and slunk away at sunrise. Wander-
ing Indians from across the river visited the camp in
search of a kind of liquor wrongly named " Kill-devil,"
and tasted curiously the boiling maple sap. But none of
these visitors harmed the boy.

Fearing nothing, he learned to find his way along the
Indian trails, and with keen, wide open eyes gathered a
store of practical knowledge, of much greater value than
the finished sugar which at the close of the season was
carried home to use in trade and for "sweetening."

Her Hero of the Revolution 21

Sometimes the farmer and his boy found a bee tree in
Hadley woods, and took from its hollow trunk a store of
honey to delight the hearts of mother and the girls.
Again, when game was scarce and pork low in the
" powdering tub," they rode on horseback to the fishing
place at Hockanum, where in 1773, forty salmon, the
largest weighing between thirty and forty pounds, were
caught in one day. There the river sometimes seemed
so full of shad that the boatmen struck their oars against
them. Sturgeon were taken with spears above the falls.
Lampreys were very numerous, and were caught in the
hands at night by the light of a birch-bark torch. During
some of these excursions the fishermen may have passed
the cabin where dwelt the family of Silvine Dupee, an
Acadian from Evangeline's land, who with his wife and
seven children was for five years charitably supported in
Northampton. Their strange dress and their jabbering
in French made these poor exiles objects of curiosity, and
not a detail of all this escaped the eyes of the enquiring

Thus studying little from books and much from Nature,
young Ebenezer Mattoon spent the days of early boy-
hood. On Sundays we find him in the old church on
College hill, seated beside his father in the square box
pew, listening to long sermons preached by the Rev.
David Parsons, and wondering if they will never end.
We feel certain that he who, when a blind old man of

22 Mary Mattoon and

over eighty, loved fun and practical jokes as well as did
the children who were his chosen friends, was in his youth
a mischievous, rollicking boy, in whose vicinity the tithing-
man found it well to linger. Having sisters of his own, he
probably took no especial interest in girls, yet sometimes
he may have noticed seated by her mother among the
women, our little maiden from East Street, with big blue
eyes and serious face. All those who remember her
to-day tell us that Mary Mattoon was not much of a
talker and was of a reticent disposition, so we are justi-
fied in believing that she was a quiet child, and therefore
the more attractive to her opposite in nature. For some
unknown reason Mary Dickinson was not baptized until
she was eight years of age. This rite, performed Aug.
lo, 1766, by Rev. David Parsons, probably took place in
the old church on Sunday, and was witnessed by the

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryAlice M. (Alice Morehouse) WalkerMary Mattoon and her hero of the revolution [General Ebenezer Mattoon] → online text (page 1 of 5)