D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

. (page 104 of 118)
Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 104 of 118)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

previous to the State Constitution. Those named
above were all of African desceut, and of unmixed

There are several anecdotes told of some of these
slaves that may be amusing to such as have not heard
them. They relate principally to two of the slaves
once held by Mr. Brown, and particularly to Tony
(sometimes called Antouy Dwight) aud Cuff. It is
uot always certain to which of these a particular anec-
dote relates.

As introductory to what I am to record of them, I
will give some account of their owner, who was a
very respectable gentleman, whose name was Josiab
Torrey, familiarly called " Old Squire Torrey." Mr.
Torrey lived in that part of the towu called Locust,
on the site where the late Philip Pratt used to live.
From the inscription on his tombstone it is ascertained
that he descended from an ancient and respectable
family in Weymouth, and was born Nov. 5, 1713.
When he came to this town is not kuown. He was
educated at Cambridge Uuiversity, studied divinity,
and was a preaeher for a number of years, but fiually
left the profession and retired to private life. He
was quite a laud-owner, and cultivated a large farm.
He married in succession the widows of the two
first ministers settled in this town, — Mr. Brown
and Mr. Dodge. By bis first wife he came into pos-
session of the slaves uamed above. They were uot
freed uutil after his (Mr. Torrey 's) decease, which was
in 1783, at the age of sixty-five years. Mr. Torrey
had no children. He devised his large estate to one
of his sisters, who married a Mr. Pratt, a nephew
whom he brought up, the late Deacon Josiab Torrey,
who lived in the southeasterly part of the towu, and
one of his nieces, who married Eliab Noyes. His
remains were disinterred within a few years, and,
with the remains of other ministers of former years,
deposited in Mount Vernon Cemetery.

The two slaves referred to, after their freedom, took
care of themselves. Tony had a small house uear
the Thicket road.

Of Tony it is recorded by Mr. Brown that he and



one of the female slaves (Flora), in 1742, were ad-
mitted members of his church.

One of the anecdotes told of Tony's strength and
agility is that at the raising of a forty-feet barn be-
longing to Samuel Norton, Esq., he jumped from
beam to beam, the whole length of the building.
This has always been a mooted question, and it seems
almost impossible that it could have been done.
There must have been five beams and four spaces of
ten feet each, and to accomplish the feat it would be I
necessary to stand on a beam fifteen or sixteen feet
from the ground, to jump over each of the four
spaces, and come to a stand on the last beam.
The two greatest difficulties would be to leap fruru
the first beam over the first space, and to come to u
stand on the last beam. That Tony jumped over all
these spaces I have no doubt. Such a tradition is
not likely to have been fabricated. It is stated in
Hobart's " Sketches of Abington," without any query
or comment. My solution is that Tony did his jump-
ing while the frame of the barn lay on the ground,
put together preparatory to raising, and that by start-
ing at a distance and ruuning he might do it, passing
on from the last beam to the ground without stopping.

It is also told of Touy, when he complained of
having to pick bones, and Mr. Torrey said to him,
" The nearer the bone the sweeter the meat," that lie
tied Mr. Torrey 's horse, after a hard day's work, all
night to a stake near a large rock, where, of course,
he got hardly anything to eat. In the morning,
when inquired of why he did so, he answered his
master, " The nearer the bone the sweeter the meat ;"
" the nearer the rock the sweeter the grass."

His master complained of his wearing out his shoes
too fast, and got him a pair shod with iron, telling
him he thought they would last longer. .Tony put
them on and danced all night on a flat rock, and wore
them entirely out. In the morniug he carried them
to Mr. Torrey, and said he had had a dance last night
and wore them all up ; iron bottoms did not last so
long as leather ones.

Mr. Torrey always required of Tony to remember
the text at meeting, which he could never do cor-
rectly ; but on one occasion he came home from meet-
ing and said to Mr. Torrey, " I've got him ; I re-
member the text." Mr. Torrey said, " Well, what
was it?" The text was these words in Daniel,
" Meue, mene, tekel, upharsiu." The interpretation
of one word, tekel, is, " Thou art weighed in the bal-
ance and art found wanting." Tony said, " A tea-
kettle was weighed, and it wasn't heavy enough."

Cull', his other slave, was a very bad fellow, —
malicious and crafty. Heused to drive Mr. Torrey 's

team, carting planks and lumber to Weymouth Land-
ing. He was frequently taken up and fined for
criminal acts. On one occasion he was sentenced to
be whipped with a certain number of stripes at the
whipping-post. After the clerk of the town had put
them on, Mr. Torrey, who stood by, requested him to
add three more for him, for he was an ugly fellow.
The clerk refused, saying he had done his duty ac-
cording to the sentence of the justice. Mr. Torrey took
the lash and added three severe strokes more. Cuff,
after being released, walked away muttering, and sav-
ing, " Massu, shall lose three of his oxen for these
three strokes;" and so he did. One ox was over-
heated by him in going to Weymouth, driven into
the river and foundered, and died in consequence.
He broke the leg of another by throwing a stone ut
him. A third was killed in the woods, by '• some ac-
cident done on purpose."

He was so obstinate and unmanageable that Mr.
Torrey put an iron collar around his neck, with a
hook riveted to it, hanging down in front. When
the collar around his neck was riveted together, Cuff
shed tears, which he was never known to do before.
When inquired of, out of town, about the collar, he
said it was put on by his master to prevent him having
the "throat-ail," which was very common in Abing-
ton. The hook he would conceal under his waistcoat.

On one occasion — not to mention any more — he
was taken up for breakiug the Sabbath, tried before
Justice Joseph Greeuleaf. and fined. After he had
paid the fiue, he asked for a receipt of the justice.
The justice asked him for what purpose he wanted a
recept? Cuff answered, " By-aud-by you die, and go
to the bad place, aud after a time Cuff die, and go
and knock at the good gate, aud they say, ' What do
you want, Cuff?' I say, ' I want to come iu.' They
say I can't, because I broke the Sabbath at such a
time. I say, ' I paid for it.' They will say, ' Where
is your receipt?' Now, Mr. Judge, I shall have to
go away down to the bad place and get a receipt of you,
that I mended him, before I can enter the good gate."

I received most of these traditional statements
about the slaves from Mr. Bela Dyer, to whom they
were communicated by his grandmother, the aged
Widow Dyer, who gave the account of the first settlers
in South Abington. The account of Cuff's trial be-
fore Justice Greenleaf I had from my brother, Na-
thauiel Hobart, who was contemporary with those
times, and who died many years since, in the
eightieth year of his age.

Revolutionary War. 1 — It will not be necessary

1 Hobart's " History of Abington."



to go iuto an extended account of this war. The
history is written and well known, portions of it ap-
pear in thousands of publications, it is read in all our
families, colleges, academies, and schools. A few
items only will be named that relate to this town,
some of the doings of which have been noticed

The officers from Abington in the Continental
service were Jacob Poole, captain ; Luke Bicknell,
captain; John Ford, lieutenant; David Jones, Jr.,

Among those who died in the service are the fol-
lowing: George Bennett; Nathaniel Bicknell, Jr.;
James Clark ; Gershora, son of Benjamin Farrow ;
Samuel Green; David, son of Benjamin Gardiner;
Thomas Hunt, Jr. ; Solomon, son of Samuel Nash ;
David, son of Peter Nash ; Jacob Noyes, Jr. ; Moses,
son of Deacon John Noyes ; Prince Palmer ; Abner
Porter, Jr. ; Nathaniel, son of Whitcomb Pratt ; Abel,
son of James Reed ; Cuff Rozarer (colored) ; Jesse
Stoddard; Thomas White; Jonathan, son of Thomas

Almost every man in town capable of bearing arms
was in the service for a longer or shorter period. The
part taken by the inhabitants of this town in this
contest was spirited and patriotic. They expended
largely to encourage enlistments, and for the support
of the war. To show the spirit and zeal of the town,
I will quote some votes or resolves passed by the town
at a meeting appointed for that purpose March 10,
1770. The names of the committee who reported
the resolves are Dauiel Noyes, Samuel Pool, Aaron
Hobart, David Jones, Jr., Joseph Greeuleaf, and
Thomas Wilkes. They were published in the Boston
Gazette, by which they were pronounced " noble
resolves." They were drawn up by Joseph Green-
leaf, Esq. :

"1st. Voted, As the opinion of this town that all nations of
men that dwell upon the face of the whole earth, and each indi-
vidual of them, are naturally free, and while in a state of nature
have a right to do themselves justice, when their natural rights
are invaded.

"2nd. Voted, That mankind while in their natural state
always had and now have a right to enter into compacts and
form societies aud erect such kind of government as the ma-
jority of them shall judge most for the public good.

"3rd. Voted, That Great Britain had an undoubted right to
erect a monarchical government or any other mode of govern-
ment, had thoy thought proper, appoint a king and subject him
to laws of their own ordaining; and always had, aud now have,
upou just occasions, a right to alter the royal succession.

" -1th. Voted, That the right of Sovereignty over the inhab-
itants of this Province, claimed by any former British King, or
by his present majesty by succession, was derived to him by
the reeoguition of the forefathers of this country of his then
majesty as their sovereign, upon the plan of the British Con-

stitution, who accordingly plighted his royal faith, that himself,
his heirs, and successors had, and would grant, establish, and
ordain, that all aud every of bis subjects who should go to and
inhabit this province, and every of their children who should
luppen to bo born here or od the sea in going hither or in re-
turning from thence, should have and enjoy all liberties and
immunities of free and uatural subjects within any of their do-
minions, to all intents, construction, and purposes whatsoever,
as if they and evory of them were born in the realm of Eng-

"5th. Voted, That the late acts of the Parliament of Great
Britain, imposing duties on American subjects for the sole pur-
poses of raising a revenue, are an infringement of our national
and constitutional liberty, and contrary to the spirit and letter
of the above mentioned royal grant, ordination and establish-
ment of having and enjoying all the liberties and immunities
of free and natural born subjects.

" 6th. Voted, That no acts passed in either the parliaments of
France, Spain, or England, for the aforesaid purpose of raising a
revenue are binding on us, and that the obedience due from us
to his present majesty is no other in kind or degree tiian such
as he has a constitutional right to from our fellow-subjects in
Great Britain.

" 7th. Voted, That therefore the above mentioned acts are in
themselves a mere nullity, and that he who, vi tt ariniu, seizes
the property of an American subject for not paying the duties
imposed upon him by said acts, ought to be deemed no better
than a highwayman, and should be proceeded against in duo
course of law.

" 8th. Voted, That the sending of troops (may they not more
properly be called murderers) to Boston by Lord Hillsborough,
at the request of Gov. Bernard, to aid and protect the Commis-
sioners of tho Customs in levying the taxes imposed on us by
the said acts, amounts to an open declaration of war against
the liberties of America, and an injust invasion of them ; aud
as we are refused any legal redress or grievances we are in this
instance reduced to a state of nature, whereby our natural
rights of opposing force is again devolved upon us.

" 9th. Voted, That tho agreement of the merchants and traders
of Boston, relative to tho non-importation, has a uatural and
righteous tendency to frustrate the schemes of the enemies of
the Constitution, and to render ineffectual the said unconstitu-
tional and unrighteous acts, and is a superlative iustauce of
self-denial and public virtue which we hope will be handed
down to posterity, even to the latest generation, to their immor-
tal honor.

"lutb. Voted, That those persons who have always persisted
in the scheme of importation, and those also who have acceded
to the agreement of non-importation, aud have violated their
promises, and, as it were, stolen their own goods and sold them
to purchase chains and fetters, ought to be by us held in the
utmost contempt, and that we will have no sort of commercial
connection with them, or any that deal with them ; and their
names shall stand recorded in the town books, and be posted up
in all public places in town as enemies of their country.

"11th. Voted, That we are in duty bound not to use or con-
sume any articles from Great Britain, subject to duties on the
foregoing plan; and that we will not knowingly purchaso of
any person whatever, any such articles until said acts are re-
pealed; neither will we use or suffer willingly to be used iu our
families any bohea tea, cases of sickness excepted.

" 12th. Voted, That a rcspectablo letter of thanks be addressed
to the merchants and traders of the town of Boston, for tho
noble and disinterested and very expensive opposition made by
them to the later attempts to enslave America ; aud whereas it
appears probable to us that the goods of the infamous importers,



both in this and tho neighboring governments, are vended
among us by peddlers, therefore,

" Kith. Voted, That we will not purchase anything of theni,
or suffer any person under us to trade with thciu, but that wo
will, as much a^ in us lies, discourage them, and endeavor to
have the law executed against them and all such innholders as
entertain them contrary to law.

''llth. Voted, That a committee be chosen to inquire who
among us act contrary to the foregoing votes, and return their
names to the town clerk, to be entered in the town books and
published in Messrs. Eder's & Gill's paper, as persous confed-
erating with the importers to the ruin of their country; and,
whereas, the ears of our earthly sovereign, by the intervention
of his wicked ministers, are rendered deaf to the cries of his
oppressive- American subjects, and as we approhend wo have a
righteous cause, and as wo are assured tho ears of the King of
kings are always opened to the cries of tho oppressed; therefore,
" ljth. Voted, That we will unitedly petition the throne of
grace for protection against encroaching power, whereby our
civil liberties arc so violontly attacked and our religious liber-
ties endangered, and that Thursday, the 3d day of May next,
be set apart by this town for said purpose ; and the Selectmen
be a Committee to wait upon our Rev. Pastor, desiring him to
lead iu I he exercises of the day, and that by an advertisement
they invite the neighboring towns to join with us in similar
exercises on said day.

"lbth. Voted, That tho foregoing votes bo recorded, and a
copy thereof be forthwith transmitted to the committeo of
inspection in Loston, together with our letter of thanks to the
merchants and traders there."

Prominent People in Earlier Days. 1 — Isaac Ho-
bart was my grandfather. He is not, however, to be
noticed on account of that relation, but on account of a
noted work which he undertook iu his day (1745).
This was making a tunnel under ground nearly fifteen
rods iu length, with deep-cuts at the eutrauce and at
the outlet, some portions of it being about twenty
feet deep from the surface of the ground. It was
walled on the side, and covered over at the top with
large flat stones ; the width at the bottom was five
feet, at the top four; the height was from five to six
feet. A canal, one mile long, convening the water to
this tuunel, was dug, and by means of it two streams
were united to enlarge a mill privilege. The inhabi-
tants agreed, as an inducement, to allow him to take
three quarts of corn as toll for grinding a bushel
instead of two, as provided by law. This monopoly
coutiuued over thirty years, until my father, Aaron
Hobart, who inherited the mills and privilege, relin-
quished it in the Revolutionary war, as stated before.

This work, for that day, was a great undertaking,
and its accomplishment by a farmer, with limited
means, shows great energy and perseverance of char-
acter. This tuunel, so far as I know, was the first dug
iu this country, and it has been continued to be used
to this day with but very little repairs. There have
been important results from the construction of this

1 Ilobart's " History of Abington."

tunnel. Except for the union of the two streams the
present extensive works for making tacks, brads, shoe-
nails, and many other useful articles would probably
never have been established. My honored grandfather,
who emigrated to this town over one hundred and
forty years ago, little thought when he was doing this
work that he was laying the foundation of so great an
establishment in the days of one of his grandsons, the
writer of this article.

Another one of the same name, Col. Aaron IJobait,
my honored father, requires some notice, not, as I
have said above (of my grandfather), because he was
my father, but because he was a noted man in his day,
and did honor to the town. It has already been stated
in a previous chapter that he was the first, or one of
the first, who cast meeting-house bells iu this country.
About the year 17b"9, in an advertisement of his in a
Boston newspaper, he offered his services in easting
bells at his furnace in Abington. The editor of the
paper in a note remarked, " that it was a very fortu-
nate circumstance that bells could now be cast iu this
country, and that we need not be obliged to send to
England for them."

Another important manufacture of his was the
casting of cannon in this town. He was the first per-
son who cast them in this country. This honor has
been claimed for the town of Bridgewater before its
division. William Allen, Esq , who has been a rep-
resentative from the towu of East Bridgewater, claimed
this in a statement in a public paper, but it was
satisfactorily answered in the same paper that he was
mistaken. Col. Aaron Hobart, of Abington, was the
first person who cast them in this couutry.

After continuing the business for a number of years
very successfully and profitably, he sold the establish-
ment to the State, and the late Col. Hugh Orr, of
Bridgewater (now East Bridgewater), was employed
to continue the business in that town. This probably
caused Mr. Allen's mistake. His effort to prove that
the first cannon was east at Bridgewater shows, how-
ever, that he considered such an event an honor to a

Col. Hobart in his day was a very active busi-
ness man. He was the owner of several forges for
making bar-iron and iron shapes, and a blast furnace
for casting hollow-ware and cannon-balls. lie was
also the owner of land iu Maine (eighteen thousand
acres), on which he settled two of his sons (Nathaniel
and Isaac), and built two saw-mills and a grist-mill.
The town is now called " Edmuud," after the given
name of his ancestor, Edmuud Hobart, who settled in
Hingham in 1634. The town is situated in Wash-
ington County. His descendants are quite numer-



ous, among whom the mills, which he built nearly
one hundred years ago, are still owned.

Woodbridge Brown, Esq., a descendant of the Rev.
Samuel Brown, the first minister settled in town, was
a very noted character, and held many offices of
lienor and trust, as stated in previous chapters. He
represented the town in the State Legislature fifteen
years, from 1759 to 1776. He was a member of the
Plymouth County Congress in 1774, delegate to the
Convention at Boston in 17G8, to the Provincial
Congress at Salem in 1774, to the Second Pro-
vincial Congress at Cambridge in 1775, and to the
Third, held at Watertown, July 31, 1775. He held
the office of town clerk and treasurer twenty-one
years, from 1756 to 1777. He was one of the select-
men eleven years, from 1775.

Jacob Smith was a noted character in his day ;
he lived in East Abington ; was one of the select-
men eleven years, from 1780 ; represented the town
in the State Legislature five years in succession, from
1787, and took a very active part in town affairs.
He left several children. Three of his sons — James,
Theodore, and Zeuas — were noted men in the town.
James was an active man in East Abington, and
deacon of the Congregational Church there. Theo-
dore lived, al»o, in that section, on the place which
was his father's ; he was a patriot in politics. Zenas
lived in North Abington ; he was for a number of
years captain of the artillery company. There were
several daughters also, who were quite distinguished
for their personal appearance, manners, aud educa-

Dauiel Lane, Jr., was a very efficient man in town
affairs ; he lived in East Abington ; was one of the
selectmen thirteen years, from 1794; was moderator
in town meetings for many years, and held the com-
mission of a justice of the peace. He left several
children, and his descendants are quite numer-

Josiah Torrey, who held the office of a deacon in
the Second Congregational Society for many years,
was a very worthy character. He resided in the
easterly part of South Abington.

Nathan Gurney, Jr., was a very useful man in all
town affairs. In his early days he taught in the
public schools for a number of years. He served as
one of the selectmen, from 1799, twenty-four years,
twenty-two of them in succession ; was moderator in !
town-meetings for a great number of years; represented i
the town in the State Legislature ten years. He was
one of the delegates from this town, Nov. 15, 1820, to ■
revise the Constitution of the commonwealth. Mr.
Gumcy removed to Boston before 1830 ; was a mem- '

bcr of the Board of Aldermen, and was a member of
the Senate for the county of Suffolk.

The following extracts of some of the votes passed
by the town in former times are given as specimens
of the extreme care which the inhabitants took in all
matters that affected their interests, not even omitting
to notice fashions and dress, and in some cases assum-
ing the powers of legislation, and passing by-laws for
the enforcement of their votes, with lines for neglect
to obey and rewards for obedience :

5th March, 1716. Voted, "That every man sixteen years old
and upwards shall kill twelve blackbirds, or pay two shillings
to the town charge more than their part."

2d March, 1724. Voted, "That the Drinkwatcr people shall
have liberty to make a Pound upon their own cost, and Isaac
Hatch was chosen keeper of said Pound."

5th Sept., 1720. " Liout. William Reed, Matthew Piatt, Ed-
ward Bates, and Samuel Noyes were chosen a committee to
draw up objections in answer to the Driokwater people's peti-
tion to draw off from them." And it wjls voted that " .Matthew
Pratt and Samuel Noyes should carry the answer to the court."

17th Nov., 1735. Voted, "To send a petition tu the General
Court, that wo may be cased upon the Province taxes." The
petition was presented and a resolve passed thereon.

13th Jan., 1736. "That the sum of £32 16*. be granted and
paid out of the public treasury to the Selectmen of Abington,
to reimburse the like sum they had paid as a line fur not send-
ing a Representative, anno, 1734, and what they were over-
charged in the Provinco tax."

7th March, 1737. Voted, "That any person that shall kill
any grown wild-cat this year within our town shall have

26th May, 1746. The town votod otT "a part of their town-
ship to a number of petitioners." The part taken oil' was at
the south end of the town. It was annexed to the corners of
four of the neighboring towns, to form what was fur many years
called Tunk Parish, in Pembroke, now Hanson.

25th Moy, 1775. Voted, "That it was an indecent way that

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 104 of 118)