Oliver N Bacon.

A history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) online

. (page 19 of 22)
Online LibraryOliver N BaconA history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 22)
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well as many other things which he knew, or had heard that the
white man could do, but he never sat down seriously to reflect on
the subject until a swelling on his knee confined him to his cabin,
and which at length made him a cripple for life by shortening the
diseased leg.

Deprived of the excitements of war, and the pleasures of the
chase, in the long nights of his confinement, his mind was again
directed to the mystery of the power of sjjeaking hy letters, the
very name of which of course was not to be found in his language.

From the cries of wild beasts, from the talents of the mocking-
bird, from the voices of his children and his companions, he knew
that feelings and passions were conveyed by diflerent sounds from
one intelligent being to another. The thought struck him to try to
ascertain all the sounds in the Cherokee language. His own ear
was not remarkably discriminating, and he called to his aid the more
acute ears of his wife and children. He found great assistance
from them. When he thought he had distinguished all the different
sounds in their language he attempted to use pictorial signs, images
of birds and beasts, to convey these sounds to others, or to mark
them in his own mind.

He soon dropped this method, as diflScult or impossible, and tried
arbitrary signs, without any regard to appearances, except such as
might assist them in recollecting them, and distinguishing them from
each other. At first these signs were very numerous, and when he
got so far as to think his invention nearly accomplished, he had
about two hundred characters in his alphabet. By the aid of his
daughter, who seems to have entered into the genius of his labor,
he reduced them to eighty-six, the number he now used. He then
undertook to make these characters more comely to the eye, and
succeeded. As yet he had not the knowledge of the pen as an
instrument, but made his characters on a piece of bark with a knife
or nail. At this time he sent to the Indian Agent, or some trader
in the nation, for paper and pen. His ink was easily made from
some of the bark of the forest trees whose coloring properties he
had previously known, and after seeing the construction of the pen
he soon learned to make one, but at first he made it without a slit ;
this inconvenience was however quickly removed by his sagacity.


His next difficulty was to make his invention known to liis country-
men, for by this time he had become so abstracted from his tribe and
their usual pursuits, that he was viewed with an eye of suspicion.
His former companions passed his wigwams without entering, and
mentioned his name as one who was practising improper spells, for
notoriety or mischievous purposes, and he seemed to think he should
have been hardly dealt with if his docile and unamiable disposition
had not been so generally acknowledged by his tribe. At length he
summoned some of the most distinguished of his nation, in order to
make his communication to them ; and after giving the best ex-
planation of his principle that he could, stripping it of all super-
natural influence, he proceeded to demonstrate in good earnest
that he had made a discovery. His daughter, who was now
his only pupil, was ordered to go out of hearing while he re-
quested his friends to name a word or sentiment, which he put
down, and then she was called in and read it to them ; then the
father retired and the daughter wrote. The Indians were wonder-
struck, but not entirely satisfied. Seequayah then proposed that the
tribe should select several youths from among their cleverest young
men, that he might communicate the mystery to them. This was at
once agreed to, although there were some lurking suspicions of
necromancy in the whole business. John Maw, among others, was
selected for this purpose. The tribe watched them for several
months with anxiety, and when they offered themselves for examina-
tion the feelings of all were wrought up to the highest pitch. The
youths were separated from each other and from their master, and
watched with the greatest care. The uninitiated directed what the
master and pupils should write to each other, and these tests were
varied in such a manner as not only to destroy their infidelity, but
most firmly to fix their faith. The Indians on this ordered a great
feast and made Seequayah conspicuous at it. How nearly alike
is man in every age. Pythagoras did the same on discovering an
important principle in Geometry. Seequayah became at once
schoolmaster, professor, philosopher, and chief. His countrymen
were proud?of his talents, and held him in reverence as one favored
by the Great Spirit. The inventions of early time were shrouded in
mystery. Seequahyah disdained all deception. He did not stop
here, but carried his discovery to numbers. He of course knew
nothing of Arabic digits, nor of Roman letters in the science. The



Cherokee s had mental numerals to one hundred, and had ^vords
for all numbers up to that, but thej had no signs or characters to
assist then\ in enumerating, adding, subtracting, multiplying, or
dividing. He reflected upon this until he had created their elemen.
tary principle in his mind, but he was at first obhged to make words
to express his meaning, and then signs to explain it. By this
process he soon had a clear conception of numbers up to a million.
His great difficulty at the beginning was to fix the power of his
signs according to their places. When this was overcome his next
step was in adding up his different numbers, in order to put
down the fraction of the decimal and give the whole number to his
next place. He adhered to all the customs of his country, and
when his associate chiefs assumed the dress of the English he was
clothed like an Indian in all respects. He was a man of varied
abilities, and he passed from metaphysical and philosophical investi-
gation to that of mechanics with the greatest ease.

The only practical mechanics he was acquainted with were a few
blacksmiths who could make rough tomahawks, or repair the lock of
a rifle, yet he became a white and silversmith without any instruc.
tion, and made spurs and silver spoons with neatness and skill, to the
great admiration of the people of the Cherokee nation. Seequa"
yah had also a great taste for painting. He mixed his colors with
skill, acquainting himself with all the art and science of his tribe
upon the subject ; he added many experiments of his own, some of
w'hich v.'cre very successful. For his drawings he had no models
but such as nature furnished, and he often copied nature with aston-
ishing faithfulness. His portraits were coarse, but often spirited and
correct, and he gave action and sometimes grace to his representa"
tions of animals. He had never seen an artist's pencil, but he made
use of the hair of wild animals for his brushes. Some of his pro-
ductions evince a knowledge of perspective, but he could not have
formed rules for this. The manners of this Indian genius were most
easy, and his habits those of the most assiduous scholar. He undei -
stood and felt the advantages the white man had long enjoyed, of
having the accumulations of every branch of knowledge by means
of a written language, while the red man could only commit his
thoughts to uncertain tradition. He reasoned correctly when he
urged this to his friends, as the cause why the red man had made so


few advances in knowledge in comparison with us. To remedy this
was his great aim.

It may not, perhaps, be known that the Government of the United
States had a font of types cast for his alphabet, and that a news-
paper, printed partly in the Cherokee language and partly in the
English, was established in New Echota, which is characterized by
decency and good sense, and that thus many Indians learned to read
both languages. The head chief of the Cherokees confirmed the
statements in relation to Seequayah, and added that he was an
Indian of the strictest veracity and sobriety. This wild son of the
forest has arisen to prove that men have not degenerated since prim-
itive days and the romantic ages of wonderful effort and renown.





It may be interesting to the people of the town to know the simple
manners and modes of life of those from whom they have descended,
especially as a great change has taken place in these respects in the
last half century. Nor is it considered inapplicable to this work.
Some parts of the following account are taken from the Rev. H.
White's Early History of New England, and by hira from the Old
Colony Memorial, all to be found in the library of the Massachu
setts Genealogical Society, to which, by the kindness of one of its,
members, the author has had admission during the preparation of
his work.


In general, men, old or young, had a decent coat, vest, and small
clothes, and some kind of fur hat. Old men had a great coat, and
a pair of boots ; the boots were substantially made of good leather,
and lasted for life ; they were long and reached to the knee.

For every day they had a jacket reaching about half way down
the thigh, striped vest, and the small clothes, like the jacket, made of
homespun flannel cloth, fulled at the mill, but not sheared ; flannel
shirts, and knit woollen stockings, with leather shoes and a silk
handkerchief for holidays. In the summer they wore a pair of wide
petticoat trousers, reaching half way from the knee to the ankles.
Shoes and stockings were not worn in summer when at work on the
farm. Boys, as soon as they left their petticoats, were put into
small clothes, summer or winter. These were made of home manu-
factured cloth for common, and everlasting for meeting dress. The
oldest son had a pair of the latter cloth, and when he had outgrown
them the next took them, and so down to the tenth son, if there
were so many in the family.



This manner of dress continued till long trousers Averc introduced,
Nvhich were called tongs, and did not differ much in shape from those
now in use. They were made of tow cloth, linen and cotton, in the
summer, and in the winter, flannel, and were soon worn by old men
as well as by young men and boys. Young men never wore great
coats. I recollect, says a writer of those times, a neighbor of my
father's who had four sons between nineteen and thirty year of age :
the oldest got a pair of boots, the second a surtout, the third a
watch, and the fourth a pair of silver shoe-buckles. This made a '
neighborhood talk, and the family were supposed to be on the high
road to insolvency.

The women, old and young, wore home-made flannel gowns in
winter, and in the summer wrappers or shepherddresses, which were
made without waists, and gathered around the neck.

They were usually contented with one calico gown, but generally
had a calimanco or camlet, and some had them made of poplin ; the
sleeves were short and came only to the elbow ; on holidays they
wore one, two, or three ruflies on each arm, sometimes ten inches

They wore long gloves, coming up to the elbow, secured by what
was called tightens, made of black horsehair ; round gowns had
not come in fashion, so they wore aprons made of checked linen,
cotton, and, for Sunday, white cotton, long lawn, or cambric. They
seldom wore caps, only when they appeared in full dress ; they had
two kinds — one was called strap cap, which Avas tied under the
chin, and the other round corn cap, which did not como over the ears.
They wore thick and thin leather and broadcloth shoes, with wooden
heels covered with cloth or leather an inch and a half high, with
peaked toes, which turned up. They generally had very small
muffs, and some wore masks.

In those days the young women did not consider it a hardship
nor a disgrace to walk five or six miles to meeting on the Sabbath,
or on lecture days ; in the country towns, scarcely a chaise or any
other vehicle was used. The common conveyance was by horses
fitted out with saddles and pillions. A man and woman rode together
on the same horse, and sometimes a little boy rode before the man,
and an infant in the lap of the woman. No inconsiderable journeys
were made in this way

Horses, then, were made to pace, that they might carry their riders


more gently. It was not until a little "while before the revolutionary
war that they learned to trot. A horse that would sell for thirty
dollars was considered of the first quality, and one more than nine
years old was considered of little value.

In those days everybody went to meeting on the Sabbath and
lecture days, however distant they lived. Those who owned horses
did not consider them any more their own than their neighbors', on
that day. It was the custom in many, if not in all country towns,
for the owner with his wife to ride half way to a horse block, made
for that purpose, and there hitch his horse and walk on, for his
neighbor to ride who set out on foot ; and so when they returned.


Their dinners in the winter season were generally the same. First
they had a dish of broth, called porridge, with a few beans in it,
and a little summer savory, then an Indian pudding with sauce, and
then a dish of boiled pork and beef, with round turnips and a few
potatoes. Potatoes were then a scarce article ; three or four bushels
were considered a large crop, and these not larger than a hen's egg.
Their supper and breakfast were generally the same ; those who had
milk, ate it with toasted bread ; if not, sweetened cider with bread
and cheese. Sabbath mornings they generally had chocolate or
bohea tea, the first sweetened with molasses, the last with brown
sugar, and with them pancakes, doughnuts, brown toast, or some
sort of pie. They had no dinners till after meeting, when they had
a roast goose, or turkey, spare rib, or a stew pie, in the spring
and summer. They generally ate bread and milk for supper and

At that time no family had a barrel of flour. The farmers broke
up a piece of new ground and planted it with wheat and turnips.
This wheat, by the help of the sieve, was their flour. A writer of
years gone by, says " the chiefest corn they planted was Indian
grain before they had ploughs ; and let no men make a gest at
pumpkins, for with this food the Lord was pleased to feed his people?
to their good content, till corn and cattle were increased."

Their corn, before they had built mills to grind it, Avas pounde
with a AYOoden or stone pestle in a mortar made of a large log hok


lowed out at one end. They cultivated barley, much of -which was
made into malt for beer, which they drank instead of ardent spirit.
They raised flax, which they rotted in water, and then manufactured
it in their families into thread and cloth.

The first houses which they built were very coarse, rude struc-
tures. They had steep roofs, covered with thatch or small bundles
3f sedge or straw laid one over another. The fire-places were made
jf rough stones, and the chimneys of boards, or short sticks crossing
each other and plastered inside with clay. In a few years houses of
1 better construction began to appear. They were built with two
;tories in front, and sloped down to a low one in the rear ; the win-
lov!S opened outward on hinges, and were small. The glass was
small and in the shape of a diamond, and set in sashes of lead.

The fire-places were hugely large, and could receive a four foot
log beside seating the family of children in the corners, where they
nould look up and count the stars. They were uniformly placed so
as to front the south, on whatever side of the road they might be,
and the object was that when the sun shone on it the house might
serve as a sun-dial.

It is said to have been a custom of the first settlers to wear their
beards so long that in the winter it would sometimes freeze together,
50 that it was difficult to get the vessels in which they took their
drink to their mouths.

The common address of men and women was good-man and good-
wife. None but those who sustained some office of dignity, or
belonged to some respectable family, were complimented as master
or mistress. In writing they did not use the capital F but two small
ones as ff.


By an order of the Massachusetts General Court corn and beans
were required to be used in voting for counsellors, the corn to man-
ifest elections, the beans the contrary, on the choice or refusal of a
candidate. The law imposed a heavy penalty if more than one corn
or bean was used by one person.

The mode of living and manner of dress were much more favora-


ble to health than at the present time. Acute fevers were frequent
the principal of which were called the long or slow fevers, whicl
run thirty, fortjj and sometimes fifty days before it formed a crisis
and the slow nervous fever, which run generally longer than th(
former. Pulmonary complaints or consumptions were much lesi
frequent than now ; indeed, a young person was rarely visited witl
this disease.

The duty of the sexton of the church was not only to rin^
the bell, and sweep the house, &c., but keep the hour glass
and turn it at the commencement of the minister's sermons, wh(
was expected to close at the end of the hour. If he went on, or fel
r^hort of the time, it was a sufficient cause of complaint.



On the 9th of May, 181 i, Mr. Daniel Travis and Mr. Henry
Coggin were instantly killed by the fall of the dwelling house of the
former, which stood on the site of the present residence of Deacon
John Travis.

The particulars of this sad event, as taken from the lips of a living
witness (Rev. Isaac Jennison), Avere briefly these :

Travis's house was undergoing repairs and enlargement. A new
cellar had been dug and stoned ; the underpinning, which was o f
brick, removed ; the sills taken out, when it was thought best to
raise it fourteen inches. Accordingly a new front sill was attached
to the front posts by chain twists, and another placed beneath the
rear posts. The front was raised by screws, the back by levers.

It was deemed unstable, and orders were given that if a crash was
heard not to flee from beneath it into the new cellar. At the time of
the fall, William Horton and John Jennings were outside, while Jenni-
son, John Dunton, Travis, and Coggin were beneath.

Travis and Coggin ran out into the new cellar and were instantly
crushed beneath the falling mass.

Their interment took place May 1 Ith, under Masonic orders, by
the Middlesex Lodge, located at Framingham. A procession of
citizens was formed at the old tavern on Worcester turnpike, and
moved to the centre meeting-house, where a funeral discourse was
delivered by Eev. Charles Train, minister of the Baptist church at
Framingham, a printed copy of which is before me.


July 1st, 1793, Mr. Nathan Stone was killed by a falling lever,
with which he was excavating stones, for the bridge near the resi-
dence of Edward Hammond, three rods south of Central turnpike,
so called. The accident took place in Framingham, but the


deceased was an inhabitant of Natick. The following is the inscription
on his tomb-stone, in the West Cemetery :

" By a sudden stroke, -when void of fear,
Before my God I must appear ;
Behold, my friends, with care attend,
Consider life and know its end."


While driving his team, in Watertown, Oct. 14th, 1831, fell from
his wagon and was crushed beneath the wheel.

In 1770, Joseph Drurj was killed by the fall of a house which he
had erected for a temporary abode while burning coal.


A brother of the Artemas who was drowned, as stated in this work
under that head, was killed by an unruly yoke of oxen, October,


In February, 1844, while Mr. John S. Ross was engaged in dig-
ging stones in the south part of the town, he was suddenly killed by
the fall of the lever with which he was at work. He was struck in
the back part of the head and survived but a few hours.


In 1796, an accident of a most distressing character occurred at
the house of Joshua Fisk, now that of the heirs of Moses Fisk.
Hannah Fish, four years old, was shot by her brother, a few years
in advance of her in age. John (the name of the brother who com-
mitted the act) had been out with a still older brother in hunting
excursions, and at this time levelled the gun, which happened to be
loaded, at his infant sister, remarking that " he would kill a wild


goose." The contents of the gun -were lodged in the side of the
girl, who fell instantly over the warping bars, in the northeast cham-
ber of the house. The stains of the blood on the floor were not many
years since plainly to be seen.


June 17th, 1851, attempting to cross the railroad at Spring
street, was killed by a train of cars, which passed over his body.
Inscribed on his tomb-stone, in Dell Park Cemetery, we find the fol-
lowing :

It "was not tHne witli "wife and children dear,

To breathe thy last upon a peaceful bed ;
In manhood's stiength one moment thou "wast here.

The next struck do-^vn and numbered "«'ith the dead.
Oh ! may thy siidden summons "warn us all
To be prepared for our own final call.



The first death by drowning in Natick, of which we have any ac-
count, was that of Artemas Ward, who hved in the house now owned
and occupied by Eleazer G. Wight. It was the middle of the winter
of 1815, and Ward was returning from his work, across the ice on
Lake Cochituate, and had arrived to within a few rods of that part of
the shore now known as " Checkerberry Point," when the ice sud-
denly gave way beneath him. His cries were distinctly heard, but
mistaken for other sounds. His remains were not found until the
next day.

In 1818, Samuel Perry, son of Abel, was drowned in Charles
River. It was the night of the 6th of May, and Perry was crossing
the river on the bridge known as Loring's, a few rods back of Samuel
Walcott's shoe manufactory. The night was intensely dark, and a
thunder shower — long after remembered for its fierceness — was
raging. It is supposed that he accidentally stepped from the planks
of the bridge, which was then without railings. The following
acrostic, written by William Bigelow, who has before been noticed,
gives the particulars of the accident :

S ad was the gloom, the rain in torrents poured,

A nd lightning flashed, and muttering thunder roared ;

M xu-ky convolving clouds heaven's arch o'erspread,

U nusual horror stalked, and filled with dread

E ven atheists' hearts. At that tremendous houi-

L urked round the assasin Death, with ruthless power ;

P erry was seized, his unsuspecting prey —

E nclosed in icy arms and borne away,

R uddy the morn her usual blushes spread,

E, adiant the sun its beam refulgent shed,

y et not to him enrolled among the dead.

In March of the year 1818, Samuel Washburn, while returning
to his home, from an auction at what was called the "Haynes


Tavern," fell from the bank of the pond into the water, a short dis-
tance to the left of the bridge since built by the city of Boston, west
of " the Willows," so called, and was instantly drowned, never rising
to the surface.

In 1825, Elijah "Washburn, son of Samuel Washburn, noticed
above, met the same death his father had found a few years previous.
His house stood on the east shore of Lake Cochituate, in front of the
house of Faithee Coggin. He went out in the evening, and his body
was found the next day.

Josiah C. Bacon, a son of David and Sally Bacon, while picking
strawberries in 1838, near Dug Pond, entered a boat with his
younger brother and attempted to cross the pond. When within a
few feet of the shore, he leaped from the boat, but fell in water beyond
his depth, and was drowned. He was ten years of age, noted for
his amiability and precocity.

On the 13th June, 1844, Nathaniel W. Littlefield Avas the victim
of an accident of the same description, in the same pond.

While bathing with his companions, he suddenly sunk in water too
deep for wading, and, being unable to swim, was drowned before
assistance could be obtained.

Dexter Sawin, a son of Phares, was drowned in Charles River,
Feb. 4, 1819. Aged 11 years.

The following is inscribed upon his monument :

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22

Online LibraryOliver N BaconA history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 22)