Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

Facts relating to the history of Groton, Massachusetts (Volume 2) online

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Vol. II

Gather up the fragments that remaitt,
that nothing be lost






R 1915 L

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.








The first volume of this work is "Tlie Natural History and
Topography of Groton." The articles in this volume relate
to the general history of the town, and for that reason a new
title is given to it.

September 2, 1914.



George Sewall Boutwell was a native of Brookline,
Massachusetts, where he was born on January 28, 1818. He
first saw the Hght on a farm then under the charge of his
father, and owned by Dr. John PhilHps Spooner, which now
forms a part of the extensive grounds of the Country Club in
that town. He was the second child of Sewall and Rebecca
(Marshall) Boutwell, another son of the same name having
been born on January i, 1816, who died on September 27,
1817. When he was two years old his parents removed to
Lunenburg, the former home of his mother, where he was
brought up on a farm. In after-life he filled more dis-
tinguished public positions than ever fell to the lot of any
other citizen of Groton ; and his neighbors always took a just
pride in his poHtical promotions. He was easily accessible
to all classes of people, and his counsels on the every-day
affairs of life were often sought and freely given. He was a
man of great shrewdness of mind with a temperament de-
cidedly judicial, and his advice was highly valued by those
seeking it. At the time of his election as Governor of the
Commonwealth Mr. Boutwell was the youngest person who
had ever held the office.

Three years after Governor Boutwell's death, some of his
friends and admirers caused a tablet of white marble to be
placed over his grave in the Groton Cemetery; and the occa-
sion was followed by appropriate exercises on May 15, 1908.


The tablet is simple and unpretentious, and bears this
inscription :

In Memory of

George Sewall Boutwell

Jan. 28, 1S18

Feb. 27, 1905

Governor of Massachusetts

Representative and Senator of the United States

Secretary of the Treasury

Citizen, Patriot, Statesman
Consistent, Brave and Devoted Friend
fjt of Human Liberty.

The tablet is five feet in height, three feet in width, and ten
inches in thickness.

The exercises began with placing flowers on the grave by
the George S. Boutwell Woman's Relief Corps, No. 49,
Auxiliary to the G. A. R., the George S. Boutwell Post,
No. 48, Ayer, Department of Massachusetts, G. A. R., and
the E. S. Clark Post, No. 115, Groton, Department of Massa-
chusetts, G. A. R. ; and the singing of Sir Henry Wotton's
" The Character of a Happy Life " by a choir of boys from
the Groton School.

The exercises were then transferred from the cemetery
to the Town Hall, where letters of sympathy and re-
gret were read from the President of the United States,
the Secretary of the Treasury, the Speaker of the Na-
tional House of Representatives, and other distinguished

The poem on the occasion was by William Roscoe Thayer,
of Cambridge, and is such a just tribute to the many excel-
lent qualities of Mr. Boutwell's character, that I am prompted
to reprint it in these pages.


I marvel not that Youth,

Impassion'd for the Truth,
Cleaves but to her, as bridegroom to his bride;

Recks neither praise nor blame,

Heeds not the lure of fame,
Knows that her smile were worth the world beside.


But when in Age I find,

Young courage and young mind,
And eyes that see their morning vision clear,

Like him but lately dead,

Who after four-score led
Our battle-charge, I marvel and revere.

Thou gav'st him life, O State,

Who wert assigned by Fate
The noblest task of all the modern years :

To clear a little space

Where conscience should have place
To worship God, and men with men be peers ;

A clearing by the sea

Where none should crook the knee
To king or pope or other man-made lord;

A haunt where peace might dwell

With folk who lov'd her well,
But still for Duty's sake would draw the sword.

Beloved State, and true !

Thy blessed gospel flew
Throughout the West and loos'd the Old World's chains;

Thy thoughts like lifeblood run

Thro' ev'ry loyal son
Who feels the stir of freedom in his veins.

He was thy son ! he heard

In youth thy puissant word
And prov'd the obligation of thy breed ;

Obey'd thy civic call,

Rose high, nor fear'd to fall
Confessing thine instruction by his deed.

His laurel'd name shall stand

With theirs that sav'd the Land
When mad Rebellion shook our cornerstone;

His courage never quail'd

His counsel never fail'd
Till Discord ceas'd and Wrong was overthrown.


To shine in such a strife
Were crown enough for life ;
The newer labors to new hands belong ;
But when the younger brood

Set bad instead of good,

He rose, again a youth, and smote the wrong.


Tho' Prudence bade, " Beware ! "

He answer'd straight, " I dare ! "
And swept like retribution on tlie foes;

Put compromises by —

Half-truth is still half-lie —
Nor barter'd his convictions for repose.

He heard but to despise

The precepts worldly-wise
That check the vanward impulse of the soul —

The sly, corrosive doubts,

The cynic sneer that flouts
All virtue and denies the unseen goal.

Years never palsied him

With disillusions grim,
Nor taught the lie that numbers most avail;

He held that not to fight

For Freedom and for Right —
Our captains — is the coward's way to fail.

He was not overborne

By ridicule or scorn.
Nor daunted by the dangers of the time ;

He even could resist

The friends whose love he missed,
The comrades of the causes of his prime.

To suffer and endure.

To keep the spirit pure —
The fortress and abode of holy Truth —

To serye eternal things,

What'e'er the issue brings,
This is not broken Age, but ageless Youth.

In the year 1902 Governor Boutvvell wrote his "Remi-
niscences of Sixty Years in Public Affairs," which contains a
large amount of historical information in regard to public
matters. It is a work well worth reading by anyone who
wishes to learn the policy of the Government during an
eventful period in its history. Several of the Chapters, V-IX,
contain much of special interest to the citizens of the town,
as they deal with his early career. By the consent of the
publishers of the work, Messrs. Doubleday, Page & Co.,
of New York, I reprint them, with their original headings, and
for this courtesy my thanks are due.



Groton in 1835.

In the month of February, 1835, ^ ^^^^ ^^ advertisement
in the Lowell "Journal, asking for a clerk in a store, appHca-
tion to be made at the office. I at once wrote to Joseph S.
Hubbard,^ a former schoolmate, asking him to call at the of-
fice and get the name of the advertiser. This he did, and
gave me the name of Benj. P. Dix of Groton. I wrote to
Mr. Dix, and upon the receipt of an answer, I went with my
father to see him. The result was an agreement to work for
him for three years. Terms, board and one hundred dollars
for the first year, one hundred and twelve dollars for the sec-
ond year, one hundred and twenty-five dollars for the third
year. I commenced my clerkship with Mr. Dix the fifth day
of March, and in the month of September my contract was
ended by his failure. His business was small, his manners
were abrupt, his capital had been limited, and his family ex-
penses, not extravagant, had exceeded his income, and bank-
ruptcy in the end was inevitable. His sales were chiefly of
boots, shoes, leather, and medicines, of which he kept the
only stock in the village.

Mr, Dix was a man of exact ways of life. The sales made
were entered each day at the close of business, the cash was
carefully counted, and the cash-book was balanced. But
these careful and businesslike ways did not save him, and in
September he made an assignment of his property to his
father Benj. Dix, and to Caleb Butler, for the benefit of his
creditors according to the preferences specified in the assign-
ment. Mr. Butler was not a creditor, but Mr. Dix, senior,
was much the largest creditor. In fact he had furnished his
son with the chief part of the means of doing business. He
was a tanner by trade, and he had gradually enlarged his

1 When I became Secretary of the Treasury, in 1S69, I appointed Hubbard
to a minor office in the revenue service in tlie State of Kentucky, where he then


business by employing workmen to make boots and shoes. A
portion of his product of leather and all his product of boots
and shoes had been turned into the son's store.

The deficiency of means on the part of the son was repre-
sented at each settlement by an addition to the debt due to
the father. The debts amounted to about five thousand dollars.
Following the assignment Mr. Dix left home, and he did not
return until the spring or summer of 1836. Imprisonment
for debt in a modified form then existed. He and his family
were proud, and he may have wished to avoid seeing his
neighbors and acquaintances while his misfortune was fresh
upon him. His wife was a granddaughter of General Ward,
who had been the rival of General Washington for the com-
mand of the army at the opening of the War of the Revolu-
tion. Mrs. Dix was proud, very properly, of her paternity,
and of her grandfather's association with General Washing-
ton, and neither from her, nor from either of two brothers
whom I subsequently met, did I ever hear a word of criticism
upon the wisdom of the selection of General Washington.
Mrs. Dix had inherited many letters written by General
Washington to her grandfather, and they were all written in a
tone of sincere friendship.

Mrs. Dix's eldest brother, Mr. Nahum Ward, was one of
the early settlers, if not one of the founders of Marietta, Ohio.
Mr. Dix went to Marietta, where he was given some employ-
ment by Mr. Ward. Neither Mr. Butler nor Mr. Dix senior,
had any knowledge of business, and I was employed by them
at a small advance in my pay, to sell the stock of goods, and
close the business of the store. After such sales as could be
made, the remainder of the stock was sold at auction the 23d
day of November, During the preceding night there was a
fall of snow, and the company came to the village in sleighs.
The winter was severe, and the snow continued to cover the
ground until the i8th of April, when the stage coaches for
the north went on runners for the last time. The summer of
1836 was so cold, that the corn crop was a failure. During
the year following corn brought from New Jersey sold for
$2.50 per bushel.


In 1835 the town of Groton was a place of much impor-
tance relatively. It was the residence of several men of more
than local fame. Timothy Fuller, the father of Margaret, was
living there. He was a lawyer of considerable distinction,
and he had held important public positions. He had been
a representative and senator in the Massachusetts Legislature,
speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and
a member of Congress from the Cambridge district from
1817 to 1825. He died in October, 1835.

Mr. Fuller was a man of regular and careful habits, indeed
he belonged to a family noted for their devotion to the pro-
fession of law, and for their odd manners and styles of dress.

Mr. Fuller's eldest son, Eugene, was afterwards a student
in the law office of George F. Farley. He was a good debater
as a young man, but as a student rather irregular. He went
to New Orleans to reside, became an editor of, or writer on,
the Picayune, and on a return voyage from Boston he was lost
overboard [from the steamer " Empire City," on June 2 1 , 1859].

Margaret Fuller continued to reside in Groton with her
mother and the other members of the family for several years
— until about 1841, I think. In the meantime I met her fre-
quently, although she was several years my senior. She was
a teacher in the Sunday school, and at the Sunday-evening
teachers' meetings she was accustomed to set forth her opin-
ions with great frankness, and in a style which assumed that
they were not open to debate. While she lived at Groton
she contributed to the Dial.

In personal appearance Margaret Fuller was less attractive
than one might imagine from the portraits and engravings
now seen. Her ability was recognized, but the celebrity that
she attained finally was not anticipated, probably, by any of
her town acquaintances. Her writings may justify the opin-
ion that as a writer and thinker she is in the front rank of
American women.

Samuel Dana, who had been a judge for many years, pres-
ident of the Massachusetts Senate for three terms, and a
member of Congress for one term, was also a resident of
Groton. He had been an active politician on the Democratic


or Jeffersonian side in politics, and for many years in early life
he had been the competitor of Timothy Bigelow, who had
been a resident of Groton and a leader in the Federal Party of
the State. The town supported Bigelow and returned him
to the House, where he became speaker for many sessions.
Dana as a candidate for the Massachusetts Senate was elected
by the county of Middlesex then Democratic, and for three
terms he was president of the Senate. Judge Dana was in-
terested in a small social library that was kept in a chamber
over the store. It contained Josephus, Plutarch's Lives, Rol-
lins' Ancient History, and some other standard works whose
titles I do not now recall.

Judge Dana was also interested in the organization of a
reading room club in a building connected with the store.
As clerk in charge of the store I was custodian of the read-
ing room and library. I found time to read Plutarch and
Josephus, and I was skeptic enough to question in my own
mind the passage in Josephus in regard to Jesus. Judge
Dana died in the month of November, 1835, ^^ the age of
sixty. His hair was white and long, and his appearance was
so venerable that it is now difficult for me to realize that he
was not seventy-five years of age at least. His abilities were
considerable, and his descendants, in more than one instance
have shown distinguished qualities.

Two other well-known lawyers, one of them a lawyer of
eminence in the profession, were also residents of the town:
Benj. M. Farley and George F. Farley, brothers. They were
natives of the small town of Brookline, N. H. The elder,
Benj. M., had practised in Hollis, N. H., where by economy
and good care of his earnings he had acquired a competency.
At Groton he made no effort to obtain business, and acted
for the most part as an associate or aid to his brother, who
was in the enjoyment of a large practice and income, for
those days and parts.

With George F. Farley, whose age ran with the century, I
was well acquainted from 1835 until his death in 1855. ^^
was one of the small number of men that I have known who
underestimated their powers. In one respect, perhaps, this


was not true of Farley. He never appeared wanting in
courage for any legal struggle with the leaders of the bar
in New England. In the twenty years that 1 knew him he
had for his antagonists Webster, Choate, Davis, Curtis,
Franklin Dexter, and others of eminence, an4 he never failed
to sustain himself upon terms of equality. This was remark-
able in presence of the fact that he was likely to be retained
on the hard side of most cases. This was due, perhaps, to
his reputation for shrewdness, and for a quality in practice
which has been called the inventive faculty. When parties
were not allowed to testify, there was a wide field for the
imagination, and for the exercise of the inventive faculties
on the part of an advocate. He had defended, successfully,
the Ursuline Convent rioters, and he had been employed in
many desperate cases on the civil side and on the criminal
side of the courts.

In his later years he read very little either in law, history,
or general literature. His law library was meager, although
he had usually one or two students in his office. He pre-
ferred to discuss his cases with the loungers about the post-
office and stores, getting thereby the benefit of the opinions
of common men.

His manner in speaking was inartistic, and although he was
a graduate of Harvard, he indulged himself in the use of
country phrases and rustic pronunciation. His logic was
unanswerable, and his faculty of cross-examination of wit-
nesses was worthy of emulation.

He enjoyed a few books, the classics in the originals, but he
seldom indulged in a quotation. Byron as a poet, and Locke
as a logician he commended to me — the latter, Locke on the
Human Understanding, with great earnestness. Under his
advice I read it carefully, and for mental training he did not
overvalue it. Farley commenced the practice of his profes-
sion at New Ipswich, N. H., and that town elected him once
or twice to the Legislature of the State. Wishing for a
wider field, he came to Groton. It was a day of small fees,
and a good deal of the litigation grew out of the intemperate
habits of the farmers.


In New Hampshire fees were even more moderate than in
Massachusetts. If Farley had estimated his talents at their
full value and had taken an office in Boston or New York, he
could have gratified his love for money without disturbing his
relations to his neighbors. In minor ways he was acquisitive,
and consequently there came to be a pubHc sentiment which
excluded him from pubhc employments. His political
course was not more erratic than that of many others, but
his change of position was ascribed to policy and not to
principle. In 1840 he was a Whig, in 1850 he was a Free-
soiler, and in 1855 he was a Republican. In the autumn of
the year 1855 he was elected a member of the State Con-
vention of the Repubhcan Party.

A day or two before the meeting of the convention I was
passing by his premises where he was engaged apparently in
examining a buggy which his man had been putting in order.
The conversation turned upon politics, and I soon discovered
that he wished for a nomination to the Legislature, and with-
out admitting the fact, his remarks showed that he compre-
hended the nature of the obstacles in his way. At last he
said : " When I began I thought the main thing was to get
money; and I have got it; and it is very convenient to have
it, but it is n't just what I thought it was when I began."

He went to the convention, took a cold which developed
into a fever, and in a week he died.


Groton in 1835 {Continued).

There were two other lawyers in town, Caleb Butler, the
postmaster, and Bradford Russell. Mr. Butler never appeared
in court. He gave advice in small matters, wrote deeds and
wills, surveyed lands, and served his neighbors in fiduciary
ways. For many years he was a member, and a useful mem-
ber, of the Board of Commissioners for the County of Middle-
sex. That body laid out highways, superintended the public


buildings, and in a word did what no other authority in the
county or State had a right to do. Mr. Butler was a Whig,
and after a time his politics lost him the office of postmaster
and the office of commissioner.

With Bradford Russell I commenced the study of law, or
rather I entered my name with him and gave some night work
to the study of books bearing upon the profession. His office
was over the store in which I became a clerk in December,
1835, Russell was a graduate of Harvard, of the class of
1818. For many years two other members of that class re-
sided at Groton — Dr. Joshua Green, and the Rev. Charles
Robinson, pastor of the old society, then ranked as Unitarian.
Mr. Russell had studied his profession with Judge James
Prescott, who was impeached and removed from the office of
Judge of Probate for the county of Middlesex in the year
1 82 1. Judge Prescott, whom I never saw, was a good lawyer
in his time, especially in the department of special pleading.
That branch of the profession was then passing away, but
there were lawyers who lived by their skill in preparing an-
swers, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders, rebutters, and sur-rebutters.
Russell had acquired a large amount of special learning in the
law, but he had not capacity to comprehend principles, nor
could he see the application of old decisions to new cases. In
argument he was weak and inconclusive, but he was confident
in his own powers, and favored as he was at times by the acci-
dents and hazards of the profession, he gained some victories.
In the final trials at the county court he usually secured the
services of senior counsel who could meet Farley, his usual
antagonist, upon an equality of standing. Most frequently he
secured the services of Sam Mann of Lowell, as he was called.
The name of the town was affixed generally, as though the
advocate had been so christened.

Mann was able, confident, and bold. He died young, after
a brilliant career. In many cases Mann and Farley were as-
sociated. When this combination appeared, the opposing
counsel were hard-pressed, usually. In those days a story was
set afloat which, though false, gave voice to the popular notion.
When the court was held at Cambridge, Farley and Mann


boarded together at the Mansion House, Charlestown Square.
It was said that when they were associated in a case, they were
in the habit of examining and cross-examining the witnesses.
On one of these occasions, as the story went, Mann conducted
the examination, and Farley followed with the cross. Under
his hand the witnesses went to pieces. After the witnesses
left, Farley said, " We can never succeed if those are your
witnesses." Mann replied : " Oh, those are the witnesses for
the other side. To-morrow evening I will show you my wit-
nesses." When the evening came, the same witnesses came
also. They were again subject to examination and cross-
examination, and proved impregnable under Farley's hand.
An invention, no doubt, and yet the story had a run.

Although Russell was not a competitor in any sense with
such antagonists as Farley and Mann, he was in the enjoy-
ment of a practice that was sufficient for a living, and a pru-
dent man would have made it the beginning of a moderate
fortune. He had neither skill in money matters nor ordinary
economy. Hence he was always in debt. At one term of
the court he entered fifty-eight writs, and there were terms
when he had from seventy to one hundred cases on the
docket. Each of these cases gave him thirty-three and one
third cents costs for every day of the term.

Russell held the office of Master in Chancery. In 1838 the
Insolvent Law was enacted, and its administration was confided
to Masters in Chancery. Russell soon gained a reputation
for leniency in the matter of granting discharges to the insol-
vent debtors, and his business increased rapidly. His jurisdic-
tion was the whole county, and although there were several
masters in the county, his fame was such that petitions came
from Lowell, Waltham and other places where masters had
offices. I was appointed clerk in insolvency, at five dollars
a day when a court was held. In this way I gained some
needed income, acquired a knowledge of the Insolvent Law,
and more than all, I gained the acquaintance of the leading
lawyers of the county. As debtors and witnesses were exam-
ined, I may have gained something in practice. The Insol-
vent Law, amended, to be sure, has remained on the statute


books of Massachusetts to this day, and the United States
Bankrupt Law was modeled upon it. Indeed, there can
never be any wide departure from the provisions of that
statute, and from its principles no departure whatever can
be made.

A leading man, and a character in town, was Thomas A.
Staples. He was a native of the neighboring town of Shirley.

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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenFacts relating to the history of Groton, Massachusetts (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 18)