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for his years, yet his efforts were not directed wholly, nor princi-
pally to the acquisition of knowledge, but rather to the formation
of a pure and elevated character. He was modest, mild, and en-
gaging in his manners, and never failed to secure the respect and
aff'ection of his pupils, by his kindness to them and becoming re-
spect for himself All his qualifications, however, may be inferred
from the circumstance that he was recommended and patronized in
the undertaking in which he was engaged at the time of his death,
by many of the most competent judges in the community. His
quiet and serious temper had given the sacred profession in his view
more charms than any other. He accordingly joined the Theo-
logical School at Cambridge in order to prepare himself for it, but
after a short time, being convinced that its duties were incompatible
with the bodily complaints to which he was predisposed, he relin-
quished the cherished object of his hopes with cheerful submission,
and turned to seek some other path in which to make himself hon-
ored and useful to society. Two years since, disease laid a heavy,
blighting hand upon him ; but, though his friends were never after-
wards wholly free from anxiety on his account, no apprehensions of
his actual immediate danger were entertained by them. His death
fell upon them with awful suddenness. It was finally occasioned by
a violent fever, which his broken constitution had not strength to
resist. It will be long before the numerous friends he had secured
wherever it was his lot to be called, will cease to feel and deplore
this great loss to themselves and the community ; — but the remem-



192 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

brance of his virtues will afford a great and lasting consolation to all,
who believe that sincere and unremitted exertions for the attainment
of excellence are of any avail. Surely his generous, blameless spirit
can have no ill to fear, through whatever untried change of being he
may be called to pass. This thought shall hush our grief at being
torn from him whose memory is blended with a thousand endearing
recollections of the past. May it, as it ought, for the future, encour-
age us to follow his bright example, and so to incline our hearts to
wisdom, that we may hope, " the dread path once trod," to be reunited
to him in a better and happier world, to part no more forever. S.

" Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot," January 15, 1835.



SIGNOR BLITZ.

SiGNOR Antonio Blitz is most pleasantly associated with
my early recollections, and in after-life was numbered among
my friends. Nearly a half-century ago I first saw him give
one of his inimitable exhibitions, so amusing to small chil-
dren and so wonderful to those of a larger growth ; and
the impressions then left on my mind have never been ef-
faced. In later years' he passed his summers at Groton,
where he made as many friends among the townspeople as
he had by his public performances at an early period among
the young folks, throughout the country. I remember, one
afternoon, his telling me that he had on that day put the
finishing touches to his book, which has since been published
and widely circulated under the title of "Fifty Years in the
Magic Circle" (Hartford, 1871).

On July 23, 1863, Signor Blitz was married, secondly, to
Helen Eliza, daughter of Jonas and Eliza (Adams) Eaton,
who was born at Groton, on September 17, 1827, and died
at Westfield, New Jersey, on October 23, 1904. The cere-
mony was performed at her father's house by the Reverend
Henry Martyn Dexter, D.D., at that time the pastor of the
Berkeley Street Congregational Church, »Boston. In the
town-records the entry of the marriage describes the groom



SIGNOR BLITZ. 1 93

as a " thaumaturgist," and the son of Antonio and Amelia
Blitz. Mademoiselle Marie Van Zandt, the noted prima
donna of the present day, is a granddaughter of Signer Blitz ;
and during her girlhood she passed many months at Mr.
Eaton's dwelling, and attended school in the town. She is
remembered with much interest and pleasure, not to say
pride, by many of her former playmates.

The following obituary notice is taken from the " Boston
Evening Transcript," January 30, 1877:

Signer Blitz, whose death at Philadelphia [on January 28] was
announced yesterday, was born in Deal, Kent County, England, on
the coast, June 21, 1810. When about the age of twelve he learned
something in legerdemain. In September, 1823, his father sent him
in the care of a special attendant to Hamburg, where he made his
first appearance in public. His first appearance in his native country
was in Dover in December, 1825. After travelling through England,
Ireland and Scotland, he started for America, leaving Liverpool on
the ist of August, 1834, and arrived in New York in the early part
of September, making his initial bow before an American audience
at Niblo's Garden some weeks later. After a visit to Boston he went
to Philadelphia (which he afterward made his home) and established
himself in a large hall at Eight and Chestnut streets. The Quaker
City seemed to suit the artist so well that after making an extended
tour of the country he returned, and permanently established himself
in the Assembly Buildings, where, during the later years of his life, he
performed to large audiences. He was a great favorite, being very
affable in his manners, and it will be a long while before the pleasant
memories of Signor Blitz, and his wonderful boy " Bobby," are effaced
from the minds of the residents of Philadelphia. About fourteen
years ago [July 23, 1863], his first wife having died, he married a
Miss Eaton, of Groton, Mass. This lady survives him, but the chil-
dren are those of his first wife. He was the father of the celebrated
opera singer Mme. Van Zandt, who is now in England, and also of
Mrs. Metz, residing in New York city. During the later years of his
fife he performed only for the benefit of charitable institutions, having
amassed a large fortune for himself and family by his previous efforts.
The automaton trumpeter, the never-failing egg-sack, and the Sphinx
were the results of fiis creative fancy. During his life he performed
before many of the reigning sovereigns of Europe.



194 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.



DANIEL FARNSWORTH.

The following notice taken from "The Continental Journal,
and Weekly Advertiser" (Boston), January 2, 1777, shows
the want of postal facilities which existed during the Revo-
lutionary period. At that time there were but few post-
offices in New England, and letters for Groton were sent first
to the Boston Office, and afterward forwarded through pri-
vate channels. This explains the statement that " letters are
uncertain."

To Mr, DANIEL FARNSWORTH, of Groton, in the state of
Massachusetts-Bay :

SIR,

nPHE privateer you are concerned in has taken and sent a prize

-*- to a safe port. 1 take this method to acquaint you of it,

as letters are uncertain. When I see you shall be able to give a

more particular account about it.

From your friend and humble servant, D. R.
Providence, December 25, 1776.



MRS. SARAH PERRY.

Sarah Lawrence was a daughter of Colonel William
and Susanna (Prescott) Lawrence, and born at Groton,
on March 12, 1732. She was married on October
23, 1755, to the Reverend Joseph Perry, second pastor
of East Windsor, Connecticut, a graduate of Harvard
College in the Class of 1752. He was born at Sherborn
on August 13, 1731, and died at Windsor on April
21, 1783. Mr. Perry married, secondly, Mrs. Naomi
(Ridgely | Gedney) Verstille. The following tribute to Mrs.
Perry's memory was printed as a broadside at the time of
her death :



MRS. SARAH PERRY.



195



DIED AT EAST -WINDSOR,

The 28th of August, 1778, in the 47th Year of her Age,

Mrs. SARAH PERRY,

The amiable Confort of the Rev. JOSEPH PERRY,
Paftor of the Firft Church in that Town.



SHE was born in Groton in the Maf-
fachufetts-Bay. Her father was the
honorable Colonel William Laurence of
that place, and her mother belonged to the
ancient and honorable Prefcot family. She
was married, about twenty-three years ago,
to Mr. Perry, with whom fhe ever after
lived in the clofeft mutual friendfliip, and
mofb endearing conjugal affei^tion. She
was excellently well calculated for the
ftation in life, which providence allotted
her. The piety and virtue, the great
fhare of wifdom and prudence, with which
(lie was endued, the remarkably good ce-
conomy which fhe obferved in the manage-
ment of her domeftic affairs, the cheerful-
nefs and generofity with which fhe ever
entertained the many ftrangers and nu-
merous acquaintance, which the well
known hofpitality of the family invited to
call upon them, rendered her a crown to
her hufband, an honor and bleffing to her
children, and an object of the efleem of
all to whom fhe was known. Her charity
to the poor, and compaffion for the fick,
forrowful and diflrefled were a confpicu-
ous part of her character, which greatly
endeared her to the people amongfi; whom
fhe refided, who manifefled their regard
for her, in the feafon of her weaknefs and
diftrefs, in a manner that was exceeding
refrefhing and comforting to her and the
family, and honorable to themfelves. Her laft
ficknefs, which was of long continuance and



very diftreffmg, it being of the heftic kind,
and attended with peculiar difficulties,
fhe endured with exemplary chriftian pa-
tience and fortitude. During the whole
of her ficknefs fhe manifefled a firm be-
lief in the divine perfections, and the all-
fufficiency of the power and grace of the
Redeemer, and was fupported by a com-
fortable hope of falvation thro' the atone-
ment and mediation of Jefus Chrift ;
though fenfible of her many imperfe6ti-
ons, and the great deceitfulnefs of the
human heart, fhe expreffed herfelf with
becoming caution, fear and modefty, with
refpect to the fincerity of her faith and
repentance. But as her diffolution ap-
proached her doubts diminifhed ; and for
feveral days before fhe died, being in the
clear and full exercife of her reafon and
underftanding, with which fhe was fa-
voured from firfl to lafl, it pleafed GoD to
increafe her faith and hope to fuch a degree
of afTurance, and flrong trufl and confidence
in Him through the Saviour, as not only
raifed her above the fear of death, but
produced in her an entire willingnefs to
leave her neareft earthly friends, who were
exceedingly dear to her, in the hands of
God, to whom with alacrity flie commit-
ted them, and caufed her earneflly to long
for the time of her departure. She left
to mourn her death, befides a very affec-
tionate hufband, fix children, and a babe
but three weeks old.



196 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.



GROTON AS A SHIRE TOWN.

On May 10, 1643, the Colony of Massachusetts Bay was
divided into four counties : namely, Middlesex, Suffolk, Essex,
and Norfolk ; though the Norfolk County of that period did
not comprise in any respect the same territory now known
by that name.

Middlesex is therefore one of the oldest counties in the
Commonwealth, as it is one of the largest in population. In
the year 1729 an attempt was made to divide it and form a
new county from the northwestern section. The subject is
referred to in the Reverend Wilkes Allen's History of Chelms-
ford (p. 44), where the author says that a committee was
appointed by the town of Chelmsford in 1729, and the next
four years, to meet with committees from other places in order
to carry out the plan. He then gives a list of the towns which
were to be embraced in the new county, as follows: Groton,
Townsend, Pepperell, Dunstable, Merrimack, Dracut, Litch-
field, Chelmsford, Westford, Littleton, Concord, Bedford,
Billerica, and Tewksbury. At that time Merrimack and
Litchfield were considered as belonging to Massachusetts ;
but after the new Provincial line was settled in the spring of
1 74 1, both these towns fell on the New Hampshire side of the
boundary. It is a mistake, however, to include Pepperell in
the list, as that place was not incorporated for many years
after this period, either as a precinct or a district. Both
Bedford and Westford were set off as towns on September 23,
1732, and Townsend was granted on June 29, 1732 ; but, being
new settlements, and expecting soon to be made towns, they
were interested in the scheme. Tewksbury was incorporated
on December 23, 1734, and probably took no part in the
movement.

Rufus Campbell Torrey, Esq., in his " History of the Town
of Fitchburg, Massachusetts" (1836 edition), refers to the
same subject, and says that the inhabitants of Lunenburg in
the year 1729 chose Captain Josiah Willard as their agent
" to join with others to consider what may be best in order to



GROTON AS A SHIRE TOWN. 1 97

divide the county of Middlesex." The scheme resulted, on
April 2, 1 73 1, in the formation of Worcester County, which
took eight towns out of Middlesex, besides others from Suf-
folk and Hampshire ; though it was not the same affair as the
one mentioned in the History of Chelmsford. Mr. Torrey
furthermore says :

In a little more than two years after this, attempts were made to
form a new county out of the counties of Worcester and Middlesex,
of which Groton was to be the shire town. These attempts in a short
time were abandoned (p. 35).

Further particulars of this movement are given in extracts
from the printed Journal of the Massachusetts House of Rep-
resentatives, under the respective dates of June 15 and 17,
1736, as follows :

On a motion made and seconded by divers Members, Ordered,
That the House will enter into the consideration of the Petition of
Benjamin Prescot, Esq. ; and Capt. jfoseph Blanckard, for them-
selves and others, praying for a division of the Countys of Middlesex
and Worcester on Thursday next the I'jih. currant in the forenoon
(page 49).

According to the order of Tuesday last the House enter'd into
the consideration of the Petition of Benjamin Prescot, Esq. ; and
Capt. Joseph Blanchard, Agents for Groton, Dunstable, &c. praying
for a new County to be erected partly out of Middlesex and partly
out of Worcester Countys, as entred the i8//i. of jfune last, and idih.
of March and referred ; the same being read, with the respective
answers thereto, and some debate being had, the following Vote
passed, viz. In answer to the within Petition, Ordered, That the
prayer thereof be so far granted as that the Towns of Groton, Dun-
stable, Littleton, Wesford, Dracict, Nottingham, 'Townshend, Lunen-
burgh, and Harvard, with the Towns lately granted, and lying
Northerly and Westerly of the Towns afore enumerated, and not
already included in any County, be and hereby are erected into a
separate and distinct County by themselves, to all intents and pur-
poses in the Law, and that the Petitioners have leave to bring in a
Bill accordingly. Sent up for Concurrence (p. 51).

The question of dividing the county does not appear to
have been brought forward again for nearly thirty years. In



198 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

the Journal of the House of Representatives, June 6, 1764, the
following entry is found :

A Petition of Capt. Abel Lawrence and others, Agents for several
Towns in the County of Afiddlesex, praying that sundry Towns in the
County of Middlesex and Worcester as mentioned, may be erected
into a separate County.

Read and Ordered, That the Petitioners insert Copies of this
Petition in all the Boston ISlews Papers three Weeks successively,
that so the several Towns in the Counties of Middlesex and Worcester,
may shew Cause, if any they have, on the second Wednesday of the
next Session of this Court, why the Prayer thereof should not be
granted. Sent up for Concurrence (p. 39).

The petition is given in " The Massachusetts Gazette.
And Boston News-Letter," August 23, 1764, and sets forth
the reasons for the division. It is as follows :

Province of the
Mas sack iisetts-Bay.

To His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq; Captain-
General and Governor in chief in and over His MAJESTYS said
Province ; and to the Honorable His Majesty's Council, and House
of Representatives, in General Court assembled at Boston, Decem-
ber, A.D. 1763.

THE Petition of the Subscribers, Agents for the several Towns
and Districts, viz. of Groton, and District of Shirley, and
Pepperrell^ as also the Towns of Westford, Lyttletoti and Townshend,
in the County of Middlesex, and the Town of Lioienburg, and the
Township oi Ipswich- Canada [Winchendon], and Dorchester-Canada
(so called) [Ashburnham] in the County of Worcester,

Humbly sheiveth,
THAT Your Petitioners and their Predecessors, inhabiting the
several Towns and Districts aforesaid, from the first Settlements of
said Towns and Districts have, and still do labour under great Difi(i-
culty and Burthen, by Reason of the great Distance they live from
the usual Place of holding the several Courts of Justice within the
Counties aforesaid, as well as the Courts of Probate in the same
Counties; many of the Inhabitants living fifty, some forty, and few
less than thirty Miles from the Courts of Probate aforesaid, which
renders it at all Times very difficult, and sometimes impossible, for



GROTON AS A SHIRE TOWN. 1 99

poor Widows and others to attend the Probate Courts, and other
Courts of Justice, without great Expence ; by Means whereof, many
times Action are and necessarily must be continued, to the great
Cost and Charge, oftentimes, to poor Orphan Children, and others
who are necessarily obliged to attend said Courts ; and this almost
inconceivable Difficulty and Burden daily increases, in Proportion
to the Increase of the Inhabitants of said Counties, which are now
so large, that the Inferior as well as Superior Courts are frequently
obliged to adjourn over Sundays, in order to finish the necessary
Business of said .Courts, to the great Cost and Damages of many
poor Witnesses and Jurymen, and others who are obliged to attend,
&c. Wherefore Your Petitioners, in behalf of themselves and the
several Towns and Districts aforesaid, most earnestly pray Your
Excellency and Honors to take their difficult Case under your wise
Consideration, and pass such Acts and Laws, as that the Towns
and Districts aforesaid, together with the Towns of Chelmsford,
Dracut, Dunstable and Stow, in the County of Middlesex, and the
Towns of Harvard and Leomi?ister, in the county of Worcester (or
such of said Towns and Plantations, or any others, as Your Excel-
lency and Honors shall think fit) may be erected and incorporated
into a separate and distinct County, and that the same may be in-
vested with all the Privileges that other Counties have and enjoy
in this Province ; or otherwise grant Relief as Your Excellency and
Honors, in Your known Wisdom and Goodness shall see meet, and
Your Petitioners in behalf of themselves and the several Towns they
represent, as in Duty bound, shall ever pray.

Abel Lawrence

Oliver Prescott

Jonas Cutler \ Agents for Groton.

James Prescott

jfosiah Sartell

jfonath. Lawrence '\

Thomas Warren \ Agents for Lyttleton.

Joseph Harwood J

Jonas Prescott \

William Fletcher \ Agents for Westford.

Jabez Peep [Keep] J

Benjamin Brooks )■ Agent for Townshend.

William Prescott )■ Agent for Pepperrell.

Hezekiah Sawtell \ Agent for Shirley,



200 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

In the House of Representatives,
JUNE the 14th, 1764.

READ, and ordered, That the Petitioners insert Copies of this
Petition in all the Boston News Papers, three Weeks succes-
sively, that so the several Towns in the Counties of Middlesex and
Worcester may shew Cause (if any they have) on the Second Wednes-
day of the next Session of this Court, why the Prayer thereof should

not be granted.

Sent up for Concurrence,

Thos. Clapp, Speaker Fro Teinpr.

In council, Jime 14. 1764, read and concurred.

A. Oliver, Sec'ry.

It will be seen that the spelling of some of the names of
these towns differs from the modern method. Lyttleton,
Townshend, and Pepperrell were formerly common ways of
writing them. It is somewhat doubtful how Littleton got its
name ; but Townsend was so called from Viscount Towns-
hend, a member of the Privy Council ; and Pepperell from Sir
William Pepperrell, the hero of the capture of Louisburg,
who always wrote his surname with a double " r." While,
therefore, these forms were correct more than a century ago,
long and good usage has now decided against them.

It is useless at the present time to speculate on what might
have been, if the prayer of the petitioners had been granted.
It would have materially changed the destiny of Groton, which
was to be the shire town of the new county.

In February, 1765, the following petition was presented :

Province of the ] To his Exceellency Francis Bernard Esq"^ Cap-
Massachusetts Bay j tain General and Govener in Cheiff in and

over his Majestys S- Province and to the Hon-
ourable Council and house of Represantatives
in Gineral Court assembled at Boston Febru-
ary A.D. 1765

Humbly shews — The Subscribers agents for several Towns in the
County of middlesex, that they in behalf of their Constituents in



GROTON AS A SHIRE TOWN. 20I

February A.D. 1764, Perfered a Petition to the General Court then
sitting ; shewing forth the Disadvantages the said Towns and others
Laboured under by reason of their Great distance from the several
Courts of Justice in the said County of middlesex and other reasons
mentioned in said Petition, the Petition was Taken under Con-
sideration at the last may session when the Honourable Court
ordered the the [j/V] several Towns in the Countys of middlesex,
and Worcester should be Notified, which was done in .the Publick
Prints, that at this Present Session the said Petition was Taken under
Consideration and a Com-" Chosen to Examine into yf afair which
has been done and as your memorialist are Informed the majorty
of the Com"-^ agreed and thereupon Reported that y"^ s? Petition
should bee Dismissed which report as your memorialist are Informed
is accepted by the Honourable Board (how True we dont know)
but if it should so happen, we Pray this Hon— house not to accept
of said report, how Ever if we should be so unfourtunate as not to
have the Prayer of said Petition Granted we Earnestly Pray that
they may at Least be so far releived as that one Inferiour Court
may be held in or near the town of Groton in s'^ County and that
the Inhabitants of the northerly part of said County of middlesex
may be otherwise releived in regard to the Transacting their Pub-
lick afairs, as much as Possibley n)ay be and your Petitioners in
behalf of themselves and Constituents as in duty Bound shall Ever
pray.

Abel Lawrence
BENiAMiN Brooks James Prescott

Jonathan Lav^'rance Jonas Cutler

EpH- HlLDRETH OlIVER PrESCOTT

Jonas Prescott W- Prescott

In the House of Rep"" Feb^ 8 1765

Read and Ordered that the Pet'^ serve the several Towns con-
cerned in the event of this Petition with copies thereof that so they
shew cause if any they have why the prayer thereof should not be
granted

Sent up for concurrence

James Otis Speak': pro. Tempore

In Council Febr^ 15. 1765. Read and Nonconcurred.

A Oliver Sec^

Massachusetts Archives, XLIV. 540.



202 FACTS RELATING TO GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

On February 6, 1776, an Act was passed removing the
November term of the Court of General Sessions of the
Peace and Court of Common Pleas from Charlestovvn to
Groton, presumably on account of the disturbances of the
War. Two years later, on September 23, 1778, this Novem-
ber term was transferred to Cambridge, to take the place of
the May term, which in turn was brought to Groton, where it
remained until June, 1787. The sessions of the Court were
held in the First Parish Meeting-house ; and the Court was
sitting there during the famous dark day of May 19, 1780,
when candles had to be used.

The following notice adjourning the Court of Common
Pleas, appointed to be held at Groton, appears in " The
Boston Gazette, and the Country Journal," May 12, 1783, and
is signed by three Justices of that Court. It is impossible
now to learn the circumstances under which the adjournment
took place, but they may have been similar to those men-
tioned in a Resolve, here reprinted immediately after the
advertisement from the newspaper. On the docket at East
Cambridge no explanation is given, but under date of May 20,
1783, it is there recorded that the Court, by proclamation of
John Tyng, and James Prescott, Esquires, two of the Justices,
was adjourned to the first Tuesday of June, which fell that


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Online LibrarySamuel A. (Samuel Abbott) GreenFacts relating to the history of Groton, Massachusetts (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 18)