Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott) Green.

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He was a man of large size, handsome figure, resolute in his
purposes, and vindictive in his enmities. His chief business
was that of stage proprietor, and mail contractor. He was
always in debt, and tardy, of course, in his payments. He
was involved in lawsuits, and many of his debts were paid
upon executions. His mail contracts were so large that he
sublet many of the routes, and he was always in debt to sub-
contractors. He had a stage office in Boston for a time at the
Hanover House, and after that at No. 9 Court Street. His
office was the headquarters of country traders and others who
patronized his lines of stages. In the year 1838 or later, I
was in his office when Alvin Adams, the founder of the Adams
Express Company, made his first trip to New York as an ex-
press messenger. Staples afterward stated in conversation
that Adams had but one parcel, and that he loaned him five
dollars to meet his expenses. At that time Harnden's express
was in operation with an office at No. 8 Court Street. Harn-
den's company disappeared in a few years, and the Adams
Express Company became an institution that has the appear-
ance of perpetuity. At a time perhaps as late as 1850, I met
Adams on Washington Street, when he expressed the opinion
that his business was as profitable as any business in the

Staples was engaged also in paper making with mills upon
the upper falls of the Squannacook River. This branch of
his business was especially unfortunate, and in 1836 he
assigned his property to Henry Woods, Daniel Shattuck, and
Joshua B. Fowle. Mr. Woods was a trader in whose employ-
ment I then was, having let myself to him when I left the
Dix store December i, 1835, for my board and ^150 a year.
Agreement for one year. The assignees were all friends of


Staples. The assignment was for the benefit of creditors
in order. The last named was Calvin Childs, a blacksmith,
to whom Staples owed about two thousand dollars. The
assignees proceeded to execute their trust, and as collections
were made, payments were made until all the debts were paid
except the debt to Childs. Mr, Woods died in 1841. Shat-
tuck died in 1850, and the trust was not then executed.
Fowle paid Childs six hundred dollars, but he made no settle-
ment of the trust. In 1853 Childs applied to Russell for
counsel and assistance. Russell filed a bill on the equity side
of the court. A lawyer, named Fiske, of Boston, was retained
by Fowle. Fiske answered. Russell employed the Hon.
Charles R. Train to assist in the trial, but there was no hear-
ing. In 1858 Train was elected to Congress. About i860
Russell came to me for assistance and put into my hands a
large bundle of papers relating to the case. At that time
Russell was so impaired in health that he could not aid in the
investigation. Upon an examination I found that the testi-
mony of Staples was important. He then lived at Machias,
Maine. By writing and interviews when I found him in
Boston, I became satisfied that for a hidden reason he was
resolved to have nothing to do with the case. As a last
resort, I took out a commission and submitted interrogatories.
The answers were evasive or valueless from loss of memory.
Thus the case was delayed. In 1862 I was elected to Con-
gress. Childs was an easy going man who made inquiries
occasionally, but never complained. Upon my return from a
session, about 1865, I resolved to bring the case to a close.
I examined the papers carefully, and I found full material for
a statement, although it cost labor to analyze the accounts.
At that time Russell was dead and Fiske was dead. Mr.
John Loring, a former partner of Fiske, took the case.
Loring agreed to a hearing at Chambers. Chief Justice
Chapman named a day. At the time named the clients and
counsel appeared. I presented my statement in writing.
Loring and Fowle said they knew nothing about the matter.
My statement showed a balance of between $400 and $500 in
Fowle's hands. I asked for interest. Fowle said he had been


ready always to pay. I contended that it was his duty long
before to have rendered an account, and made payment.
Judge Chapman, with less reason than courts have usually for
their decisions, held that as he was always ready to pay, he
was not justly chargeable with interest. I drew a decree, the
judge signed it, Fowle paid, and Childs returned home that
night. For ten years the case had been on the docket, when,
if some one had made an examination of the papers it could
have been disposed of in a day.

The controversy in New England between Trinitarians and
Unitarians had culminated in Groton about the year 1825 in
a division of the old town society and the organization of an
orthodox church under the Rev. John Todd. His successor,
a Mr. Kittredge, had charge of the Society in 1835, and for a
short time afterwards. He was succeeded by Dudley Phelps,
who was a man of ability and liberal in his religious opinions.
From 1838 to 1841 the post-office was in my charge, although
I held the office of postmaster only from February to April,
1841. Mr. Phelps was in the habit of sitting in the office and
reading every sort of newspaper from the Trumpet to the In-
vestigator. Although he was much my senior, and of differ-
ing opinions in politics and religion our relations were quite
intimate. For several years we were joint subscribers for the
four leading English reviews: — Edinburgh, North British
Quarterly, and Westminster. My recollection is that he made
the dedicatory prayer at the new cemetery, and that he was
the first person buried in it. He was a man of talent and the
father of two sons, who attained distinction at the bar in
New York.

The Rev. Charles Robinson was the pastor of the old
society then Unitarian, but without question as to the plenary
inspiration of the Scriptures. He was a graduate of Harvard,
a man of learning, and a writer of good sermons. In the
delivery he was faulty to the last stage of awkwardness. His
perceptive faculties were dull to a degree without parallel in
my experience.

In 1835 and for some time afterwards, there were four taverns
and three stores at which intoxicating liquors were sold and


the use of such liquors by farmers was greatly in excess of
their use at the present time. In the early winter the country
farmers from New Hampshire and Vermont going to Boston,
with butter,. cheese, pork and poultry, patronized the taverns,
and gave the town an appearance of business which contrasts
with the aspect of dullness that it now wears. The prices for
entertainment at the taverns were moderate, and none of the
proprietors accumulated property.


Beginnings in Business.

In the autumn of 1837 as my second year with Mr. Woods
was approaching a close, I informed him that I proposed to
go to Exeter, N. H., attend the Academy, and then either
enter college or proceed with the study of the law. At about
the same time I corresponded with Mr. Abbott, the principal of
the Academy, in regard to terms, board, etc. Upon this
notice Mr. Woods made me a proposition to continue with
him and share the business. He offered to furnish the capital,
to give me my board, and one-fourth of the net profits. My
means were very small, the business was quite sure to yield a
profit, and the prospect of gaining a small amount of capital
at the age of twenty-three, when the partnership was to end,
controlled me and I accepted the proposition. The partner-
ship began March i, 1838, when I was two months over
twenty years of age. I had then been in Groton three years,
and I had formed the acquaintance of many young men in
the debates of the Lyceum, in business and in social ways.
In connection with the Lyceum I prepared papers which I
read as lectures. One of these papers upon banking, signed
B., appeared in the Bay State Democrat, edited by Lewis
Josselyn, the publisher. Another upon Conservatism and
Radicalism, was also printed in the Bay State Democrat. As
I did not give my name to Mr, Josselyn, and as the letters
were mailed at Groton,- he came there and after inquiries,


called upon me. I admitted the authorship. This acquaint-
ance continued for many years, and for many years I was a
contributor to his paper. He was elected secretary of the
Senate in 1843 by the Democratic Party. A little later I wrote
an article called " Gibbet Hill " in which I attempted to
present the tradition concerning the hill in Groton which
bears that name. That article was printed in the Yeoman's
Gazette or the Concord Freevian. For several years begin-
ning about the year 1836, I wrote one paper each year called
a lecture. Several of these papers were printed in Hunt's
Merchants'' Magazine.

From 1835 to 1841 I occupied the store night and day and
it was my custom to read and write until twelve, one or two
o'clock in the morning. These were my years of hard study.
Not infrequently, when a tendency to sleep was too heavy for
study, I bathed my face and head in cold water and thus
revived my faculties — a practice, however, that I cannot
commend. Early in my residence at Groton, I formed the
acquaintance and friendship of Dr. Amos Bancroft, a friend-
ship which continued until his death in Italy in the year 1879.
It was with Dr. Bancroft that I continued my studies in Latin.
In 1835, he had finished his professional studies with Dr. Shat-
tuck, of Boston, then an eminent physician. Dr. Shattuck
had studied his profession with Dr. Amos Bancroft, the father
of Amos B. Dr. Amos, as he was called, was a graduate of
Harvard College in the class of Wendell Phillips, and at the
close of his professional studies he was spoken of as the best
educated physician who had entered the profession in Boston.
At the time our acquaintance began, he was entering upon
the practice of medicine, at Groton, in place of his father, who
was then about sixty-five years of age, deaf, and not healthy
in other respects, although he lived to the age of eighty
years, and then died from an accident in State Street, Boston.
Dr. Bancroft, Sr., lived in a house which stood about one
hundred feet north of my present residence, and the office of
Dr. Amos was on the spot now occupied by the front of my
house. At the close of business for the day, nine o'clock in
the evening, I was in the habit of going to the office and recit-


ing my Latin lesson, after which we discussed other matters.
Upon my return to the store, I prepared myself for the next
evening's recitation. In this way I read Caesar and Virgil.
In a closet in Bancroft's office there was a skeleton. That
skeleton had a history, and possibly there may be a sequel to
it. It was understood to have been the skeleton of a man
named Jack Frost, who was tried, convicted and executed at
Worcester for the crime of murder committed at or near
Princeton. Dr. Bancroft, Sr., had been the owner of the
skeleton. Oftentimes I rode Sundays with Dr. Amos. On
the occasion of one of these drives, and after the death of Dr.
Bancroft, Sr., we passed the house of a waggish old man named
Asa Tarbell. After a little conversation Tarbell said, " I shall
be over soon for Frost's skeleton." Dr. Amos, amazed,
looked over and through his glasses, and said, at length:
" Why, what do you mean ? " Said Tarbell : " Some years
ago, your father and I were playing, and I proposed to put
up my uncle Ben against Frost. Your father agreed to the
game, and I won. I told him I had no use for Frost at that
time, and he might keep him." Tarbell's Uncle Ben was a
man of inferior size, hardly more than a dwarf, who had been
a drummer boy in the Revolution.

I bought the Bancroft estate in 1873, and my foreman, Mr.
William A. Chase informed me that he had found a skeleton
in a barrel in a shed, and that he had buried it on the place.
If again found it may lead to the suspicion that it is the,
skeleton of a murdered man, and not that of a murderer.

From 1835 to 1841, I read Locke, Say's Political Economy,
Smith's Wealth of Nations, Plutarch, Josephus, Herodotus,
Lingard, Hume and Smollett, Cicero, Demosthenes, Homer,
Pope, Byron, Shakespeare, Boswell's Johnson, Junius, The
Tattler, The Rambler, the English Reviews, French from text-
books without a teacher and Rhetoric (Blair's full edition).
Much of Blair's Rhetoric I studied carefully and with great
benefit. Some of my papers of those days were written and
re-written four times. On the law side I read a few text-
books : Blackstone, Story on the Constitution, The Federalist,
De Lohme on the British Constitution, and some other


works, probably, which I do not at once recall. If I gained
some knowledge of the law as practised in the country, that
knowledge was gained from an acquaintance with the lawyers
of the town, with the students, and there were several usually,
and from my opportunities as Clerk of the Insolvency Court.

In the year 1836, July 4, an Act was passed by Congress,
granting to a class of widows of soldiers of the War of the
Revolution, a pension for the term of five years. The towns
of Groton, Pepperell and Shirley had supplied a large number
of soldiers, and there were many widows who were entitled to
the benefits of the Act. My acquaintance as clerk was
already large, and my studies with Russell had given me the
faculty of preparing ordinary papers, and I at once commenced
canvassing for the business. I obtained in all about fifty
cases under the Act of 1836. Subsequently I obtained other
cases under the Act of 1838. I sent the applications forward
to Washington, and in a few cases certificates were received
in return. In a majority of cases there was a delay. The
women became anxious and their visits and importunities
were annoying. In the month of January, 1839, I joined
Gen. Staples and made a visit to Washington. Staples' object
was to make mail contracts, or to arrange existing difficulties.
My purpose was to obtain action on pension applications.
Our journey was a slow one, if not tedious. From Groton to
Boston by stage, and from Boston to Stonington, Conn., by
rail; from Stonington to New York by steamboat; from New
York to Perth Amboy by steamboat; from Perth Amboy by
rail, I think, but possibly by stage to a town on the Delaware
River, Franklin perhaps. From that point to Philadelphia by
steamboat. Our journey from Philadelphia to Washington
was by rail in part and in part by stage. We passed the
creeks between the Susquehanna and Baltimore upon a

We stopped over night in New York, and went to the Park
Theater. Another night we spent in Philadelphia, and went
to the Chestnut Street Theater. Staples had a fondness for
theaters, and on these occasions I followed his example. I
had been in a theater but once, when I saw Forrest in Boston,


in King Lear. At Philadelphia I bought a copy of Byron for
three dollars. That volume I yet have.

The Hon. William Parmenter, a Democrat, then represented
the district in Congress, and I carried one or more letters to
him — one from my employer Mr. Henry Woods, who was an
active Democrat. Mr. Parmenter was then about fifty years
of age, of heavy frame, swarthy complexion, and a man of
good natural abilities. He took me to Mr. Van Buren. We
found him alone, well dressed, polite- and rather gracious than
otherwise. Quite early in my visit, Mr. Parmenter took me
to the Pension Office, then presided over by Mr. Edwards.
Mr. Parmenter stated his business, and immediately attention
was given to my applications. In the course of a few days
some of the cases were disposed of, and in a few weeks my
docket was clear.

Caleb Butler was then postmaster at Groton. He had had
the place, probably from the days of John Quincy Adams
for as he was a violent Whig, he could not have received his
appointment from General Jackson. My employer, Mr.
Woods, was an applicant for the post-office, he being the only
Democrat in the street who had accommodations for the of-
fice. I carried papers in support of the application. Those
I gave probably to Mr, Parmenter, as I have no recollection
of any interview with any post-office official. Amos Kendall
was then Postmaster-General. He was a native of Dunstable,
and he had been a student at the Groton Academy when Mr.
Butler was the preceptor. Naturally and properly he sus-
tained his old teacher. The change however was made, and
upon the express instructions of Mr. Van Buren it was said.
Mr. Woods retained the office until his death in January,
1 84 1, when I was appointed without any agency of my own,
but by the agency as I supposed of Gen. Staples. Upon
the election of General Harrison I was removed in the month
of April, and Mr. Butler was reappointed, an act of which I
never complained, nor had I any reason to complain.

At Washington we stopped at Gadsby's Hotel, now the
National. There I met and had some acquaintance with Mat-
thew L. Davis, "the Spy in Washington" as he called him-


self. He was a newspaper correspondent and the biographer of
Aaron Burr. He was a great admirer of Burr. Davis wore very-
thin clothing, scouted overcoats, and boasted that he slept
always in a room with open windows, and under very light bed
clothing. He was old and conceited, and as a permanent com-
panion, he could not have been otherwise than disagreeable.

At the Supreme Court I heard arguments by Webster and
Crittenden, on opposite sides. In the Senate I heard Web-
ster, Clay, Calhoun, and others in running debate, but not
in prepared speeches. The Senate then contained many
other men of note. Silas Wright, of New York ; Preston, of
South Carolina ; Benton, of Missouri ; Linn, of Missouri, more
remarkable for personal beauty than for talents. In the
House Mr. Adams was then a chief figure. His contest over
the right of petition had commended him to one portion of
the country, and made him the object of hostility to another
portion. I recall one Monday, when he had the right to
present petitions, and although they were laid on the table
without debate he was able to consume time by presenting
them singly. As the supply in his hands and on the table
seemed inexhaustible, a compromise was made finally, and
the petitions went in in mass. Of other speakers that I heard
I recall Henry A. Wise and Seargent S. Prentiss. Of their
style and quality I can say nothing. The reported speeches
of Prentiss do not justify the reputation that he enjoyed as an
orator when living.

The incident which produced the most lasting impression
upon me, when in Washington, was an interview with a slave,
a woman fifty years or more of age. I had then no love for
the system of slavery. I had read Clarkson's and Wilber-
force's writings, and I knew the history of the struggle in
England for the abolition of the slave trade, and slavery in
the British West Indies. I had also attended some anti-
slavery meetings in Massachusetts, at which the leaders, Phil-
lips, Garrison, Foster, Parker, and Pillsbury had denounced
the institution. Groton was a center of anti-slavery opera-
tions in that part of the State. Several copies of the Liberator
were taken in the town, and anti-slavery meetings were held


not infrequently. The first speech that George Thompson
made in America was made in Groton.

One Sunday morning I walked out towards what is now
called the Island. The road was marked by a rail fence, but
of buildings there were none. I went so far that I was near
the slave pen, a building now standing and which I have vis-
ited within a few years. It was of brick, enclosed within a
brick wall, and all of a dingy straw color. At a short dis-
tance from the building, I met a black woman walking slowly
away from it. I said to her: " What building is that?" At
once she was in tears, and she said : " That is the pen where
the poor black people are kept who are going down to Louisi-
ana." She had then been to visit her daughter, a girl about
eighteen years of age, according to the mother's statement,
who was to leave the next morning. She was the last of a
family of nine as the woman said, who had been sold and
taken away from her. As I was leaving I said: "Who is
your master? " She answered : " Mr. Blair, of the Globe." In
the fourteen years of my manhood, that I acted with the
Democratic party, I never said anything in favor of the sys-
tem of slavery. If otherwise I might have done so, the inter-
view with that old woman would have restrained me.


First Experience in Politics.

At the spring election of Groton in 1839, I was chosen a
member of the school committee. The other members had
been in the service in previous years. They were the Rev.
Charles Robinson, the Rev. Mr. Kittredge, Dr. Joshua Green,
and Dr. George Stearns. In the early Colonial period the
" minister " was often the school-master also. Naturally he
took an interest in the education of the children, and previous
to the time when school committees were required by statute,
he was the self-constituted guide of the teachers and schools.
Indeed, the schools were parochial. Whenever the minister


visited a school he made a prayer, and the morning exercise
in reading was in the New Testament Scriptures, — two verses
by each pupil. In 1840 the entire board was rejected, and a
board composed of school teachers and non-professional men
was chosen.

In 1838 the Massachusetts Legislature passed what was
known as the Fifteen-Gallon Law. The statute prohibited
the sale of distilled spirits in " less quantity than fifteen
gallons." It did not take effect immediately and the election
of that year was not seriously disturbed, but before the
autumn of 1839 the State was thoroughly aroused. A cry
was raised that it was a law to oppress the poor who could
not command means to purchase the quantity named, while
the rich would enjoy the use of liquor notwithstanding the
statute. The town of Groton was entitled to two members in
the house of representatives. Both parties nominated candi-
dates who favored the repeal of the Fifteen-Gallon Law. The
temperance voters put a ticket in the field, the Rev. Amasa
Sanderson, the minister of the Baptist Society, then a new
organization, and feeble in numbers and wealth, and myself.
At that time my associations were largely with Whigs, but I
was opposed to a national bank, and in favor of free trade.
With those views it was not possible for me to act with the Whig
Party on national questions or in national contests. Mr. Sand-
erson and I received about seventy-six votes, and as none of
the candidates had a majority, the town was unrepresented.

Edward Everett was Governor when the law was passed,
and he was a candidate for re-election in 1839. I supported
Mr. Everett on the temperance issue against Judge Marcus
Morton, who was the candidate of the Democratic Party.
Judge Morton had been on the bench of the Supreme Judi-
cial Court where he had the reputation of an able judge by
the side of Shaw, Wilde and Putnam. At that time I had not
seen Morton or Everett. In the year 1836 or 1837 I vvent to
Boston to hear Alex. H. Everett deliver a Democratic Fourth
of July oration. The effort was a disappointment to me.
A. H. Everett had a reputation as an orator, but he was far
inferior to his brother Edward. In later years I heard Edward


Everett often. His genius in preparation and in the delivery
of his orations and speeches was quite equal to anything we
can imagine at Athens and by Athenian orators, excepting
only the force of the argument.

In 185 1 or 1852 I was present at an agricultural fair at
Northampton and in company with Mr. Everett. After din-
ner speeches were made. When we rode to the fair grounds
in the morning a dense river fog covered the valley but at ten
o'clock it lifted, and the day became clear. At the dinner Mr.
Everett in his speech described the morning, the dense fog, the
lifting, the sun illumining first the hills and then the valleys,
revealing the spires of the churches, etc. For the moment I
was deceived. But when he had concluded I saw him hand
his manuscript to a reporter and the speech appeared the next
morning, verbatim as he had delivered it. He knew the river
towns, and he knew that every fair day in autumn was preceded
by a dense fog, and the speech was written upon that theory.

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