Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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stand the bayonet, as was shown in the battle of Long Island,
where the rifle regiment, then commanded by Colonel Hand,
was broken by a charge. Their weapon required too much
deliberation to load ; for, after emptying their rifles, the enemy



THE CONTINENTAL TRENCHES. 89

were upon them before they coukl force the patched hall to the
buttom of the barrel.

Colonel Archibald Campbell, of the 71st Highlanders, who,
with a battalion of his regiment, was taken prisoner in Boston
harbor and detained at Reading, admired the rifle-dress so
much that it was reported he had one made for his own use,
Avith which it was supposed he meant to disguise himself and
effect his escape. The ofhcer who made this discovery described
the Highland colonel as " a damned knowing fellow," and adds,
" If he should get away, I think he would make a formidable
enemy ; for he is the most soldier-like, best-looking man I
ever saAV."

Morgan was a plain, home-bred man. He was very familiar
with his men, whom he always called his boys ; but this
familiarity did not prevent his exacting and receiving impUcit
obedience to his orders. Sometimes, in case of a secret expedi-
tion, the men ordered on duty were to be in readiness by three
o'clock in the morning. They were then mounted behind
horsemen provided for the purpose, and before daybreak would
thus accomplish a day's march for foot-soldiers. Morgan told
his men to shoot at those who wore epaulettes rather than the
poor fellows who fought for sixpence a day. He carried a
conch-shell, which he was accustomed to sound, to let his men
know he still kept the field. His corps was sent to Gates to
counteract the fear inspired by Burgoyne's Indian allies, who
were continually ambushing our outposts and stragglers. It did
not take them long to accomplish this task. Burgoyne after-
wards said, not an Indian could be brought Avithin sound of a
rifle-shot. The British general himself oAved his life on one
occasion to another officer being mistaken for him, who received
the bullet destined for his general. Washington estimated the
corps at its true value, and, although he lent it temporarily to
Gates, he A^ery soon applied for its return ; but Gates begged
hard to be permitted to retain it, and his victory at Saratoga
Avas due in no small degree to its presence.

The first colonel of the rifle regiment Avas William Thomp-
son, by birth an Irishman. He had been captain of a troop of



90 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

horse in tlie service of Pennsylvania in the French war of
1759 - CO, and before the Eevolution resided at Fort Pitt, since
Pittsburg. He Avas made a brigadier early in 1776, and, hav-
ing joined General Sullivan in Canada, Avas made prisoner at
Trois Rivieres. Thompson was succeeded, in March, 1776, by
Edward Hand, his lieutenant-colonel, who had accompanied the
Eoyal Irish to America in 1774 as surgeon's mate, but who
resigned on his arrival. He Avas afterwards a brigadier, and
fought to the close of the war.

Daniel Morgan, Avho, in less than a Aveek after the intelli-
gence of the battle of Lexington, enrolled one hundred and
seven men, with whom he marched to Cambridge, had been
a Avagoner in Braddock's army in 1755. For knocking
doM'n a British- lieutenant he had received five hundred
lashes without flinching. He seems at one period to have
fallen into the Avorst vices of the camp, but before the Eevo-
lution had become a correct member of society. Washing-
ton despatched him A^dth Arnold to Quebec in September,
1775, Avhere, after having forced his Avay through the first
defences, he Avas made prisoner Avhile paroHng some captives
that he himself had taken ; so that a common fate befell both
Morgan and Thompson, and on the same line of operations.
Morgan, after his excliange, Avas appointed colonel of the ILth
Virginia, a rifle-corps, November 12, 1776. Of his subse-
quent career Ave need not speak.

Chastellux relates that Avhen some of Eochambeau's troops
Avere passing a river between AYilliamsburg and Baltimore,
Avhere they were croAvded in a narroAv passage, they Avere met
by General Morgan, who, seeing the Avagoners did not under-
stand their business, stopped and shoAved them how to drive.
Having put everything in order, he proceeded quietly on
his way.

The best account Ave have of Colonel Morgan's appearance
describes him as " stout and active, six feet in height, not too
much encumbered Avith flesh, and exactly fitted for the pomp
and toils of Avar. The features of his face Avere strong and
manly, and his broAv thoughtful. His manners plain and



THE CONTINENTAL TRENCHES.



91



decorous, neither insinuating nor repulsive. His conversation
grave, sententious, and considerate, unadorned and uncapti-
vating. "

Mount Benedict is associated with an event which has no
parallel, we believe, in the history of our country, namely, the
destruction of a rehgious institution by a mob. The ruins of
the Convent of St. Ursula still remain an evidence of what
popular rage, directed by superstition and lawlessness, has been
able to accomplish in a community of high average civilization.
These ruins have for nearly forty years been a constant re-
minder of the signal violation of that religious liberty guaran-
teed by the fathers of the republic. They belong rather to
1634 than to 1834.




THE URSFLINE CONVENT IN RUI^•^^



It must be admitted that the Jesuit fatliers avIio planted the
missions of their order in every available spot in the Xew
"World possessed an unerring instinct for choosing fine situa-
tions. Wherever their establishments have been reared civili-
zation has followed, until towns and cities have grown up and



92 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

environed their primitive cliapels. Whatever may be said of
the order, it has left the finest specimens of ancient arcliitec-
tnre existing on the American continent. We need only cite
Quebec, Mexico, and Panama to support this assertion.

The choice of Mount Benedict, therefore, for the site of a
convent is only another instance of the good judgment of the
Catholics. The situation, though bleak in winter, commands a
superb view of the meadows through which the Mystic winds,
and of the towns which extend tliemselves along the opposite
shores. Beyond these are seen the gray, rocky ridges, resem-
bling in their undulations some huge monster • of antiquity,
which, coming from the Merrhnack, form the most remarkable
valley in Eastern Massachusetts, and through which, in the dim
distance of bygone ages, the river may have found its outlet to
the sea. Perched on their rugged sides appear the cottages
and villas of a population half city, half rural, but altogether
distinctive in the well-kept, thrifty appearance of their homes.

On the night of the 11th of August, 1834, the convent and
outbuildings were destroyed by incendiary hands. The flames
raged without any attempt to subdue them, until everything
combustible Avas consumed, the bare walls only being left
standing. The firemen from the neighboring towns were pres-
ent with their engines, but remained either passive spectators
or actors in the scenes that ensued. A feeble effort was made by
the local authorities to disperse the mob, — an effort calculated
only to excite contempt, unsupported as it was by any show
of force to sustain it. The affair had been jjlanned, and the
concerted signal expected.

For some time previous to the final catastrophe rumors had
prevailed that Mary St. John Harrison, an inmate of the con-
vent and a candidate for the veil, had either been abducted or
secreted where she could not be found by her friends. As this
belief obtained currency, an excitement, impossible now to
imagine, pervaded the community. Threats were openly made
to burn the convent, but passed unheeded. Printed placards
were posted in CharlestoAvii, announcing that on such a night
the convent would be burned, but even this did not arouse the



THE CONTINE^'TAL TllENCHES. 93

authorities to action. At about ten o'clock on tlie night in
question a mob, variously estimated at from four to ten thou-
sand persons, assembled within and around the convent
grounds. A bontii'e Avas lighted as a signal to those who were
apprised of what was about to take place. The Superior of the
convent, Mrs. Moffatt, with the other inmates, were notified to
depart from the doomed building. There were a dozen lums,
and more than fifty scholars, some of whom were Protestants,
and many of a tender age. The announcement filled all with
alarm, and several swooned Avith terror. The unfortunate
females were at length removed to a place of security, and the
work of destruction began and concluded without hindrance.
The mob did not even respect the tomb belonging to the con-
vent, but entered and violated this sanctuary of the dead.

A general burst of indignation followed this dastardly out-
rage. Eeprisals from the Catholics were looked for, and it was
many years before the bad blood created by the event subsided.
The better feeling of the community was aroused ; and few
meetings in Old Faneuil Hall have given more emphatic utter-
ance to its voice than that called at this time by Mayor Lyman,
and addressed b}^ Harrison Gray Otis, Josiah Quincy, Jr., and
others. Measures of security were adopted, and once more, in
the language of the wise old saw, " the stable door was shut
after the steed had escaped."

The Catholics showed remarkable forbearance. On the day
follo-\ving the conflagration their bishop, Fenwick, contributed
by his judicious conduct to allay the exasperation of his flock ;
and even Father Taylor, the old, earnest pastor of the seamen,
was listened to Avith respectful attention by a large assemblage
of Irish Catholics, who had gathered in the immediate neigh-
borhood of their church, in Franklin Street, Boston, on the
same occasion.

In reverting to the conduct of the firemen, it should be re-
membered that Colonel Thomas C. Amory, then chief engineer
of the Boston Fire Department, repaired to the couA^ent at the
first alarm, and did all in his poAver to bring the firemen to
their duty. Finding this a ho})eless task, he then A^sited the



94 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MxVNSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

bishop, and advised liim to take sucli precautions as the danger-
ous temper of tlie mob seemed to demand.

Many arrests were made, and some of the rioters were con-
victed and punished. Chief Justice Shaw was then on the
bench, and John Davis governor of the State. Both exerted
themselves to bring the oftenders to justice, and to vindicate
the name of tlie ohl Commonwealth from reproach.

The form of the main building of the convent, which faced
southeast, was a parallelogram of about thirty-three paces long
by ten in breadth ; what appear to have been two win'gs joined
it on the west side. The buildings were partly of brick and
partly of the blue stone found abundantly in the neighboring
quarries ; the principal editice being of three stories, with a
pitched roof, and having entrances both in the east and west
fronts. The grounds, which were very extensive, and em-
braced most of the hill, were terraced down to the highway and
adorned with shrubbery. A fine orchard of several acres, in
the midst of which tlie buildings stood, extends on the west
quite to the limits of the enclosure, where are still visible the
remains of the convent tomb. A few elms and other shade-
trees are still standing on the hillside, and in the season of their
verdure interpose a kindly screen betAveen the wayfarer and the
blackened ruins. In spite of the air of desolation and neglect,
the place still possesses some relics of its former beauty.

The convent was opened on the 17th of July, 1826. It is
but little known that there was a similar establishment in
Boston, contiguous to the Cathedral in Franklin Street, though
no incident drew the popular attention to it. The information
upon which the mob acted in the sack of the Mount Benedict
institution proved wholly groundless.

When we last visited the spot the scene was one of utter
loneliness. Year by year the walls have been crumbling away,
until the elements are fast completing what the fire spared.
The snow enshrouded the heaps of debris and the jagged out-
lines of the walls with a robe as spotless as that of St. Ursula
herself. For nearly forty years these blackened memorials of the
little community of St. Angela have been visible to thousands



THE CONTINENTAL TEENCHES. Uu

journeying to and from the neighboring city. The lesson has
been sharp, but efiectual. "Whoever should now raise the torch
against such an establishment would be deemed a madman.

Our interest is awakened at the mention of Ten Hills Farm
in connection with the plantation of Governor Winthrop, who
gave it the name by which it is still known, from the ten little
elevations which crowned its uneven surface, and of which the
greater number remain visible to this day.

The grant to "Winthrop was made September 6, 1631, of six
hundred acres of land "near his house at Mistick," from which
it would appear that the governor already had a house built
there which was probably occupied by his servants. We are
now speaking of a time nearly coincident with the settlement
of Boston, when no other craft than the Indian canoe had ever
cleft the waters of the Mystic, and when wild beasts roamed
the neighboring forests.

Governor Winthrop tells his own story of what he, the
original white iidiabitant of Ten Hills, experienced there in
1631: —

" The governour, being at his farm house at Mistick, walked out
after supper, and took a piece in his hand, suiDposing he might see a
wolf, (for they came daily about the house, and killed swine and
calves, etc. ;) and being about half a mile off, it grew suddenly dark,
so as, in coming home, he mistook his path, and went til he came
to a little house of Sagamore John, which stood empty. There he
stayed, and having a piece of match in his pocket, (for he always
carried about him match and a compass, and in summer time snake-
weed,) he made a good fire near the house, and lay down upon some
old mats which he found there, and so spent the night, sometimes
walking by the fire, sometimes singing psalms, and sometimes getting
wood, but could not sleep. It was (through God's mercy) a warm
night; but a little liefore day it began to rain, and having no cloak,
he made shift by a long pole to climb up into the house. In the
morning there came thither an Indian sciuaw, but, perceiving her
l)efore she had opened the door, he barred her out; yet she stayed
there a great while essaying to get in, and at last she went away,
and he returned safe home, his servants having been much perplexed
for liim, and having walked about, and shot off pieces, and hallooed
in the night, but he heard them not."



96 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

Savage supj)oses that Ten Hills was the governor's summer
residence for the first two or three years ; Boston being, after
the removal of his house there, his constant home. It has also
been usually considered as the place where Winthrop built his
little bark, the Blessing of the Bay, the first English keel
launched in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Colony. This
event occurred on the 4th of Jul}^, 1631, and in October the
Blessing spread lier canvas and bore away on a voyage to
the eastward.

The farm of Ten Hills was owned at the time of the Revolu-
tion by Robert Temple, a royalist ; and the house he occupied
is now standing there on the supposed site of Governor AViu-
throp's. The highest of the ten eminences lies between the
house and the river, warding off" the bleak northwest winds.

The mansion-house has a spacious ball, and a generous provis-
ion of large square rooms. As you ascend the stairs, in front
of you, at the first landing, is a glass door, opening into a snug
little apartment which overlooks the river. This must have
been a favorite resort of the family. The wainscoting and other
wood-work is in good condition, if a general filthiness be ex-
cejjted, inseparable from the occupancy of the house by numer-
ous families of the laborers in the neighboring brickyards. The
high ground on which the house stands is being digged away,
and this old dwelling will probably soon disappear.

Ptobert Temple of Ten Hills was an elder brother of Sir John
Temple, Bart., the first Consul-General from England to the
United States. His eldest daughter became Lady Dufiferin.
"Mr. Temple sailed for England as early as May, 1775 ; but, the
vessel being obliged to put into Plymouth, Massachusetts, he
was detained and sent to Cambridge camp. Mr. Temple's
family continued to reside in the mansion at Ten Hills after
his attempted departure, under the protection of General Ward.
The Baronet married a daughter of Governor Bowdoin, while
his brother's wife was a daughter of Governor Shirley.

Previous to his coming to Ten Hills, Ptobert Temple had
resided on IvToddle's Island, in the elegant mansion there after-
Avards occupied by Henry Howell WiUiams. Although himself



THE CONTINENTAL TRENCHES. 97

a tenant, the Temples had in times past owned the island. Sir
Thomas, who was proprietor in 1667, had been formerly Gov-
ernor of Nova Scotia. It is related of him, that once, when ou
a visit to England, he was presented to Charles II., who com-
plained to him that the colonists had usurped his prerogative
of coining money. Sir Thomas replied, that they thought it
no crime to coin money for their own use, and presented his
Majesty some of Master Hull's pieces, on which was a tree.
The king inquiring what tree that was, the courtier answered,
" The royal oak Avhich protected your Majesty's life," — a reply
whicli charmed the king and caused him to look with more
favor on the offending colony. If one of Master Hull's shillings
he examined, Ave are not greatly surprised that liis Majesty so
readily believed the pine to be an oak.

Teh Hills was tlie landing-place of Gage's night expedition
to seize the powder in the province magazine, in September,
1774. The next day the uprising in Middlesex took place.
And on Saturday, the 3d, the soldiers were harnessed to four
field-pieces, which they dragged to Boston IS^eck, and placed in
battery there. The Lively frigate, of twenty guns, came to her
moorings in the ferry -way between Boston and Charlestown,
and the avenues to the doomed town were shut up as effectually
by land as they had been by water.

The vicinity of Ten Hills was that chosen by Mike Martin
for the robbery of Major Bray. It Avas near where the old
lane leading to the Temple farm-house, and noAv known as
Temple Street, enters the turnpike, that the robber overtook
the chaise of his Adctim. After his condemnation, Martin
related, Avith apparent gusto, that the pistol Avhich he presented
at the Major's head Avas neither loaded nor cocked, but that
the latter Avas terribly frightened and trembled like a leaf.
]Mrs. Bray tried to conceal her Avatch, but Avas assured by the
highwayman that he did not rob ladies. Even noAv the place
seems lonesome, and is not the one Ave should select for an
evening promenade.

On a little promontory Avhich overlooks the Mystic the
remains of a redoubt erected by Sullivan are still distinct. At

5 G



98 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

this point the river makes a westerly bend, so that a hostile
flotilla must approach for some distance in the teeth of a rakmg
Are from this redoubt. This was fully proved when the enemy
brought their floating batteries within range to attack the work-
ing party on Ploughed Hill and enfilade the road. A nine-
pounder mounted in this redoubt sunk one of the enemy's bat-
teries and disabled the other, while an armed vessel which
accompanied them had her foresail shot awaj^, and was
obliged to sheer oft". The next day (Monday, September 28)
the enemy sent a man-of-war into Mystic River, drew some of
their forces over from Boston to Charlestown, where they
formed a heavy column of attack, and seemed prepared to make
a bold push, — as was fully expected in the American camj), —
but Bunker Hill was too recent in their memories, and Ploughed
Hill had been made much stronger than the position they had
carried with so much loss of life on the 1 7th of June ; the
combat was declined.

Leaving the redoubt, a hundred yards higher up the hill we
find traces of another Avork, Avitli two of the angles quite clearl}'-
defined. The little battery first mentioned is as Avell preserved
as any of the intrenchments made by the left Aving of the
American army. It is but a slight mound of earth, but ah,
hoAV full of glorious memories !

General SulliA^an, on first coming to camp, took up his quar-
ters at Medford, Avhere Stark and his K^cav Hampshire men
Avere already assembled. In a letter to the Committee of
Safety, the general lamented extremely that the XeAV Hamp-
shire forces Avere Avithout a chaplain, and Avere obliged to attend
prayers Avith the Ehode-Islanders on Prospect Hill. "VVe are
ignorant whether the men of 'New Hampshire required more
prajT^ng for than the men of Ehode Island, but we fuUy recog-
nize the fact that in those days an army chaplain Avas not a
mere ornamental appendage, dangling at the queue of the staff.
General Sullivan was absent from camp in K'ovember, 1775,
having been sent to Portsmouth on account of the alarm occa-
sioned by the burning of Falmouth. He took Avith him some
artillery ofiicers and a company of the rifle regiment. About



THE CONTINENTAL TKENCHES. 99

the same time General Lee went to Ehode Island on a similar
mission.

Samuel Jaques, a later resident of Ten Hills Farm, is worthy
of remembrance as a distinguished agriculturist. Born in 1776,
a few weeks after the declaration of formal separation from
England, he died in 1859, just at the dawn of' a scarcely less
momentous convulsion, thus spanning with his own life the
greatest epochs of our history.

Colonel Jaques was in habits and manners the type of the
English country gentleman. AVhen a resident of CharlestoAvn,
he had, like Cradock's men at Mystic Side in 1632, impaled a
deer-park. He also kept his hounds, and often Avakened the
echoes of the neighboring hills with the note of his bugle or the
cry of his pack, bringing the drowsy slumberer from his bed by
sounds so unwonted. We trust no incredulous reader will be
startled at the assertion that the hills of Somerville have re-
sounded with the fox-hunter's "tally-ho!".

Colonel Jaques, Avho acquired his title by long service in the
militia, was engaged for a time during the hostilities of 1812
in the defence of the shores of the bay, being stationed at
Chelsea in command of a small detachment. He was twenty-
eight years a resident of the old Temple Manor, and discharged
the duties of hospitality in a manner that did no discredit to
the ancient proprietor. The farm was also occupied at one time
by Elias Hasket Derby, who stocked it with improved breeds
of sheep.

The place has now been much disfigured with excavations, to
procure the clay, which is excellent for brickmaking, and that
branch of industry has been extensively carried on for many
years by the sons of Colonel Jaques. In time a large portion
of the soil has been removed, and is, or was, standing in many
a noble edifice in the neighboring city, — a gradual but sure
process of annexation. The vein of clay, which is traced from
Watertown to Lynn, underlies Ten Hills Farm.

Brickmaking was very early pursued by the settlers, one,
at least, of the houses they built in the first decade of the set-
tlement being still in existence. The size of bricks Avas regu-



100 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

lated by Charles I., hence the name statute-bricks. The very-
first vessels which arrived at Salem had bricks stowed under
their hatches, which were doubtless used in the erection of
some of the big chimney-stacks that still exist there, their in-
destructible materials rendering them as useful to-day as when
they were originally burnt. In 1745 all the bricks used in
reconstructing the works at Louisburg and Annapolis Royal
were shipped from Boston to General Amherst. The recent
and disastrous examples of Portland, Chicago, and Boston have
only confirmed the experience that bricks are more durable
tlian stone. The sun-dried bricks of jSTineveh and Babylon are
still in existence, while the Roman baths of Caracalla and Titus
have withstood the action of the elements far better than the
stone of the Coliseiim or the marble of the Forum.

Winter Hill was fortified immediately after the battle of



Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 9 of 39)