William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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the site of an ancient homestead, however, but is where Ambrose
Randall began to build a house, and abandoned the attempt.
Some fifty rods north of this spot there lived, about 1820, a
Mrs. Lindell, in a house then owned by Howard Lothrop,
formerly the home of James Pratt, from whom Mr. Lothrop
bought it in 181 1. There was once a good orchard there,
and in the great September gale of 181 5 Mrs. Lindell found
her way somehow through the storm to Mr. Lothrop's, and
informed him that all the apples were blowing off his trees
where she lived. What she expected him to do about it does
not clearly appear. The gale did not treat her with much de-
corum, as it rolled her over in the yard.

If any reader of this chapter desires to explore the ancient
places in the southwest part of Easton, he will do well to secure
the guidance of Edward D. Williams, whose retentive memory
allows nothing once presented to it to escape. He will take




you down to the stream northwest of his house and show you
the remains of the old dam, where in 1720 Josiah Keith had
his saw-mill, and he will point out in the brook even one of the
sills of this vanished structure. A few minutes walk farther
northwest will bring you to the so-called " Bear hole," where
reliable tradition informs us was a cabin whose occupant, startled
at night by the squeals of his pig, rushed out and fired almost a
random shot, which proved to be a lucky one, for it furnished
him with bear-meat for several days and a good bear-skin for a
more permanent trophy. Our guide will then test your powers
of locomotion by hurrying you to a spot about two hundred
rods northwest of his house, where once was the homestead of
Ephraim Hewett, 2d, the location of which is marked on the
old map ; the cellar is now filled with stones. Some distance
south of this he will show you Round Pond, a shallow body
of water of about an acre in area, nearly circular, and sur-
rounded by trees and bushes. Still farther west, perhaps thir-
teen rods, we come to a clearing that used to go by the name
of Jairus's Orchard. There was once a good orchard there, and
the decayed trunks of some of the apple-trees are melancholy
monuments of its former glory ; the cellar in this clearing is
nearly filled up with stones. Here Jairus Williams, the son of
Paul and grandson of Silas, located about a century ago. And
now, if you can brave a good contest with the crowded under-
growth, and a scratching of the horse-brier and blackberry vines,
our guide will take you by a short cut through close-growing
brambles about eighty rods farther west, to a cellar in a small
clearing, the early ownership of which must be left to conjecture.
The writer, however, has good ground for conjecturing that it
was the homestead of one of the children of Nathaniel Thayer,
though it was known later as the Clark place. Nathaniel Thayer
had a homestead still farther from the Bay road and nearer
Highland Street, and over fifty years ago the place was known
as the Thayer Orchard. The dwelling had then disappeared ;
but at the beginning of the century and earlier there was quite
a family of Thayers here.

We have now followed our guide to Highland Street, near
its intersection with Foundry Street. It was a little east of
this spot where began " ye way to Babbitts across ye High



Plain," which led slightly southwest, as seen on the old map.
We return to the Bay road south of Mr. Kimball's, and about
thirty rods east of this road, and fifty rods above George E.
Williams's house, is the old cellar of one of the Keith families,
where years ago it was a pastime to hunt and kill black snakes,
over a hundred having been destroyed at one time. On the
north and also on the south side of George WiUiams's house is a
well, now covered, — and these wells mark the locations of the
houses of Mark and William Keith, as seen on the old map.

We have now returned to the house of our guide ; and if the
reader accompanies him on a day as hot as that on which
the writer followed his leadership, he will be glad enough to
take a draught from the " Old Oaken Bucket " of the well in
the oldest house in Easton, — a draught so cool as to render ice

Continuing now alone our investigation, and going farther
down the Bay road, on the east side and north of Walter Hen-
shaw's, we find the site of the house where Adonijah White
lived, and where his son Alanson was born. Levi Drew once
lived there. On the west side of the road, north of Mr. God-
frey's, was the site of the original Silas Williams's house ; and
across the brook behind Daniel Wheaton's may be seen two
small ruins, from one of which sites the house that was after-
wards used as the schoolhouse in District No. 4 was moved ;
at the other was the dwelling where Robert West lived fifty
years ago.

If we go to the extreme southwest part of the town, we see
in a field south of Asa Newcomb's a well, and also the indications
of a former dwelling, where Asa Smith, Capt. Edward Kingman,
and a Mr. Newcomb once lived. On the same side of the street
with the house of Asa Newcomb, about half way to the Norton
line, is the small ruin of the dwelling that was once the home
of Peleg West, which was afterwards owned by O. F. Lincoln,
and later still was the home of L. A. Lincoln ; it was only
recently destroyed. On the Mansfield road, west of the Dvvelly
Goward place, are the ruins of the house of Dr. Seth Babbitt,
built not far from a century and a half ago. Less than a hun-
dred rods north of the Goward place may still be seen the
remains of an old cellar which was probably the location of the




home of Erasmus Babbitt. Farther north a lane once led from
Highland Street to Chestnut Street, on which was formerly the
homestead of Zachariah Britton.

On the east side of Poquanticut Avenue, and south of the
Tisdale Harlow location, are the vestiges that mark the home-
stead lot of the earliest Hayward who settled in this part of the
town. Nearer Mr. Harlow's, on the other side of the street, is
the second Daniel Owen place, the cellar which was on the top
of the knoll being now filled and undiscoverable ; but the old
well may still be seen near the wall by the bars, at the side of
the road. Some distance southwest of this spot we come upon
the double-cellared location, once a den of thieves, as will be
explained in the chapter entitled Shadows, and formerly occu-
pied by the Fullers ; and farther west, about a quarter of a mile
south of Josiah Woodbury's, is the old Mehurin place, from
which the Mehurins went bravely forth to the war of Inde-

If we pass westward beyond Josiah Woodbury's until we
reach the end of the street, we come to the ruins of a house
built a century ago by David Thompson, the one-armed soldier
of the French and Indian war ; it is on the line between Easton
and Mansfield. One of Thompson's daughters named Ruth
in 1798 married Tarteus Buck, who built a house about twenty-
five rods east of where Chester Buck now lives ; the house
stood until a few years ago ; the cellar remains to mark the
spot. The location of the cellar of the Nathan Selee house
just east of John Selee's is still visible, the original Selee place
being, however, a few rods north. And on our way home, east
of the Stimpson Williams place, on the south side of the road, is
the cellar or foundation of a barn, which was used until recently
as a home by Lemuel Tirrell, and which is now no more.

In our journey about the town we have found more than a
hundred deserted homesteads and vestiges of former habita-
tions. In some instances the old houses have simply gone to
decay, and have been replaced by others ; but there are many
homesteads that have been entirely abandoned, and the once cul-
tivated fields, won by painful toil from the primeval forest, have,
after an unequal struggle, been surrendered to the dominion of



Nature, and are being covered with trees and undergrowth.
These deserted places are clear indications of the unprofitable-
ness of farming in New England as ordinarily managed. It has
been found easier to support life by mechanical pursuits ; and in
order to conduct these successfully it is necessary for people to
congregate in villages. Some of those who prefer farming as a
means of livelihood have emigrated to the more fertile West.
The stirring life and possibilities of the great cities have also
attracted many of the young and enterprising from the quiet
country homes where they were reared ; so that when the fathers
pass away, none are left to carry on the farms and keep the old
places in repair.





THE WAR OF 1812.

New England not actively interested. — The Military Compa-
nies OF Easton. — Enlistments in the United States Service.
— Capt. Noah Reed's Company at New Bedford. — A practi-
cal Joke carried too far. — Nathan Buck shoots Charles
Gilbert. — Trial and Conviction. — Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Com-
pany at Boston. — Capt. Samuel Cushman's Company at Ply-
mouth. — Lieut. Elijah Smith and his Records.

IN the year 1807 occurred the affair of the " Chesapeake " and
the " Leopard." The British frigate, asserting the right of
recovering British seamen vi^herever found, attacked an armed
American vessel, compelling her surrender, and then took from
her four seamen, three of whom were undoubtedly Americans.
This affair caused such a feeling of exasperation as to hasten the
war, which followed in 18 12. There was an immediate call for
troops to be ready for action, and Easton responded with the
following vote: —

"Voted Eighteen Dollars pr. month [for] those persons called for
by the President of the United States to be detached from the seve-
ral companies in this Town, including their pay from Government.
Voted likewise to give those men who enlist in this town $1.50 for
each day's extra training."

The Government declared an embargo, prohibiting all vessels
from sailing for foreign ports. This was a heavy blow for New
England, and it helped make the war, when it finally came in
1 8 12, unpopular in this section. Massachusetts did little more
than to guard her own seaports. Very meagre reference to
the subject appears in the town records of Easton. April 6,
1 8 12, it was, however, voted "to supply the training soldiers
with ammunition," at the request of Capt. Noah Reed, Capt.
Isaac Lothrop, and a number of others. "Voted the command-

THE WAR OF 1812.


ing officers shall receive the soldier's ammunition at their dis-
cretion, by their being accountable for the same to said town."
There was at this time a uniformed company of Light Infantry,
upon whose roll will be found the names of many prominent citi-
zens of the town. It was a company that gained an enviable
reputation for their fine military appearance and proficiency in
drill. It was under the command of Capt. Isaac Lothrop.
Capt. Noah Reed had a company of militia, composed only in
part of Easton men, the rest coming from towns west of Easton.
These companies were kept properly prepared for any emer-
gency that might arise. It was over two years before their
services were called for, as will be presently narrated. Another
militia company was in the west part of the town, but they do
not appear to have entered the service as a company.

Meantime a recruiting station had been established at Capt.
Samuel Hodges's tavern on the Bay road, now known as the
Shepard place, for the purpose of enlisting soldiers in the United
States service. There in the bar-room, over hot punches, an
attempt was made to awaken a military ardor, but it was rather
unsuccessful. Ebenezer Bartlett and Joseph Bartlett enlisted.
Joseph was said to have been killed at the battle of Lundy's
Lane, sometimes called the battle of Bridgewater, or Niagara.
Ebenezer was wounded there, and afterward received a pension.
Caleb Randall enlisted and died in the service. Joseph Pursho
and one of the Easton Crossmans was in this company also.
Lemuel Clark, father of Daniel Clark, enlisted in the same ser-
vice, and was for awhile the orderly sergeant of his company.
Lemuel Lincoln went as a fifer. There were also in this com-
pany Calvin Washburn and his brother Zephaniah, both sons of
Hugh. The latter enlisted at a later date in the United States
regular service, probably not long after 1820, and died in
Florida. Ellis Ames states that volunteers from Easton and
surrounding towns in 181 3 enlisted in Col. Thomas Aspin-
wall's regiment, the ninth, and saw service at Sackett's Harbor
and other places.^ It is probable that these volunteers above
named, and possibly a few other Easton men, were in this regi-
ment. They were recruited under Capt. Samuel Hodges, Jr.,
who however stepped out when he had made his enlistments,
1 See Proceedings of Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. xv. p. 56.



as he preferred to " live to fight some other day." These
Easton men saw active and hard service under Gen. Winfield
Scott and Gen. Jacob Brown.

By general orders issued in July, 1814, and regimental orders
issued in August, Capt. Noah Reed's company of infantry were
ordered to appear for coast-guard service at New Bedford, there
being some apprehension that this place might be attacked by
the British men-of-war. This company consisted of seventy-
seven men, of whom thirty-two were from Attleborough, sixteen
from Norton, fourteen from Mansfield, one from Westfield, and
thirteen from Easton, whose names are given below. This com-
pany was in the Bristol County Fourth Regiment, Second Brig-
ade, Fifth Division. The officer in command was Lieutenant-
Colonel (afterwards General) Benjamin Lincoln. The time of
service began August 10, 18 14, and lasted twenty-nine days. A
town-meeting was called, and on the 22d of August it was —

" Voted to Raise $341.50 for the Tov/n's Stock [of ammunition] and
equipments. Voted to raise the Soldiers' pay to $15 Dollars pr.
month, encluding the publick pay for the time of their service when
detached, and to raise the non-commissioned officers and Musicians
in proportion with the publick pay, the same sum from the Town to
be added to their wages. Voted to Raise $241 Dollars for expenses
for the use of the Soldiers."

The muster and pay rolls of Captain Reed's company are in
the Treasury Department at Washington, copies of which, as
well as of Captain Lothrop's company, have been kindly fur-
nished the writer by the Third Auditor of that department.
Copies of Captain Reed's roll are also deposited in the New
Bedford Public Library. The following are the Easton names
in the latter company : —

Noah Reed, Captain. Jona. Drake.

Simeon Drake, Lieiiteiiant. John Drew, Jr.

Joseph Hayward, Jr., Sergeant. Silas Phillips, Jr.

Martin Copeland, Drtinwier. Joseph Purshoe.

W. Downing. Francis Russell.

Elijah Drake. Zeph. Thayer.
Howe White.

A very sad affair occurred while this company was stationed
at New Bedford. In the "Bristol County History," p. 117, occurs

THE WAR OF 1812.


the following statement : " Charles Gilbert was killed by a
stupid sentinel stationed at the gun-house on Spring Street,
near Sixth. He was going the rounds in the night, inspecting
the posts, and not answering promptly the first demand for the
countersign, he was shot and instantly killed." As this sentinel
was Nathan Buck, of Easton, a private in Capt. Noah Reed's
Company, it is proper that this statement should be examined,
and the event to which it relates correctly described.

It seems that as there was little active service to be done
by the troops at New Bedford, there was plenty of time for them
to indulge in fun. Charles Gilbert and others had got into the
habit of playing tricks upon the guards by way of putting them
to the test, to see how they would stick to their post and do
their duty, in some cases even getting away their guns. They
tried this on an old Easton soldier, Elijah Drake, urging a horse
forward towards him in the thick darkness. A bullet through
the horse from Elijah's gun proved that he was not a safe man
to experiment upon. They then selected Nathan Buck, another
Easton soldier, who was not, it must be confessed, especially
bright. Captain Reed had given orders for the sentinel to hail
three times, and then fire. This, Nathan Buck did ; but he was
too precipitate, having in mind perhaps the trick tried upon
Elijah Drake. He was said to have challenged three times
in rapid succession, and then fired, killing Charles Gilbert.
Jonathan Drake, also an Easton man and an orderly of the com-
pany, declared however that Buck obeyed orders and did just
right. He was nevertheless arrested, and instead of being tried
by military court-martial, where he would probably have been
acquitted, he was delivered to the civil power, was tried in the
Superior Judicial Court in the October term of 18 14, and was
found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to ten days
soHtary confinement in the prison at Charlestown, and after that
to three years of hard labor in the same prison. Under the cir-
cumstances this was an unjust sentence. He was not however
long kept in confinement, for his health was so much affected by
his prison life that he was soon released, and came home to his
family to die. He passed away October 7 (or 8), 18 15.

The indictment of Nathan Buck is such a singular specimen
of the absurd extremes of technical legal expression that it is


here given in full. Any one who is inclined to think it a
caricature may find the original in the records of the Superior
Judicial Court, at Taunton, vol. ii. p. 472.

Cotnnio7iweaIth of Massachusetts vs. Nathan Buck, of Easton, in our
said County of Bristol, Laborer, Defendant.

In a Bill of Indictment found by the Jurors of the Commonwealth
aforesaid, who upon their Oath present that Nathan Buck, of Easton,
in the said county of Bristol, Labourer, on the twelfth day of August
now last past, with force and arms, at New Bedford in the county
aforesaid, in and upon one Charles Gilbert, in the peace of the said
Commonwealth, then and there being, feloniously and in the fury ot
the mind of him the said Nathan Buck, did make an assault : And
that the said Nathan Buck a certain gun of the value of Five dollars
then and there loaded and charged with Gun-powder and one leaden
bullet, which Gun he the said Nathan Buck, in both his hands then
and there had and held against and upon the said Charles Gilbert,
then and there feloniously and in the fury of his mind did shoot and
discharge : And that he the said Nathan Buck, with the leaden Bullet
aforesaid, out of the Gun aforesaid, then and there by force of the
gun-powder shot and sent forth as aforesaid the aforesaid Charles
Gilbert in and upon the right breast of him the said Charles Gilbert,
then and there with the leaden Bullet aforesaid, by the said Nathan
Buck, so as aforesaid shot, discharged, and sent forth feloniously and
in the fury of his mind, did strike, penetrate, and wound, giving to the
said Charles Gilbert, then and there with the leaden bullet aforesaid, so
as aforesaid shot, discharged, and sent forth out of the gun aforesaid,
by the said Nathan Buck, in and upon the said right breast of him the
said Charles Gilbert, one mortal wound of the depth of six inches and
of the breadth of half an inch, of which mortal wound the said Charles
Gilbert then and there instantly died. And so the Jurors aforesaid, upon
their oath aforesaid, do say that the said Nathan Buck the said Charles
Gilbert then and there in manner aforesaid, feloniously and in the fury
of his mind, did kill and slay against the peace of said Commonwealth,
and against the form of the statute in such case made and provided.

And now at this Term the said Nathan Buck is set to the Bar and
has this Indictment read to him, he says that thereof he is not Guilty,
and puts himself on the country for trial. Whereupon a jury is im-
pannelled and sworn to try the issue, consisting of Abijah Reed, Jr.,
Foreman, and fellows, viz. • . . j who, after hearing all matters and
things concerning the same, return a verdict thereon, and upon their
oath say as follows, to wit, "We find the Defendant Guilty."

THE WAR OF 1812.


It is therefore considered and ordered by the Court here, that the
said Nathan Buck be punished by solitary confinement in the Com-
monwealth's Prison in Charlestown, in the County of Middlesex, for
the space of Ten days ; after the expiration of which time, that he be
confined to hard labour in the same prison for the term of Three years,
and stand committed until he be removed according to the law.

Two days before Captain Reed's company was discharged,
Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Company was ordered into service, being
assigned to duty in the vicinity of Boston. They were in Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Tovvne's regiment of General Maltby's brigade,
and under Major-General Whiton. There were forty-three
members of this company, some of whom were, or afterwards
became, prominent citizens of the town. They served a part of
September and October, 18 14, and were quartered on what is
now Broadway Street, South Boston, being simply on guard duty,
but seeing no fighting. They, however, enjoyed this pre-emi-
nence over the members of the other company, — they did get
sight of some of the Redcoats. Joseph Ward, one member of
the company, used to tell about seeing some British soldiers
march over Boston Neck, while he was secreting himself by ly-
ing alongside or behind a signboard of some kind. But Joseph's
reclining by a signboard may perhaps be otherwise accounted
for, as also the apparition of Redcoats. The following is the
roll of Capt. Isaac Lothrop's Company of Light Infantry: —

Isaac Lothrop, Captain.
Seth Williams, Lieutenant.
Melvin Gilmore, Ensign.
Howard Lothrop, Sergeant.
Oliver Pool, „

Simeon Leach, ,,

Dwelly Williams, „
Azel Pratt, Corporal.
George Alger,
Lewis Williams,
Charles Wilbur,
John Pool, Jr.,
David Macomber, Mzisic.
Ethan Howard, ,,

Thomas Howard, „
Silas H. Brett, Private.
Alanson Cobb, „

Horatio Copeland, Private.
Wade Daily, „

Daniel S. Dickerman, „
Lincoln Drake, ,,

Reuben Drake, „

Zenas Drake, ,,

Nathaniel Guild, „

Asa Harlow, „

Tisdale Harlow, Waiter.
Nahum Hay ward, Private.
Charles Howard,
George Howard,
Warren Howard,
Lemuel Keith,
Joshua Lothrop,
Eliphalet Mitchell,
Leonard Mitchell,



Elijah Randall,


Alanson White,


William Reed,


Isaiah Wilbur,


Simeon Thayer,

Jason Wilbur,


Joseph Ward,


Joseph Wilbur,


Larnard Williams.

Another company of Easton men did coast-guard duty at
Plymouth, from September 26 to October 19. A copy of the
pay-roll of this company was found among the papers of Elijah
Smith, who was one of its lieutenants. Elijah Smith lived near
the No. 8 schoolhouse. He was for many years the clerk of the
Methodist Society on Washington Street, and a man of charac-
ter and influence. August 21, 18 10, he was elected lieutenant
of a company in the Fourth Regiment of Infantry in the Second
Brigade, and received his commission September 20, the com-
mission being still preserved. After the war, on the sixth day
of June, 1 81 7, he received a captain's commission.

The following is the " Pay Roll of Sam'i Cushman's Company
of Infantry detached from the 4th R'gt, 2nd Brig., & 5th Divi'n
of M. M., in obedience of Division orders, 17th Sept., 1814, & Sta-
tioned at Plymouth, 28 Instant, under the command of Lieut-
Col'n C. Howard." All but four were from Easton, the captain
and two others being from Attleborough, and the fourth from
Mansfield. The following are the names of the Easton men in
this company : —

Elijah Smith, Lieutenant.
Thatcher Pierce, Sergeant.
Andrew Blaisdal, Sergeant.
Daniel Burt, Sergeaiit.
Seth Tisdale, Corporal.
Jonathan French, Corporal.
Barnabas Randall, Corporal.
Solomon Belcher.
Josiah Bonney.
Edward Capen.
Charles Dean.
Isaac Drake.
John Drew, Jr.
Israel Goward.
Caleb Hammon.
Asaph Howard.

Greenfield WiUiams,

Barnabas Howard.
Oliver Johnson.
Daniel Keith.
Cyrus Lothrop.
Sihon Morse.
Amasa Phillips.
Veranes Pratt.
Alvin Randall.
Caleb Randall.
Nathan Randall.
Moses Robbins.
Nathan Snow.
Enoch Thomas, Jr.
David Thompson, 3d.
Asa White.
Willis White.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 78)